Holding on to childhood language memory

Cognition. 2003 Jan;86(3):B53-64. doi: 10.1016/s0010-0277(02)00175-0.


While early language experience seems crucial for mastering phonology, it remains unclear whether there are lasting benefits of speaking a language regularly during childhood if the quantity and quality of speaking drop dramatically after childhood. This study explored the accessibility of early childhood language memory. Specifically, it compared perception and production of Korean speech sounds by childhood speakers who had spoken Korean regularly for a few years during childhood to those of two other groups: (1) childhood hearers who had heard Korean regularly during childhood but had spoken Korean minimally, if at all; and (2) novice learners. All three groups were enrolled in first-year college Korean language classes. Childhood speakers were also compared to native speakers of Korean to see how native-like they were. The results revealed measurable long-term benefits of childhood speaking experience, underscoring the importance of early language experience, even if such experience diminishes dramatically beyond childhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Language*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Memory*
  • Phonetics