Becoming a Native Listener

Although cooing and babbling can be seen as abilities of infants in their early moths, they have a distinctive feature that makes them special. In the article entitled as “Becoming a Native Listener”, Werker (1989) reveals it with his research. In my paper, I will mention about his main finding, his laboratory procedure and how his result can be base for brain development for bilingual children.

Werker (1989) finds that infants learn to discriminate the sounds of their own language even before they begin to speak. In addition to their predisposition to perceive phonetic contrasts, he points out that there is a decline in their phonetic sensitivity when they become adult as a result of obtaining a particular language.

For his research, Werker (1989) made his first experiments with Hindi-speaking adults, English speaking adults and infants from English speaking families, and he used infant head turn procedure to realize whether the infants can perceive phonetic contrasts. When they detect a change from one phoneme to another and they turn head toward the sound, they were conditioned with a toy. Furthermore, he made follow-up research with a new language that is Nthlakapmx and with new participants to compare infants’ and adults’ perception of phonetic contrasts. I think his aim of applying follow-up research is to prove that the phenomenon of developmental loss extended to other languages, and it is universal.

As I read this article, I became very surprised since I never think that the infants have more powerful phonetic perception compared to adults. On the other side, it gave me a clue about how children raised in bilingual families get two languages at the same time. They immediately start to use their abilities beginning from their birth in order to adapt their environment. To do that, I think their brain has two areas dedicated to one language. When they heard a word, a conflict between these two areas can appear. Then, the infants make a decision on where they should send it in the brain. Hence, I consider this event develops selective attention of the infants. Moreover, I can say that their cognitive structure is more complex than others since they have to code an object with two word different word. My concern is that they might fail to utilize words of only one language while they are talking. Words of other language can interfere with ones in other area.

As a whole, I can say that infancy period is very crucial for language development since the infants perceive phonetic contrasts better. Therefore, the parents should give special care to this period to make their children more competent in both their native language and other ones.


Werker, J. (1989). Becoming a native listener. American Scientist77(1), 54.