Babies want to listen to other babies more than they want to listen to their parents, especially babies coming into the world early.
That’s the new finding from a study by McGill University which found 6-month-old babies prefer to hear sounds from other babies rather than from a female voice, according to the university’s press release.
“Babies are much more interested in hearing other babies babble away than they are in listening to what their parents have to say,” The Huffington Post UK reported. “And who can blame them? But aside from looking for a welcome reprieve from having to hear their mom and dad bang on about the same old tired topics of conversation, the researchers believe there could be a very important reason for this: It may help to kick start the processes involved in learning how to speak.”
To find this, researchers played vowel sounds from a baby’s voice and a mother’s voice. The researchers found that most infants listened to the other baby’s voice 40 percent longer than they listened to the woman’s voice.
The babies would also smile or move around when they heard the sound of other babies, while they would react passively and show disinterest when their parent spoke.
Babies enjoy listening to another infant’s voice because it allows them the freedom to explore making and hearing new sounds, which helps them learn to speak.
“As adults, we use language to communicate. But when a young infant starts to make speech sounds, it often has more to do with exploring than with communicating in fact babies typically vocalize when they are alone, without any interaction or eye contact with others,” McGill University professor Linda Polka said in the study. “That’s because to learn how to speak babies need to spend lots of time moving their mouths and vocal cords to understand the kind of sounds they can make themselves. They need, quite literally, to ‘find their own voice.’”
This study may be more of a reason for parents to speak “parentese” — a language style where parents talk with “well-formed, elongated consonants and vowels,” PBS reported. So, for example, “sweet baby” turns into “sweeeeet baaabbyeeeee.”
Experts advise the use of parentese because it’s a worldly technique that works. It delights children, and it helps babies learn a language, PBS reported.
“The sing-song speech, often accompanied by exaggerated facial expressions, seems to be used by almost everyone who talks to a baby,” PBS reported. “Parentese is not merely an English-speaking practice. It’s spoken around the world, because we all love to do it — mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, older siblings, even preschoolers. And what’s more, babies seem to like it too.”
Parents can also help their children learn language skills by talking to them in any voice, for that matter, although another baby’s voice may be preferred. A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that babies who hear their mother’s heartbeat and voice when outside of the womb develop a stronger auditory cortex, which helps improve a youngster’s language and hearing skills later in life.