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Friday, July 25, 2014

Parentese: Why it's never too early

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More parents today are teaching their young children a second language. Among the most common second languages for babies in America are Spanish, American Sign Language, French, and Mandarin Chinese.

Although there are some worried parents who think they may be overwhelming their babies, recent studies have helped to negate that worry. In fact, it has been proved that inspiring a toddler's language skills early in life improves cognitive function and long term development.

The University of Washington conducted an experimental procedure with light sensors to detect magnetic fields - active neurons - in a baby's brain when they hear a familiar language. Neurologists and researchers were surprised to find that we begin calculating pitch and "taking statistics" in our mother's voice - or signs - from as early as six months old. These are the first steps in learning to comprehend, express, write, and read.

While some babies are more attentive than others, studies show that strong diction with elongated vowels and simple words are most fascinating to young children learning to speak. This kind of speech, regardless of language, is referred around the lab as "parentese."

For sign language users, parents who use clear and simple signs are speaking parentese, and when babies see parentese they are mapping the words in their brain. The more parentese and one-on-one interaction for them, the more their language development zooms forward.

These results were not as obvious when a toddler was exposed to the same words or phrases through a television or audio recording. Perhaps this is because without body language, a nonverbal form of communication, the child can't hold focus. It may also slow the process of language expansion because there is no connotation in a digital world.
So what does this mean? Describe the actions around the household and use real three-dimensional objects. Being able to take apart a word exercises and prepares the linguistic portion of the brain for any amount of fluency. The brain shares this specific area with problem solving, creativity, and memory.

We already know that children learn and develop most exponentially in their first 2,000 days of life. On a scale as global as the one we live in today, it is never too early to become bilingual but, it's better late than never!

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