The study shows both monolingual and bilingual infants learn a new word best from someone with a language background that matches their own. (Agencies)
"We found that all infants, regardless of whether they are learning one or two languages, learn words best when listening to people who sound like their primary caregivers," said study author Christopher Fennell from University of Ottawa.
"Monolingual infants succeeded with a monolingual speaker, bilingual infants with a bilingual speaker, but each group had difficulty with the opposite speaker," Fennel added.
Fennell and Byers-Heinlein from Concordia University, Canada tried to find out if bilingual children learn words better from an adult bilingual and would monolingual children learn new words best from an adult monolingual.
To answer these questions, the researchers taught 61 English monolingual and English-French bilingual to 17 month-olds, two similar-sounding nonsense words.
Both monolingual and bilingual children could learn the words, but only from a speaker that matched their language-learning environment.
Bilingual babies efficiently learned the words from the bilingual speaker, but not from the monolingual speaker. Conversely, monolingual babies effectively learned the words from the monolingual speaker, but not from the bilingual speaker.
In other words, there was no overall bilingual advantage or a bilingual delay, but just a difference in which speaker the babies found easier to learn words from.
The results contradict hypotheses that bilingual children are better able to deal with varied accents than monolinguals and that monolinguals have more solid word representations than bilinguals.
All babies show similar strengths and weaknesses in their early word learning abilities."Children seem to adapt to their language environments," Byers-Heinlein concluded.
The study shows both monolingual and bilingual infants learn a new word best from someone with a language background that matches their own.