a living, breathing communication experiment

i’m a communication geek.

it’s true.  i loved my college classes… so much, i did two extra years and got my master’s.  i loved it so much after that… i took additional communication courses while i was teaching college communication classes.  (hey, a job perk was a free course every semester!  that was awesome!)

due to a changing schools, i no longer get that perk, but i still find myself completely excited to teach my subject to my students.  seriously, i still think “that’s SO COOL!” when i finish my mini-lecture on the vocal folds.

yes, i’m that comm geeky.

and i’m about to get that comm geeky in this post.

you’ve been warned.

can. i. just. say…

how EXCITED i am that i have an opportunity to learn about communication on a whole new, up-close-and-personal, way through my daughter!?

you see, in classes in college, we learned about this thing called the “language acquisition window”– basically, when you are born, you have the capacity to suck in symbols at an alarming rate.  not just visual symbols (sight), or auditory symbols (sound), but linguistic sounds and symbols as well (language).  babies are symbol sponges, because this window is WIDE OPEN.

unfortunately, as we get older, the window of opportunity to learn and store these symbols in the language section of our brains begins to shut… and for most people, the window is sealed by the age of 5 or 6.  which is a bummer if you think about it, because here in the States, we start learning foreign language a decade after the window closes.

this means that the language info is stored in our short-term memory instead of where it is really useful… with all the symbol stuff.  that’s why, if we learned a language at 15 instead of, oh, before 5, we can’t help but click-and-drag english pronunciation, sentence structure, etc., etc., to the language we are attempting to learn.

now, some people can still learn languages really well… to the point where they are fluent (especially if they are immersed in the language).  but the difference between being fluent and truly bi (or tri or multi) lingual is that the fluent person learned how to speak the language and learn the language at the same time.

remember spanish you took in the 10th grade?  you were learning to say “hola” the same time that you were learning what “hola” means, how to use it in a sentence, how to spell it, etc., et.

this process is very different from how we “acquire” our native language. think about it.  we speak english before we learn about english, how to spell english, how to correctly use everything in a sentence…

also, native speakers will (probably) be able to detect an overtone of a non-native accent, unless that particular fluent speaker as worked REALLY hard to sound legit or has lived in that country for a while.  if someone is really multi-lingual, you will NOT be able to tell that they aren’t native speakers in whatever language they happen to be speaking at the time.  that’s because the language section of their brain has made a “file” for each language, and stuff from each file stays completely separate from the other language files… and truly multi-lingual people can use each file at will, at random, and without thinking because they “acquired” the language… they didn’t “learn” it.


it kinda makes me sad that my husband and i don’t speak another language, because this is PRIME TIME to make our daughter bi-lingual.  <<sigh!>>

(btw, i do know all the fancy words and jargon to describe the process that i just explained, but decided to take the reader’s digest condensed version approach.  you’re welcome.)

what i am LOVING right now is seeing my daughter’s language acquisition window WIDE open and at work.  she’s babbling now, and producing sounds not just in the english language, but in languages i’ll never know.  eventually, she’ll stop making those sounds because she won’t need them to communicate in the english language… but right now, it’s cool to hear them.

she’s also starting to pick up on certain word symbols– NO, being one of them.  but besides that, she’s starting to SIGN!  i’ve been trying to remember to sign some key words to her– EAT, MILK, DRINK, MORE, FINISHED… and just yesterday, she started to sign MORE.  i think she’s been doing MILK for a while… but it’s hard to tell if she means MILK or bye-bye.  (the signs are a little similar, especially for a 9 month old.)  this morning, she did (what i interpreted to be) the sign for MILK, and when i gave her what was left of her bottle (she had given it to me a few minutes before),  she seemed excited and pleased.  so, maybe???

i haven’t actually invested in a baby sign series… but there are a lot of free resources online about it.  also, baby sign is based on american sign language, except you aren’t teaching them complete sentence structure– just certain key words and phrases (manners) to help the both of you out until they are able to speak their words.  so, if you pick up a generic signing book, you can learn/teach from that, too.

i’ve read several studies about whether or not signing helps verbal communication come faster or whether it delays it… and to be honest, you’ll find studies that say every result: some say it helps it, some say it delays it, and some say there’s really no measurable difference.  the main advantage, even if there is a minor delay, is the pay-off in earlier communication through the signs.

sure, i can deduce by my daughter’s empty tray and pounding fists that she needs more food… but isn’t it nicer to hear one little “eh!” to get your attention, look over, and your baby starts doing the MORE sign instead of pounding?

at least for this morning, that’s what i had.

and for this communication nerd, THAT was pretty cool.  :)

(if you have a babykins yourself or would like to know more about sign, just click on the picture at the beginning of this post.  it links to an article about how to instruct is some pretty basic signs.  i also did pick up a book about signing at a goodwill called, “Sign with Your Baby: How to Communicate with Infants Before They Can Speak” by joseph garcia.  it’s probably not the most comprehensive book on the subject, but it is sufficient to get started.)


if you are interested in checking out the items mentioned in this post, i’ve included an amazon link.  a couple of things to know: yes, if you buy from this link, i do get a *teeny* bit of moneys. but also know, i only link to things that i like.  thanks!

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