Time to Talk
Young children can acquire more than one language without detriment to learning English and will enjoy greater self-esteem if carers outside the home respect their mother tongue. Anne O’Connor explains why…
Shammy is in the bedroom with his grandmother. She knows him well and spends lots of time talking and playing with him. She lays him on the bed so that they can have a face-toface conversation. She speaks Urdu to him, using lots of repetition and facial expression. Shammy will grow up bilingual in Urdu and English.
1 The manner in which people talk to babies is universal. This special way of talking is known as ‘parentese’. Whatever the language spoken, when talking to babies, there is a tendency to use a high-pitched, sing-song voice with enhanced and elongated sounds. Facial expressions are exaggerated too, with wide eyes and big mouth movements. Words and phrases are repeated, often in the form of questions, and the carer responds as if the baby’s babbles and sounds are real conversation. Even quite young children will instinctively do it with babies. So why do we do it?
Because babies like it! Research has shown that babies are more attracted to the sound of it than they are to regular talk and conversation.
They are also very interested in faces, and the enhanced facial expressions hold their attention.
It helps babies learn. Their brains are ‘mapping’ the words and sounds they hear and the frequent repetition builds connections so that comprehension and understanding start to emerge.
As well as learning about language and conversations, babies are also seeing themselves ‘mirrored’ by the carer. The way that carers wait for a response from the baby – perhaps a smile, a gurgle or excited movements – and then repeat it back to them, helps the baby to learn about themselves, as they see their actions mirrored by the adult…
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Article written by Anne O’Connor and published in Nursery World © www.nurseryworld.co.uk