Are babies born with an accent? German psychologist Dr. Kathleen Wermke says, “Ja”. Dr. Wermke and her colleagues recorded the cries of infants. And they found that French newborns produce tones that rise, while German babies cry with falling intonations. And get this: The patterns perfectly mimic the typical speech patterns of each language.
But how can kids as young as 2 days old have picked up an accent? Because a baby’s sense of hearing is fully developed by the sixth month of pregnancy, which means, they spend their last trimester listening. Of course, they don’t hear actual speech, just the sounds of language. And they’re particularly attuned to the sound of their mother’s voice. So, by the time they’re born, they’ve gotten a head start in understanding the rhythms and intonations of their native language.
Dr. Wermke believes that’s one reason kids learn to speak so quickly. But, it also has a more important function, it helps with parent-child bonding. The in-utero language sessions strengthen the bond between mothers and their children.