Birth Language









by Catherine Deschamps-Potter, ICD Translation Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Research, recently completed by Dr. Jiyoun Choi of Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea, shows that babies gain knowledge of language in the first few months of life. The study featured Dutch-speaking adults adopted from South Korea who were asked to pronounce Korean consonants after a brief training class. The participants exceeded expectations at Korean pronunciation, even though Korean consonants are extremely unlike those in Dutch. Any professional translator (Korean or Dutch), or any company that offers translation services, can testify to just how dissimilar the two languages are.

This study is the first to show that early experiences of adopted children in their birth language gives them an advantage decades later, even if they think their birth language has been forgotten. The study concluded that useful language knowledge is established very early on in life, and can be retained without additional learning—only being revealed after the onset of re-learning.

This research reinforces the fact that the language learning process starts extremely early, even when the child is still in the womb. Dr. Choi emphasizes the importance of trying “to talk to your babies as much as possible because they are absorbing and digesting what you are saying.”


Source: Briggs, H. (2017, January). Babies remember their birth language – scientists. BBC News. Retrieved from

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