Exposure to multiple languages enhances communication skills in infancy.

TitleExposure to multiple languages enhances communication skills in infancy.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsLiberman Z, Woodward AL, Keysar B, Kinzler KD
JournalDev Sci

Early exposure to multiple languages can enhance children's communication skills, even when children are effectively monolingual (Fan, Liberman, Keysar & Kinzler, ). Here we report evidence that the social benefits of multilingual exposure emerge in infancy. Sixteen-month-old infants participated in a communication task that required taking a speaker's perspective to understand her intended meaning. Infants were presented with two identical toys, such as two cars. One toy was mutually visible to both the infant and the speaker, but the other was visible only to the infant and was blocked from the speaker's view by an opaque barrier. The speaker requested the mutually visible toy and we evaluated whether infants understood the speaker's request. Whereas monolingual infants were at chance in choosing between the two toys, infants with multilingual exposure reliably chose the toy the speaker requested. Successful performance was not related to the degree of exposure to other languages, suggesting that even minimal multilingual exposure may enhance communication skills.

Alternate JournalDev Sci
PubMed ID27002779
Grant ListR01 HD070890 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
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