Babies Are Great Listeners
The old adage that babies are born with a clean slate, just waiting to be filled in by environmental stimuli, has been proved wrong time and time again. Infant language researchers believe that babies are born with a genetic aptitude for language. Studies have shown that mere hours after birth, a newborn can distinguish his mother's voice from that of another woman. At around four months of age, a baby smiles and recognizes his name. Babies only eight to nine months old can remember words from a story or a simple piece of music they have heard previously. By the time they say their first words around one year of age, children can understand hundreds more words; and once the language spigot is opened, the flow continues.
Yet, communication takes place long before a child speaks his first word. Mothers have learned to distinguish a "hunger" cry from an "I'm lonely, please pick me up" wail. A baby responds to his mother's voice with eye contact, coos, and gurgles, waving arms and legs, subtle body language, then not-so-subtle smiles and cries. A scolding or encouraging tone has come to mean everything, even before the words make sense.