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Nana Loves You

Do you talk baby talk?

When I talk to my little grandsons, I speak in the Third Person. I say things like, “Look what Nana has for you.” I don’t know why I do that. I wouldn’t call myself by name with an adult. I’m not going to tell my husband that Mary wants to run to the store or say to an employer that Mary wants a raise.

Perhaps it is because I want my grandsons to know my name. Nothing warms my heart more than to hear them call me Nana in their sweet voices. But according to linguists, I shouldn’t do that. Babies need to learn to use the pronouns “I” and “me” correctly. Language is confusing enough without us speaking incorrectly.

Talking in high-pitched voices though, is OK. Babies seem to respond positively when we speak to them in happy tones more so than in adult language. Elongating consonants and vowels in what are known as “parentese,” such as saying, “Heeeeeloooo there hooooneyyyyy,” and all the bright, happy facial expressions we use, actually makes an impression on their brains. Studies show that it helps them learn the words quicker.

Mostly, we just need to keep talking to them while smiling and making eye contact. That’s how they learn to imitate the sounds they hear. They also like repetition. Repeating common words such as “mama” and “dada” helps to spur language development. We also can imitate the sounds they make. In general, the more we talk to them, the faster they will learn.

Some people get carried away and use that “goo-goo, gaga baby talk” to their children. Experts say that although talking down to them in a silly way does not help them, it won’t prevent or delay their speech either.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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