Look Who'S Talking!

Look Who'S Talking!

It's a surprise and a delight to realise your baby is well on the way to saying proper words and sentences. Your older child will be able to encourage them - now they can have a real conversation!


Your baby has probably been happily babbling away and cooing for the last few months. And then suddenly, almost without any of the family noticing, she is making sounds that clearly resemble the real words in your language. She may even be practising getting the sounds right while she is alone in her cot a sort of exercise for her articulatory muscles.

One researcher put a tape recorder under her baby’s cot to record the sounds the baby made during the evening or early in the morning when she was alone in her bedroom. The results were astonishing. Early on, the baby was found to be really practising new sounds; on the tape recording the researcher heard: “bi bi bi bi ba”, or “mma mma mma mama”. Later in the child’s development, the researcher found that the baby was practising more complex little “sentences”: “dog sleeping/ dog barking / dog, nice dog”. Amazingly, the baby was learning through trying out variations on her own productions. So, don’t be surprised if one evening you start to hear little language practice sessions on your baby monitor.

The development of the baby’s language will also play an important role in enhancing your two children’s relationship. As the baby increasingly understands more language and can respond in words, the two children will be able to communicate linguistically. This should, in principle at least, decrease the amount of physical fights, particularly if you encourage them to tell each other what is wrong.

As a mum, though, you will have such fun listening in on their verbal interactions. Do write down any priceless ones, because it is so easy to forget later. Your partner, relatives and friends will love hearing about your notes on the children’s developing language. Children’s errors are often so revealing. Depending on their age, you may hear one of them say: “my turn to do some brooming!” (Meaning sweeping, where they’ve turned a noun “broom” into the verb “to broom” - very logical!) At other times you may hear one of them talking of a past event and say: “he goed home early” (having discovered that most past tense is formed by adding -ed to verbs, they apply this rule to everything they hear!)


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Never make fun of their errors; they are children’s really intelligent ways of sorting out how language works and discovering the underlying linguistic rules. And do encourage your older child to talk a lot to his little sister. He’ll naturally adopt a singsong voice like parents do when speaking to babies. Research has shown that these exaggerated sounds of “motherese” really do attract the baby’s attention. For example, in one experiment children were given two boxes, one of which had recordings of adult-to-adult conversation and the other recordings of mother-to-child conversation. The children were free to press the knob on either box to set the recordings going. Well, the vast majority of the young children in the study pushed the knob to hear the mother-to-child box far more often than the knob on the adult-to-adult box. So, the way we naturally speak to babies is just the form they prefer to hear and to be spoken to. 

But don’t forget that you need to constantly update, i.e., slightly change the way in which you address each of the children, to adapt to their particular language level. It’s hard work being a sensitive parent, and there are even more challenges when two children are involved. But if you learn to observe and marvel at your children’s creativity and budding intelligence, you will enjoy being a parent even more.

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