teaching foreign language sounds to babies

I’m pregnant and due in January. I studied French as an adult and really struggled picking up phonemes. I know that younger children are much more likely to absorb new sounds than older people.

Are there any fun tapes, CDs, DVDs on the market that just teach language sounds to babies/small children? Ideally, I’d love a CD/DVD with fun, nonsense sounding songs that children could sing a long to that would give them a good basis in the SOUNDS of many languages.

Why not find songs in the actual language rather than nonsense sounds? I would think they’d be easier to find and more useful, too.

Do you have access to a public library? My library has a ton of children’s music on CD, in many different languages, free for check out. There is also Wee Sing Around the World.

Yes, if I could Do It Again, with the wonders of the internet, I’d order foreign language CDs and DVDs of kids books on tape and shows that actually exist in countries which speak those languages. It just wasn’t something I thought about at the time.

Hell, I might even be able to stomach Calliou The Whiny Bastard if it helped my kid learn French without the studying. (Calliou was originally in French; American shows were translated into English.)

So your goal is not to teach a foreign language, but to limit loss of phonemes? French is honestly not very different than English compared to other languages, and most aren’t too terribly hard to pick up. Maybe ø, possibly œ, and ʁ. Something like Polish has a lot which are alien to me. Japanese has many that maybe it’s unnecessary for an English speaker to learn even if speaking Japanese, but are subtly different (like “sh-” being pronounced breathy, ɕ I think).

This sounds like a good idea, but I think you might be up against biology in some respects.

Also, does Caillou speak French French? He’s Canadian, but I doubt he’s saying tabernac and hostie.

Muzzy. I absolutely hate it, but Celtling was enthralled. We go the English, French, and Mandarin versions of the CD, and if money hadn’t been tight I’d have gotten all of them.

Also Maisy the Mouse is available from Youtube in quite a few languages.

If the child doesn’t keep using them on a regular basis, they’ll lose them. You could go the Muzzy route, but you’d have to dedicate yourself to that for years.

It’s too late at night for me to dig up a cite (let’s hope I remember to tomorrow), but in the cognitive psychology class I took this spring this topic was mentioned. Babies apparently do start out being able to distinguish more phonemes than adults can, and that there’s a “pruning” process as one ages. Being exposed to people who speak other languages (e.g. occasional story time in another language) can help in the retention of phonemes, but it must be in person. Tapes/DVDs/etc. do not work. There’s a social aspect to learning a language that isn’t reproduced on screen.

Sounds like a pretty pointless exercise unless you actually teach them a language to go along with it

The point of the exercise is to expose them to the soudns, so that later in life when they choose a language or two tey’d like to study, they’ll have an easier time making/distinguishing the sounds.

MAx, I’d very much like to read that study.

This one describes pretty well what we are trying to do for our children: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1944528/Babies-who-hear-foreign-speech-pick-up-languages-faster.html

In this book, which is fairly academic (well sourced) it is mentioned that they used to suggest that deaf parents of hearing children leave the TV on to expose kids to language sounds. They have since determined that it doesn’t help at all.

Grrrr. I hate when idiots write science articles. (Nothing about you TruCelt, just the damn writer).

From the linked article.

At least I am presuming that the linguistic psychology should know that it’s just the Japanese and not the Chinese which are unable to hear this difference.

It’s a poorly written article, and seems to contradict some books I’ve read on the matter. It would be interesting to follow up a little more on this when I’ve got some more time.

Anywhooo. I’ve also read that just playing CDs does not help a baby learn a foreign language. I don’t know if I’ve read anything which just talks about just phonemes, but it does seem a reasonable conclusion. I’d also be interested in reading more about this.

Yep–I remember reading the original research on this subject in 2006 as part of an education class. They set up some 6-12-month old US kids in two situations. One group listened to an adult read a book in Mandarin, and the other sat in front of a television screen with comparable angles to the kids, volume, etc., on which played a video of the same adult reading the book in Mandarin. The kids in the first group maintained Mandarin phonemes, despite having English-speaking parents; the second group did not.

I think the idea of technology to maintain phonemes for your kid isn’t going to work.

it seems to me that the issue isn’t that technology won’t work but rather that the current conventional uses of technology aren’t grabbing children’s attention. what about a talking teddy bear recording? or headphones? what if a parent is with the the child watching/listening?

No, the issue is that babies only learn a language when they are interacting with people using that language, seeing and feeling how the words go with actions, and how those actions directly affect baby. Otherwise, any sounds they hear, attended or not, will be treated as non-linguistic noise.

I agree that (until we have androids that truly speak and understand language) there is no technological fix for this (non) problem. If a kid grows up amongst people who use more than one language then they will become bi- or multi- lingual, but playing them vowel sounds, or even pre-recorded talk in a foreign language, will achieve nothing. Even TV in a foreign language will not work, because the people on the TV are not actually interacting with baby.

And keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero screen timefor children under 2.