The Benefits of Talking to Your Baby
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Pay attention to all sounds your baby makes. Like many infants at this age, your baby may develop a special sound (a cough, a squeak, a gleeful shout) that he consistently uses to gain your attention. What he's trying to say is, "Psst. Over here!" Reward him for this bit of cleverness with an enthusiastic response.
If you want to make good use of your baby's talent at mimicry, start teaching him your favorite tunes. Because songs add the force of rhythm and the enchantment of melody to words, they are often more fun-and more memorable-than words alone. So sing a lot of songs to your baby during the second six months. Just as your baby echoes your speech, he may imitate not just the words, but also the melodies you sing. And when he first joins in for a few notes, you may be surprised how well your baby can carry a tune.
During the past couple months of your baby's life, he was limited to one-syllable bites of sound: la, ma, ba, and so on. But around the seventh or eighth month, you will hear a wide range of new sounds. Suddenly, your baby will shout out two-syllable sound bites: ama, booboo, umum, poopoo, immi, and the ever-popular, gaga. These two-syllable sounds become more and more distinct as your baby tries new consonant sounds.
Hearing so many sounds coming out of your baby's mouth will be exciting for you, but your baby will be even more thrilled. He will love the sound of his own voice (not unlike many adults), and he'll talk in a steady stream whenever he's happy, regardless of whether anyone else is there to listen or reply.
By eight or nine months, your baby listens carefully to any speech sounds he hears. If you watch your baby when you're having a conversation with someone else, you'll notice that he resembles a spectator at a tennis match. He turns his head back and forth from person to person as each speaks. His expression may convey the impression that he's trying to follow the conversation of two people who don't speak the same language he does, and that's exactly what he is doing. After watching for a while, he'll suddenly burst into the conversation with a shout, as if to say, "Hey, I'm here, too. Talk to me!"
After all this careful listening, your baby tries to imitate sounds. Although your baby appears to be saying his first words, he isn't. This imitation is not really language; it's mere echoing of sounds. Few (if any) of these imitative sounds will have meaning for your baby.
Around the ninth month, language building progresses quickly. First, your baby begins to appreciate and imitate the tones of conversations he's heard. He begins to stress certain vocal sounds and add inflections to some "words." Now his babbling sounds like an adult conversation, sprinkled with statements, questions, jokes, and soft-spoken confidences.
Your baby may also begin to construct chains of vocal sounds that become longer than two syllables: moomoomoomoo or lalalalalala, for instance. On the heels of these verbal chains and the addition of intonation come fully inflected "words" that may combine several different speech sounds: something like pagoolamida, zippadeedooda, or moogoogaipan.
He seems so close to speaking that you or your partner may expect him to launch into Hamlet's soliloquy any day now. In truth, however, your baby will probably practice and hone the sounds and inflections of these verbal chains for another month or two. His first words are unlikely to come until at least the 10th or 11th month and probably even later.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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