Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Things They Should Invent: baby improv

My Favourite Little Person, who turned 1 in November, loves to talk.  She holds forth at length about the issues of the day, uttering surprisingly long and complex sequences of phonemes, complete with modulation, intonation, and gesticulation, that have everything in common with fluent human speech except for the fact that I don't understand a word of it. However, it is great fun to have a conversation with her anyway, asking her questions, seeing how she responds, ascribing intention and motivation to her vocalizations.

It occurs to me that this would be a good improv game.

You put a babbly baby on stage with the improv players, and cast the baby in a key role in the scene.  For example, if the scene is set on a ship, the baby is the captain.  Then the other players have to play out the scene in response to whatever the baby happens to say or do.

It would have enormous entertainment value, although I suspect most parents aren't willing to volunteer their babies as props in improv shows.


laura k said...

Wow, she's already 14 or 15 months! Baby "talk" is so funny at that age. As you say, everything but the meaning. If I remember correctly from psycholinguistics, at that age they could still acquire any language on earth as their native tongue. All the sounds are in there waiting to be funnelled into the language or languages they hear most.

impudent strumpet said...

When I was that age, my Polish-speaking grandmother started babysitting me while my parents worked. She spoke to me in Polish because her English isn't good, and I came to understand it quite quickly and eventually acquired it alongside English, insofar as I could claim to speak any language.

Unfortunately, I lost my Polish once I started going to school in English only, but I still have all the phonemes. I took some classes as an adult and have a very rudimentary vocabulary and grammatical knowledge that can't keep up with the speed of thought, but my pronunciation is impeccable. Confuses the hell out of Polish people.

I do truly believe that my grandmother wired my brain for multilingualism though.

laura k said...

I do truly believe that my grandmother wired my brain for multilingualism though.

Very cool.

This also makes me think that current parenting advice may help children become bilingual. Immigrant parents in English-speaking countries used to be harassed to speak English to their kids. Now they're encouraged to speak whatever language they are more comfortable with and have a greater vocabulary in.

It's a big thing in the early-literacy programs in libraries in places like ours with big immigrant populations.

So maybe this not only helps children read better and perform better in school, but may help them acquire more languages more easily.