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Want to know about bilingual babies? Ask BabyLab

Babies are facinating creatures.  They are born almost blind, relying on crying as their only form of communication, and within the first 18 months of life, most will understand and begin to speak at least one language, many will start speaking two or more!  And all of this without any direct instruction.  So how do they do it?  What is their secret?

I recently had the pleasure to visit BabyLab at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.  Researchers at BabyLab are interested in understanding how language develops during infancy.  Their research is focused on understanding how babies produce sounds and eventually language, particularly when a faced with more than one language to learn!  Katia Pistrin, one of the coordinators at the center, showed me around their lab and filled me in on some of their research.

Researchers at BabyLab mostly use eye-tracking software and videos in order to collect information and data for their studies.  All studies are quick and take a maximum of 30 minutes, which is perfect timing for a busy baby!  Babies are normally given very short video clips to watch and a camera attached to the screen is able to monitor where on the screen the baby is looking.  So, if the babies are shown a video of a person talking, the researchers are able to tell which parts of the face a baby focused on most throughout the conversation.  This can give really useful informtion about how babies perceive the faces of people around them.

We are currently in the process of arranging a workshop with one of the investigators from BabyLab who will visit Nido and share their findings with parents.  Until then, you can find out more by watching this TED talk in Spanish by Loreto Nacar, one of the investigators at BabyLab.

If you are interested in helping BabyLab’s research by visiting their research facility with your little one, please email Katia Pistrin at or call 93.542.25.64 / 93.542.11.69.  For a sneak peak at their installations and more information about the project (in Spanish and Catalan) see this video from Barcelona TV.