A study of newborn babies and preschoolers has revealed that language may be the root of prejudice – and the way to avoid it.
US and French researchers have found that the language babies hear spoken in their first six months of life lead to a preference for speakers of that language. The preference is so entrenched that by age five youngsters prefer playmates who not only speak the same language but do so with the same accent. A key implication of the findings – reported in the US publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Science – is that children exposed to different languages grow into more tolerant adults than their monolingual mates.
Linguist Stephen Crain of Sydney’s Macquarie University tended to agree: “I’ve always thought it would be beneficial to expose our children to more than one language,” he said.