Baby Talk



As parents, listening to our young child’s speech is a bliss to ears, and while talking to them, we tend to talk to them on their way. We enjoy the communication, don’t we? But when the same child doesn’t give up the childish speech and continues with it much beyond his age, we tend to get worried.

Talking to children has always been fundamental to language and speech development, but the way we talk to children is a key to building their ability to understand and create sentences of their own. The exaggerated speech we naturally & instinctively use while talking with young children is special and is also referred as caretaker speech, infant-directed speech or motherese.    It is usually characterized by the following:-

A cooing pattern of intonation different from that of a normal adult’s speech

  • repetitions
  • shorter phases
  • simpler grammar
  • high in pitch
  • slow pattern of speech
  • hyperarticulation
  • shortening and simplifying the words

Motherese is important for kids to hear as it encourages them to copy the adult’s speech and teaches them variable intonation pattern that is used during conversation. You may sound or feel silly but keep talking in the silly voice. It actually encourages your child to speak and communicate.

At this age, they find it more engaging and easier to listen to. They are more attentive to the words, can figure out their meaning and eventually start using them. Because a specific word or words in each sentence are emphasized, this helps a youngster focus on them. Sound effects, like “meow,” “boom” and “grr,” hold a baby’s attention, which maximizes their word-learning potential.

But the problem arises when there is an oversimplification of words and use of nonsensical words for real words like saying “baba” for “bottle” or “bikki” for “biscuit”  much beyond the child’s developmental requirement.

Researchers have revealed that using strange words may not, in fact, be the best way to communicate with your child.

We should strive to be the best model for our child so while we use nonsensical words, we do not provide the correct model.We have to remember that most of the speech the infant hears, is not directed towards it, and not all the speech directed towards the infant will be motherese, – it is unlikely that every person talking to your baby will use motherese. And when you speak to other adults, you will speak to them differently and your child will hear that too.

(When should you stop using it?

It’s not a matter of refraining from using baby talk when your child reaches a certain age. Mothers naturally begin regulating the fluctuations in their pitch when their babies turn 12 months to 15 months old and return to a normal speech rate as their children get older. You probably won’t be able to phase out baby talk completely until your child is at least three years old. In the meantime, as long as they hear a mix of both, they’re on the right path.

Once children are above the age of 3, they benefit more from being spoken to in a normal tone of voice. They can recognize what “baby talk” is and might not like being spoken to, like a baby. They want to feel big! Additionally, as they are already developing language acquisition, they learn from observing your modeling of how to talk and communicate properly. Avoid using incorrect terms for things, like mimicking how they say “baggi” instead of “bag” (even if it is cute) so you can help them hear the correct word.)

So, it is all about a healthy balance of baby-directed speak and normal adult speech patterns and language while talking to a baby.

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