At what age can babies understand speech?

Since babies don’t begin talking until they’re at least 12 months old, it’s safe to assume that they can’t understand speech until that time. Right? Wrong. This study has shown that babies understand what you’re saying a lot sooner than we realised…


Babies begin to distinguish words when they’re seven months old. And from that time, they continuously learn more words and their relevant meanings. You might see your baby responding to his or her name? That’s probably the easiest example of this study.

Read here for speech development milestones

What can you do?

Obviously now, swear words are well and truly a thing of the past, but that keep closed lips in front of your child. Talk to your baby and read to them regularly to increase their speech and language development.

The research

The research involved a group of babies who listened to different types voices speaking. When the babies heard the speaking, their Broca’s area lit up enormously. The Broca’s area is the part of the brain which retains higher-level speech and shows that babies are exercising the fundamentals of language in their brains at a very early stage. This research was conducted with babies spoken to in English and in Spanish.

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What effect does baby-talk have on babies speech development?


When babies were spoken to in either language, their brains lit up the same amount. This shows that babies are still at the stage of learning a native language because the older they become the less activity shows between different languages.

The seven month old babies had more of a brain response to both languages as opposed to the older toddlers. This means that a baby can absorb a number of languages at ease, whereas the older a person gets the more difficult it becomes to learn a new language.


Originally posted 2014-08-11 15:51:30.