Did you know that babies begin learning in the womb? Before she is even born, your baby has already been exposed to many opportunities for language learning while in utero.  

Language learning begins in the womb

study by Dr. Patricia Kuhl, Ph.D., stated that babies not only hear their mother’s voice and understand their mother’s inflection, but they are also already learning her language in the womb. This is the foundation for language. In fact, just hours after your baby is born, she can distinguish between your native tongue and the foreign language of another mother.

Because your voice is magnified and amplified by your body, it can be heard by your baby, along with other sounds, in utero. Your baby is also already making sense of the sounds she hears. By hearing speech patterns and rhythms in the womb, your baby is learning her primary language. Further, many researchers believe that you can facilitate your child’s language development, not only in your womb, but also, after birth.

Teaching sound recognition

In fact, research now indicates that you can even teach your baby before birth. For example, your fetus is so sensitive, that any stimulation from you can affect your baby directly.

According to studies using EEG sensors, which search for neural traces of memory in utero, sound repetition is incorporated into your baby’s memory. Now, if the sound is replicated, her memory is activated. When your baby is introduced repeatedly to a sound, her memory stimulates the recognition of that sound. Thus, brainwave patterns identify her memory of the recognized sound.

Further, a study headed up by cognitive neuroscientist Eino Partanen shows that your baby’s brain not only learns repeated sounds in the womb, but she also recognizes words and their variations. The study indicates that the neural signals for identifying sound, including vowels, are visible as memory traces in your baby at her birth.

Your baby is learning nonstop in utero

Ten weeks before birth, your baby will use many of her senses to learn about her inner world. Ultrasounds show that your baby will react to sound by kicking, moving, and even dancing around, in the womb; your baby may even lift up-and-down when she hears your laughter.

Moreover, her heart-rate may lower as she is comforted by hearing your voice. She may touch her face, suck her thumb, stretch her limbs, grasp her feet, and have enough coordination to hold her own umbilical cord with her fingers.

Much of your baby’s prenatal sleep occurs in REM. She may sleep for most of the day and night while dreaming – most likely about her own inner world. If you have twins, you might be interested to know that, after 20 weeks, twins in utero play with each other, demonstrating both fear and anger.

Evidence your baby remembers sounds heard in the womb

Dr. Christie Moon, Ph.D., and Dr. Hugo Lagercrantz, co-authored a study with Dr. Patricia Kuhl, using a pacifier to measure the frequency of sucking demonstrated by newborns upon hearing her mother’s particular language. Every sucking movement related to a produced vowel. Each baby paused when unfamiliar vowels were introduced, and each new suck produced the next vowel sound. And finally, two sets of vowel sounds were used in conjunction with seventeen foreign language sounds, and seventeen native language sounds.

As a result, this research indicates that your baby can remember elementary sounds from you as early as 10 weeks prior to birth. Furthermore, this neurosensory mechanism for hearing is functioning at 30 weeks of gestational age. Hence, phonetic learning occurs in the womb. Also, past research indicates that your baby both responds and remembers musical sounds and rhythms heard in the womb.

Now we know, that your baby is laying the foundation for language development and is, in fact, partially learning a language before her birth. So, be sure to talk to her constantly, before she is born. Play music, and expose her to all sorts of sounds of daily life. These studies indicate that your baby’s brain is very sophisticated in utero; she is listening closely, and learning. Therefore, be what you want to see.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.