Study: Speaking “Parentese” Boosts Baby’s Language Development

Forget baby talk, if you want to help your baby learn more words sooner, it’s all about talking to them in “parentese.” New research finds that speaking to infants in this way, which uses exaggerated sounds and simplified grammar, can boost their language development. Swapping the “goo goo gaga” for parentese can help babies learn 40 more words than their peers by the time they’re 18 months old, according to thestudy.

Parentese is parents using “real words with elongated vowels at a higher pitch,” and doing it in a happy and engaged tone, as opposed to nonsense baby talk. It’s proper adult speech, just spoken in a different cadence and researchers from the University of Washington found it can increase brain and speech development. The study shows kids whose parents spoke to them this way had a vocabulary of around 100 words by the time they were 18 months old, compared to around 60 words in families who didn’t use parentese.

“The more parents naturally use parentese in their homes when speaking to their children, the better and faster those language skills develop,” explainsDr. Patricia Kuhl,Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington. “Parentese works because it’s a social hook for the baby brain. It gets kids not just listening, but talking.”