Silly, silly toddlers. Yes, the twins are now old enough (15 months) to be considered toddlers! Their favorite word by far is “doggy”, pronounced “daawww-DEE!” With a strong accent on the second syllable, and usually followed by the same word again and again. They’re definitely catching on to the fact that they are on to something and they’re having fun making sounds that they get recognition for. We read to them every night and and talk to the constantly. Our nanny is a Spanish teacher so they’re getting a good amount of exposure to Spanish, and I do my best to speak to them in Japanese and associate new words with objects they already know.
One of the things that feels the most important at this stage is getting their little vocal chords making new and different sounds. It’s amazing to listen to the sounds they come up with and they are very proud when they discover a new vowel or consonant sound. You can see the wheels turning as they explore their capabilities and try to match what you say. Oliver came out with his version of the word for “cheese” the other day, pronounced “Ghi!” (with an exclamation point). Nope, it’s not even close but he’s proud as punch that he can say it and he takes a few seconds before he says it to form his mouth into the right shape.
Since they are trying so hard right now to replicate what we say, I think it’s important to make strange noises that challenge them in that way. Not just English sounds, and not just foreign words, but also completely ridiculous sounds and babbles that make them really wonder about all the sounds they can make. Not only is it fun (and ridiculously cute) but it’s a great way for them to exercise their little vocal chords in a way that will hopefully make speaking many different languages much easier as they continue to develop.
Repeating their babbles back to them can be construed as “baby talk” and I don’t think that that is always constructive. Rather, I think that providing the opportunity for them to hear real words and sounds is probably best for their vocabulary. However, I do think it teaches them that there is value in repeating what others say. If they hear me repeating their noises, they will be more likely to try to repeat my noises (words). Additionally, the vocal dexterity that they will gain by making silly noises and experimenting with their capabilities will serve as a constant reminder to them of the variety of sounds they are capable of. It’s my hope that second languages with different vowel sounds, different consonants and different intonation will not be quite as foreign if we maintain this level of vocal dexterity practice.