Noise and Early Language Learning

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have recently conducted a study examining the affects of background noise such as TV, radio, and people talking on early language learning in toddlers. Three studies were performed overall, with the first two only differing in the age ranges among participants. The first two experiments examined the toddlers’ abilities to recognize unfamiliar objects that were labeled after they were presented sentences containing the novel words. They concluded that only the children who were given the sentence in a quiet environment were able to learn the novel words. In the third and final experiment, the toddlers were read aloud a sentence containing two new words without background noise. They were then exposed to the same background noise as the first two experiments and taught object-pairings for the first set of words and then were provided with two additional words. They found that the children only learned the words that were given in a quiet environment. Researcher and co-author, Jenny Saffran states “Hearing new words in fluent speech without a lot of background noise before trying to learn what objects the new words correspond to may help very young children master new vocabulary, but when the environment in noisy, drawing young children’s attention to the sounds of the new word may help them compensate.”

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