Learning to Talk

Eye Contact
Babies love faces and they will stop smiling if you remove the eye contact. In many culture, having eye contact with the person you are communicating with is essential. Non-verbal clues are often picked up. 
 
Focus on the Mouth
It would seem reasonable to assume that your baby tries to look into your eyes when you are talking to her. Yet, when you examine what babies are looking at during conversations, you find that they focus on the mouth. 
 
Perhaps babies are using the information about how the mouth is moving to learn about how sounds are formed in the mouth. Even though babies focus on the mouth, eye contact is also important and babies will look at the eyes.
 
“Sip” and “Ship”
Learning to talk takes times and sometimes babies do not pronounce all the sounds in a word correctly. An underlying rule in communication is that a listener tries her best to understand what the person is saying. 
Sometimes a baby or toddler has a problem with a certain sounds and sometimes the end of the word gets blurred. Mispronunciations such as “gog” instead of “dog”, “sip” instead of “ship” are common. 
 
But is she aware of how the words “should” sound? If you try to mispronounce a word, your toddler will give you a strange look. Research suggests, that toddler between18-20 months do know what a certain words should sound like. So if you say “Find the ottle” instead of “Find the bottle” your toddler will not look for the bottle.
 
Word Recognition
Even a young child will slow down his speaking rate and articulate vowels when talking that an infants. Usually a higher pitch range is used when talking to infants. How do these changes influence an infant learning English?  Is it simply a way of attracting attention? Or does it facilitate learning of words? 
 
It seems like the special way of talking to infants helps them by providing better linguistic information that helps a baby to learn to recognise new words. The pitch did not help the recognition of words in English. In English, pitch is not vital for word recognition. You would expect a different result in language that uses different pitches to indicate different words, for example, Mandarin.
 
Song, J.Y., Demuth, K., & Morgan, J.L. (2010). Effects of the acoustic properties of infant-directed speech on infant word recognition. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 128(1), 389-400.
 
Photo: Children by africa

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