Have you ever had a hard time understanding someone speak in a noisy restaurant? Imagine if you were trying to learn a new language. That’s just what toddlers are trying to do, learn a language. According to a new study, toddlers learn new words quicker when their environment has less background noise.
"Modern homes are filled with noisy distractions such as TV, radio and people talking that could affect how children learn words at early ages," said study leader Brianna McMillan.
"Our study suggests that adults should be aware of the amount of background speech in the environment when they're interacting with young children," said McMillan, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Researchers from the university assessed the ability of 106 children, aged 22 to 30 months, to learn new words. They found they were more successful when their surroundings were quiet than when there was background noise.
However, researchers noted that providing the children with additional language cues helped them overcome the detrimental effects of a noisy location.
"Hearing new words in fluent speech without a lot of background noise before trying to learn what objects the new words corresponded to, may help very young children master new vocabulary," said study co-author Jenny Saffran, a professor of psychology.
Sometimes, you simply can’t avoid a noisy environment- especially if there are other children around. Saffron says there is a way to overcome that.
“… When the environment is noisy, drawing young children's attention to the sounds of the new word may help them compensate," she added.