Britain is now a ­multilingual country. You can walk 100 yards along a street in London without hearing English being spoken.

And our children are ­growing up hearing a ­cacophony of ­different ­languages. Can their baby brains cope with it? Is it good for brain development? Will it give them a head start?

The answer to all those questions is yes, according to new research on how babies sort out language.

And it even goes back to ­before a baby is born, to what a baby hears while in the womb. This should be very reassuring for parents who worry that a baby ­talking will ­be delayed if it hears more than one ­language.

In fact, the ­opposite is true.

Just think about it. A newborn could find itself in a family speaking any one of the 1,000 or more languages and would be able to ­pick up any of them. The infant brain has the capacity to learn to speak any ­language. What happens to the ­baby’s brain if it hears more than one ­language ­being spoken at home?

Well, an infant’s brain is infinitely ­‘elastic’. It simply grows to accommodate both languages. The amazing thing is that the baby’s brain learns there are two ­languages being spoken but that they’re different.

Also, scientists can show the earliest differences between ­babies’ brains exposed to one language and those ­exposed to two. Researchers can analyse baby behaviour like which ­direction they turn their eyes and how long they pay attention to ­figure out baby perceptions of sounds, words and language.

This helps to explain not just how the baby brain listens to language but how listening shapes the baby’s brain.

University of Washington ­researchers in the US claim that when a bilingual baby is ­exposed to two languages, its brain ­remains open and ­responsive to new sounds and new languages, for longer than infants who hear only one.

Furthermore, bilingual ­children develop crucial skills in addition to their double ­vocabularies – different ways of solving logic problems and ­multitasking, skills that can put them ahead of their peers in class ­at school.

Bilingual babies handle new ­information quickly and efficiently, ­helping later scholastic achievement. **­So, parents, start your child speaking a ­second language as soon as you can.**

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