The adorable video of babbling twins that has gone viral in cyberspace is more than a glimpse of two very cute babies. It is a lesson in early language development. The delighted (and delightful) back and forth and playing with sounds will lead to words, the basis of human relationships and the foundation of later literacy. What, exactly, is going on?
Boston.com points us to “The science behind babbling babies,” an interview with speech and language specialist Hope Dickinson posted on Children’s Hospital of Boston’s Thrive blog.
“They’re demonstrating a behavior known as ‘reduplicated babbling,’ because the sounds used are repeated, which you can hear in their use of ‘da-da-da.’ In a more informal way, I guess I would describe it as turn-taking with babbling, or conversational babbling,” Dickinson says.
“It’s fun because these two are demonstrating great mimicking of multiple aspects of conversation. It really demonstrates how very young children communicate and know how a conversation works, even before they have the words to use. They will eventually begin to replace the babbling strings with words,” she says.
“One thing they are using wonderfully is turn taking, as in first one ‘talks’ and then pauses and the other responds. They are also imitating the various intonations we use in conversation and speaking. There is fantastic rise and fall to their pitch and tones. Sentences or exclamations end loudly and emphatically, and there is also some questioning (rising) intonation. They are using gestures to supplement their talking, much like adults do. Their body distance is even very appropriate for most Americans; not too close, but not too far either.”
How can parents nurture and support their children’s language development? “The ‘usual’ staples of good language stimulation are simply: Talk to your child throughout the day and as much as possible, try narrating what he’s doing and seeing, what you’re doing and seeing, and what is going on around you,” Dickinson says.
For more on children’s language development and the path to literacy that begins at birth, check out the video “The Young Reader’s Journey.”