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Baby Development: Your 11-Month-Old

Baby’s Learning to Talk

How will your baby best learn to talk at this point? To make a point, let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose you are a mad scientist parent. You want to see how well your baby will learn to talk by keeping the TV on all day (nothing but Sesame Street and Baby Einstein, etc) and sitting him/her in a high chair and making him/her watch for a few hours a day. But no human conversation, just watching TV. How well would your baby learn to talk?

The answer is: not at a whit. Babies can only learn language in the context of a relationship. There must be a back and forth, questions and answers, immediate responses to things that have just happened, following up on the infant’s utterances with those of your own. In short, human interactions. TV’s disembodied flashes of images have none of this and, of course, lack the benefit of the communicator having a close emotional bond.

Coaching Your Baby

I could spend the rest of this piece counseling you how to help your baby learn to talk. There really are some good tricks: talk to him/her a lot, narrate what you are doing, ask questions, respond to whatever your child says, read books together, use lots of inflection and drama and gestures in your speech.

All that is fine, but the truth is, you no more have to teach your baby to talk than you taught him/her to walk. In the linguistically enriched ordinary environment that you no doubt are already providing, your baby will have plenty of “language stimulation” to learn to communicate as well as the next guy. (Of course, especially if you are normally a reticent person, you should work to enrich the language in their life by talking and reading more to them.)

But mostly, this part of parenting shouldn’t be another job, it should be another joy. Watch with wonder and awe and delight as your little one enters the realm of the mind and expresses him/her self in ever more complex (and humorous) ways in the months to come.

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Reviewed on August 04, 2008

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