Q: Did you really say that newborns could be taught any language on the planet? That cannot be true. Do you know how many languages and dialects exist?

A: Do I know how many languages and dialects exist? No, I do not. I’m not sure anyone does. According to www.ethnologue.com, there are 7,117 languages spoken today on Planet Earth. Who knows how many dialects?

As for the first question, I have both spoken and written about that. Studies have shown that a newborn can immediately distinguish the language the mother spoke during pregnancy. For parents who want to give their child(ren) the gift of becoming multilingual it is best to begin early. The newborn can start recognizing the sounds for up to three languages simultaneously—more easily if a different person consistently speaks each language.

After year one, however, the baby’s brain no longer responds to phonetic elements peculiar to non-native languages. After age eight, the ability to fluently learn a non-native language gradually declines no matter the extent of practice or exposure. If possible, teach your child(ren) or grandchild(ren) a second or third language. Studies suggest that people who are at least bilingual may have a longer lifespan, likely due to the brain stimulation that results from speaking more than one language.

Very young human infants can perceive and discriminate between differences in all human speech sounds and are not innately biased towards the phonemes characteristic of any particular language. However, this universal appreciation does not persist.―www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11007/