When you’re talking to your baby or a friend’s, does your voice tend to turn up about ten octaves as you start babbling gibberish? If you’re nodding in agreement, you may wonder why you instantly turn to baby talk mode. It’s probably because you think that babies wouldn’t understand you if you started talking in your regular way. But, a new study says you may want to ditch the baby talk.
Is Baby Talk Bad?
A new study shows that true baby talk, made up of proper adult speech at a different cadence, is better for a baby’s development than the regular baby babble we’re used to. Researchers say it’s better to talk to babies using proper grammar and real words at a higher pitch and a slower speed. So, you can forget about the “cutesy whoopsy whittle doggie”.
This speaking style is referred to as “parentese”. According to the Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, parentese has three characteristics:
- Higher pitched speaking
- More-defined intonation (highs are higher, lows are lower)
- Slower speech, giving baby time to react and respond
Researchers believe that the more parents and anyone else speaking to a baby can adapt to parentese, the better it will be for a baby’s language development. Studies show that when babies listen to speech, the motor areas in their brain that respond to speech begin to light up, signaling that the baby is getting ready to talk back.
While you can be mindful of using parentese, a study has shown that those adults who were coached about parentese had children who had more significant gains in speech and development. Researchers found that the children of the coached parents spoke words like ball or milk quicker than those children whose parents were not coached. Babies of parents who were coached had 100 words in their vocabulary compared to 60 words from the group whose parents were not coached.
For babies to want to speak, they need to be engaged. Researchers feel as though parentese helps to engage them better than baby babbling. They are continuing to look into the effects of parentese speech on baby’s language and development. As of now, they are confident that research will show that parentese is the way to go.
How Can You Incorporate Parentese into Your Language?
The next time you talk to a baby, think before you speak. Instead of breaking out in baby babble, think of how you can convey the same idea while speaking in a higher-pitched, slower, and more defined voice. See the difference in how the baby reacts.
While it may take you some time to adjust to this new way of speaking, think about the positive effects it can have. It will be enough to drop the cutesy whoopsy words from your vocabulary.