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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Post: Twin Talk - Is it Real, and Should it be Encouraged?

Today I am lucky enough to have a guest blogger. And she's actually done research and stuff. Thank you, Imogen!


When you find out you’re pregnant with twins, it really does double the shock waves that run through your system. Even if you’re trying for a baby and even if you have twins in the family, you don’t expect two little miracles to be growing inside you and the list of things you have to do and think about has really doubled! In addition to all your usual must-buys and plans, including whether to commit to investing online or via your local bank for their college funds, you now have to think about the idiosyncrasies that come with having twins. One of these is the wonder of ‘twin talk’ and whether it is actually something to worry about at all.

There are many popular myths about twins and multiples and the idea that they share an exclusive secret language that only they can understand is one of them. Specific scientific terms such as idioglossia, autonomous language and cryptophasia have been coined to describe the phenomenon that is twin talk. Scientists and researchers have been extremely interested in twin interaction for a long time and despite their interest in twin talk, it’s said to be very rare indeed for twins to develop a whole language and when it does occur it’s usually due to neglect or isolation.

What is Twin Talk?

Rather than being a distinct phenomenon between twin talk and your solo baby’s babble, many experts attribute the same sounds coming from both twins to mimicking each other and trying to learn language from each other. All babies babble, making up odd sounds and noises that no one can distinguish yet between twins you can sometimes see that they are attempting to understand each other and may mimic conversation and giggle at each other’s utterances. If nothing else, it’s extremely cute to watch! The older they grow, the more their language may seem similar and they will copy each other whereas sceptics would say they’re in fact just mispronouncing the same words. It’s believed about 40% of twins, usually monozygotic (identical) twins will have some form of autonomous language which will include their own special nicknames, abbreviations, gestures and ‘words’ that they’ll only use with each other. The difference between this and standard babbling is that the twins tend not to use this language with their other siblings or family members.

Some research suggests that twins and multiples can suffer from a delayed or slightly different approach to language compared to solo babies. Boys especially have been shown to sometimes be months behind their contemporaries when it comes to verbalising their feelings and requirements. There are many factors which effect the development of speech. Firstly, babies learn language from their main caregivers and the stress of having multiples is said to sometimes make it more difficult for parents of twins to be consistently verbally involved with their children. This is by no means a criticism and is a basic finding that researchers have found due to the additional stress of having two children of the same age.

Baby twins spend nearly all their time together and like most people who spend a lot of time in the company of another individual, they find a nonverbal or simpler form of communication. They understand each other implicitly and understand utterances as simple as a grunt or a squeal. This also means they can see less reason to engage with ‘real’ language as they’re getting on more than happily without it! Statistics have shown that twins tend to speak more quickly, abbreviate their words and sometimes leave out key consonants when pronouncing words, sometimes put down to the fact that they want to be first to speak over their twin. Some of the delays that twins are said to experience are also due to the cognitive differences that come from premature birth as twins are often born before full gestation.

Encouraging Speech in Twins

Of course, everyone wants their babies to grow into confident and coherent young people and with these few hints you can ensure that for your little ones:

*Keep on talking – the more you talk to your twins, the more they understand language in its proper form. *Giving each twin one-to-one time is essential.
*Socialize – interaction and socialisation with other children is a great way of introducing your twins to the wider world of language. Playgroups and clubs are fantastic for meeting other kids.
*Read aloud – reading to children has uncountable benefits and is a significant element of supporting your twins’ language.
*Encourage – many sets of twins set themselves in a pecking order and one takes the lead. This can be problematic when it comes to language as you want both your twins to be able to express themselves. Give them solo time to express themselves.

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