A new study from the University of Washington found that babies exposed to more than one language have better cognitive abilities and the best time to learn another language is at a young age.
The study was announced Monday by researchers who conducted their study in Europe and Spain.
Babies from age 7 to 33.5 months took English sessions for one hour a day over 18 weeks under the UW method. A control group received Madrid's standard bilingual program. Both of the groups were tested in English and Spanish at the end of 18 weeks.
The infants who learned under UW's method showed "rapid increases in English comprehension and production, and significantly outperformed the control group peers at all ages on all tests of English," UW said in a news release.
“With the right science-based approach that combines the features known to grow children’s language, it is possible to give very young children the opportunity to start learning a second language, with only one hour of play per day in an early education setting,” said Naja Ferjan Ramirez, a research scientist at the University of Washington Institute of Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS). “This has big implications for how we think about foreign-language learning.”
At the end of the 18 weeks, researchers discovered that children who were part of the UW program could produce 74 English words or phrases—while the other children were producing only 13 per hour.
According to the results, babies brains will never be better at learning a second language than when they are between 0 and 3 years old.
Researchers used a "play-based, intensive, English-language method and curriculum" and implemented it in four public infant-education centers in Madrid, according to the news release.
Spain's public education system helped researchers enroll 280 infants and children from all backgrounds in their study.