There are as many different parenting styles as there are parents, and since I became a parent, I’ve become pretty flexible on my opinions about a lot of “parenting”. But there is one area in which I hold firmly to my belief and will not yield – baby talk. I don’t like it, and I will judge you harshly if you use it.
What is Parentese?
Don’t confuse baby talk with “Parentese”. Parentese is when you speak to a little one using a slower, high-pitched voice. Words will be exaggerated, and sound sing-songy, but they will still be real words. So a word like “love” becomes “looove” and “baby” becomes “baaaaaaby”.
Who Uses Parentese?
Across cultures and languages, adults all over the world use parentese when talking to babies. It is often done automatically, and children respond to it. Babies like the high-pitched sounds, and will turn their heads more often for sing-songy parentese more often than for normal adult speech. It’s an intuitive, natural way to speak to babies that helps little ones to learn real words in a way that they respond to.
What Is Baby Talk?
Baby talk is when you change words so they actually don’t mean anything. “Love” becomes “wuv” and “cute little girl” becomes “toot wittle guwl”, or some other such nonsense. It’s not just that the meaning or pronunciation of the word is emphasized, but new words are invented that actually mean nothing.
What’s Wrong With Baby Talk?
Baby talk is just nonsense. It is teaching your child things they will then have to unlearn, instead of teaching them the right words the first time around. As kids are learning to talk, they may make up their own words for things, and that’s fine. But because they use the wrong words doesn’t mean you have to.
Real Language Helps Kids Learn
When my daughter started talking, she would point to an avocado and say, “Cado!” And I would respond by saying, “Yes! That’s an avocado!” After a few weeks, she started saying, “Acado!” and I continued to respond with “Yes! That’s an avocado!” A few weeks later, she pointed to an avocado and said “Avocado!” It would have taken her much longer to learn that if my response had been “Yes, that’s an awowado!”
Children learn so much so quickly. A rich and accurate vocabulary will help them understand what’s going on around them, and be understood by those around them, earlier in life. The words they learn now will be the foundation for the vocabulary they build through the years, so give them the best start by making that vocabulary rich, diverse and real.