Parents

Verbal fumbling can help kids learn language skills

Ever talk to your kids and, um, pause with, uh, filler words before you complete the sentence?

A new study suggests that such hesitant speech can actually benefit young kids by helping them learn new vocabulary, Live Science reported.

Previous research has shown that when adults hear filler words, they tend to expect that the next word will introduce a new idea into the conversation.

Apparently toddlers do the same thing, researchers found. They studied 48 toddlers ranging in age from 18  months to 2.5 years. Each toddler sat on a parent's lap and watched a screen with two images. One image was a familiar object, like a shoe, while the other showed an unfamilar object. The toddlers then heard a recorded voice say two sentences.

The first was something simple and direct like: "I see the shoe."

The second had filler words, like: "Look. Look at the...um...shoe."

At the same time, a camera tracked eye movement. At the end of the direct sentence, the kids would look at the shoe. But if the voice hesitated, the kids would immediately look toward the unfamiliar object, even before they heard it named.

The older the child, the more likely they responded this way, said researcher Celeste Kidd:

The ability to use disfluencies as learning clues seems to develop over the second year of life, Kidd said. The youngest toddlers didn't use the disfluences at all, and the 2-year-olds showed only a slight tendency to use them. It wasn't until age 2 1/2 that kids picked up on disfluencies reliably.

So does this mean you should intentionally pause and hesitate when speaking to kids? Well, no. But it does show that both what is said and how you say it are important in language learning.

What do you think -- have you noticed how the way you speak impacts the way your child speaks?

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