What Bilingual Babies Can Teach Us About Language Learning
In a crowded restaurant, your eyes might drift to your dining companions’ lips to make out what they’re saying over the din. That’s because when speech is hard to make out, lip-reading provides extra clues for comprehension. In a new study of monolingual and bilingual infants, Northeastern University professor David Lewkowicz and colleagues found that babies do the same, shifting their gaze to a speaker’s lips when they hear unfamiliar languages. But babies raised in bilingual households spend significantly more time studying the mouth than their monolingual counterparts—which suggests that lip reading could be a vital skill for language learners of all ages.
David Lewkowicz is a professor at the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Christopher Intagliata was Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.