Practising first sounds with your infant

IMG_9186FbDear Parent of a Growing Infant,

Today we’ll look at how to strengthen your child’s awareness of vowel sounds and first syllables.

Vowels are those sounds that your infant will be producing first on her own accord even before you start practising them with them. Later on they will use the sound ‘a’ (as in ‘ah’) to produce open syllables such as ‘ma’, ‘pa’, ‘da’ or ‘ta’ and then their first words such as ‘mama’.

If you read the previous post, you will know that I put a strong emphasis on turn-taking and this is also emphasised here in this very small and simple task. It’s not only about the production and assimilation of sounds, but also about the beginnings of dialogue with you. After all, we’re learning to talk to each other and to communicate and it doesn’t really matter that it starts with sounds. If your child is two months already, you might start getting them to respond to these exercises and see more and more progress as time passes.

So how to go about it?

Look at your child’s face, smile, talk gently, and maintain eye contact (if possible). Say ‘a’ (as in the second syllable of ‘mama’ or ‘ah’) and give your child a bit of time to process both the sound and the shape of your lips as you say it. Say ‘ah’ again and give your child a bit of time to repeat it. Don’t rush and don’t be frustrated if they don’t repeat it – your infant is learning. Repeat this interaction many times and with other vowels (e.g. ‘e’ as in elephant, ‘i’ as in iguana, ‘o’ as in octopus or by prolonging the vowels, eg. ‘iiiiiiiiiii’, ‘ooooo’, ‘u’ as in moo or coo).

The exchange is as follows:

Parent: /a/ (repeat once, or twice)

Pause

Child: listens and observes

Parent: /a/

Pause

Child: listens and observes

Parent: /a/

Child: tries to mimic the lips/ sometimes makes the sound/ sometimes only observes.

Now, try to do the same exercise with other vowels and syllables.

Teaching vowels and open syllables is nothing new and in fact it is a habit of many parents and grandparents. The slight shortcoming of those interactions is that the adults often bombard the child with the sequence of sounds – without really allowing the child to process the lip movement and to create a response. That said, by all means speak to your child normally and naturally – you must feel at ease too. Just when you’re doing this little vowel and open syllable exercise, remember to pause. There is a lot of learning happening here: the sound needs to be absorbed, discriminated, the lip shape noticed, the breathing adjusted and turn-taking built in. The pause is necessary so that the child has the required time to process it all and to copy what you’re doing. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t follow through immediately. It takes time.

So that was another example of an interaction that you can practise with your infant, more on how to interact with your infant in the next post.

Enjoy your little conversations.

I’ll write again very soon.

Alicja

 

 

 

 

Alicja Pyszka-Franceschini (BA, MA, CELTA, FHEA)  is a language teacher and a part-time doctoral researcher in Multilingualism with a particular focus on Language Competence and Family Wellbeing. She is a bilingual speaker (Polish-English) and a mother of a trilingual 6 year-old (Polish, Italian and English).Alicja Pyszka-Franceschini
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