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An introduction to Language Booster Advanced Edition by the Wunder Engineering and Education team.
Why is ‘parentese’ language so important during early childhood?
Adults often use “baby talk” when interacting with young children. Baby talk may bring to mind cutesy words and phrases, such as “goo goo ga ga,” as this is the conventional way adults attempt to mimic baby sounds when trying to make young babies feel more comfortable. But how is ‘parentese’ different from conventional ‘baby talk,’ and which form of communication is more helpful for boosting language development in children during early childhood?
A new study conducted at the University of Washington found that frequent verbal engagement with babies using the form of speech called ‘parentese’ improved conversation between parents and their children and even boosted children’s language development. Parentese is not the same as conventional baby talk; it does not involve making nonsense noises, but is rather characterized by the speaker’s higher pitch, slower tempo and exaggerated intonation.
Parentese speech is usually grammatically correct, using real words and phrases. Its elongated sounds help infants differentiate between words, while also giving them time to process what is being said. Patricia K. Kuhl, lead researcher from the University of Washington, says: “We believe parentese makes language learning easier because of its simpler linguistic structure and exaggerated sounds. Its high pitch and slower tempo are socially engaging and invite the baby to respond.”
In the study, 48 out of 71 families were randomly selected to receive a crash course on parentese, and they learned how to introduce parentese into everyday conversation. The study found that babies of parents who received coaching showed the most improvements, with 100-word vocabularies at 18 months compared to 60-word vocabularies for babies whose parents didn’t receive any coaching. The study’s lead author, Naja Ferjan Ramirez, said: “Enhancements in language behaviors in infancy could have cascading effects on speech development over time. It is also an early indicator of children’s ability to learn to read and succeed in school.”
How can Wunder help coach you in parentese?
The basic version of Wunder Language Booster is limited to counting the number of words and conversations back and forth. Previous research shows how important quality and quantity of conversations are to children’s literacy and language success.
The advanced version of Language Booster will scan each session for standard speech and parentese. It will show you the ratio of standard speech vs. parentese in your sessions and compare this ratio to your previous sessions and to other Wunder parents.
It will also provide a pitch analysis graph, which highlights the segments of audio where parentese communication is more prominent. You can download these audio segments for playback later and share them with friends, family, and speech therapists if your baby is experiencing a language delay.
We will also provide tips on how to improve your parentese and assign a coach from our Education team to provide additional feedback on your sessions.
Other Features Coming to Language Booster
Language Booster will now scan your sessions for nouns and verbs and calculate a Diversity Score based on the various parts of speech you are using with your baby. It will compare your usage of verbs and nouns over time and with other Wunder parents.
Previous research has shown that by 24 months, infants who acquire a range of language can successfully map novel nouns to object categories and novel verbs to event categories. This provides a foundation for tracing the developmental trajectory underlying noun and verb learning across languages. We also know that vocabulary growth is linked to overall school achievement, and two-year-olds who know few verbs are at greater risk of developing language disorders.
Wunder will generate a Word Cloud for you every week, which will display the verbs and nouns you have been using most often. It will also show the frequency of unique nouns and verbs used, and provide new word suggestions to include in your everyday speech.
The Word Cloud will be rendered in different customizable shapes, and you will be able to share your word cloud with friends and family. We will also send you a weekly email report with all the important stats to keep you updated on your baby’s progress.
Finally, we will recommend books that you can read to your baby to enrich their vocabulary. The recommendations will be personalized and will change as your child grows.
Wunder will chart the sentiment of your speech during Language Booster sessions, showing the number of positive words you use versus the number of neutral or negative words.
As a parent, you might often find yourself saying “no,” “stop it,” or “don’t do that” to your toddler. It’s challenging for toddlers to understand the concept of negatives. They often miss the “don’t” or “stop” at the beginning of the sentence, translating “Don’t climb on the counter!” into “Climb on the counter!” This leaves our curious, independence-seeking toddlers wondering, “Why are they telling me to do exactly what I am doing? And why are they mad at me for it?” Using positive language empowers your toddler to make appropriate choices on their own and, in turn, boosts their self-esteem. It allows the toddler to learn from positive behaviors instead of focusing on negative ones, which can often leave them feeling frustrated and confused.
Wunder will provide insights about how to replace certain negative words in your vocabulary. Our Education team is also available to coach you on your tone and approach to help you get your point across calmly and clearly.