How Your Baby Learns To Talk And 3 Tips To Help Them Along

flickr / Ross Burton

It would be easy to assume that learning how to talk is exceedingly difficult. After all, humans are the only creatures on the planet that do it. And even then, there’s a whole slew of them that don’t do it very well at all. Like, what the hell is Ozzy even talking about? Keith Richards, can you translate? No? Well. Guess we’ll never know then.


flickr / Quinn Dombrowski[module id="76950"]

But if you want your baby to eventually get into some bigly (big league?) verbal communication, you actually don’t need to know any ‘uge techniques. It’s pretty simple, yo. You just have to do something you do ery day.

Talk Talk Talk

There’s one weird trick for making sure your kid knows, and can say, a whole bunch of different words, the right way, in the correct order. Are you ready for it? Here it comes: talk to them. That’s it. Just talk to them. Start at birth (if not before) and just talk, like, all the time.

Okay, sure, you can get into subtleties and science. If you’re that kind of guy (of course you are, you’re here, aren’t you?) then read on. Oh! Better yet. Read this to your baby. There won’t be any swears. No shit.

The Science

So an MIT genius named Dev Roy did this crazy TED talk called Birth Of A Word, that shows how exactly a kid acquires language. He created a camera network throughout his home that captured video and audio of every single interaction the adults in his house had with his kid. Presumably even the ones where they were all like “No, you farted.”

Through some fancy genius-brain algorithmic wizardry, Roy then made it possible to search all of the footage and trace a single word over the year that it developed in his kid (while also mapping it to the rooms in his house where it developed). That word was not “fart,” BTW. Maybe because it happens in literally every room of the house.

The result of his research revealed language development to be a subtle and natural interaction. Here are the general steps:

  1. The caregiver talks about some thing.
  2. The kid indicates they want that thing and makes a mouth noise similar to what they heard from the caregiver.
  3. Caregiver picks up on cues and says the actual word for thing while giving thing.
  4. Kid absorbs the correction and says the word for thing in a slightly different way next time.
  5. The process repeats until the kid can say the word (in Roys case, water) in full.

So there were no flashcards necessary. There were no special learning modules. There weren’t any books or apps. The kid just learned it naturally. The same way your kid will learn that farts are funny naturally.

More Than Talking

Of course, if you want to be a pro-level language pusher there are a few things you can do to augment your already brilliant talking skills. Here are some ideas:

Talk About What You’re Doing

Even with a newborn, talking is key to helping them build language. But if you’re at loss for words, just narrate what you’re doing: “Daddy is getting a beer from the refrigerator. The beer is cold. It will be good to drink. But Daddy doesn’t know if it’s a twist off. Ow. It’s not a twist off … Daddy is looking for the bottle opener. Where did silly mommy put the bottle opener?” You get the idea.

Have A Conversation

At about 3-months, your kid will be cooing and babbling while you talk. Go ahead and take their cues to make the interaction a conversation. Make up what you think they could be saying so that they begin to understand the rhythms of a conversation: “What’s that sweetie? Why yes, LeBron does look like he’s got enough juice to take the Cavs to another championship. What’s that? No. No I think Golden State was too brutalized last year to make another serious run at the finals.”

The TV Is Not A Substitute

One study from the University of Washington showed that babies will learn 6-to-8 words less for every hour per day they are exposed to children’s TV. That’s likely because of the lack of dialogue and simplicity of the language. Maybe also because Caillou is certifiably awful. Like, hands down. So maybe just read your kid a book instead.

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