My wife and I are expecting the birth of our first child at any moment. One of the activities I look forward to most is reading to her. I was aware of the many benefits of reading to infants, but I was not aware how important it is to expose infants to different languages.
According to an article from The Telegraph, babies who hear foreign speech pick up languages faster because they retain the ability to recognize sounds from the languages they hear. Dr. Nina Kazanina, an expert in linguistic psychology at Bristol, explains that a baby is born with the capacity to distinguish every type of speech sound. However, “By six months an infant can only recognize vowels from its native language … because the the brain is trying to make sense of sounds used in speech in the context of the native language, and so applies a kind of filter to help make it easier to understand words.” Exposing your baby to a different language will help them recognize sounds from that language which will help them distinguish subtle differences in pronunciation in the future.
A great way to expose your baby to a foreign language is through dual-language books. Since this is a website about learning Italian, two books I highly recommend are Cucu’ Mio Piccolino (Peekaboo Baby) and Io Sono Piccola? (Am I Small?).
Cucu’ Mio Piccolino teaches your baby about her different body parts by asking questions like “Dove sono gli occhi di questo bambino?” on one page and answering the question with “Eccoli qua, due occhi scintallanti,” on the next page. Each page contains the English phrase first followed by the Italian translation. The pictures are brightly colored and fun. The phrases are simple enough for the parent who is just starting to explore la bella lingua with his baby.
Io Sono Piccola? is about a girl named Tamia who asks different creatures she encounters if she is small. On the surface, the book is about perspective, but it also teaches good lessons about self-image for your child as she becomes older. Tamia is piccola (small) compared to the friendly giants she encounters but grande (big) compared to the turtle she meets. At the end, she realizes she can be both relative to whom or what she encounters, but overall she is proprio giusta (just right). Like Cucu’ Mio Piccolino, Io Sono Piccola? is full of bright, colorful pictures that will be sure to entertain your baby or even your toddler. It also contains some fantastical creatures, which will help strengthen your child’s imagination.
For a dual-language book geared toward children who are a little older, check out the post about Un Giorno a Staten Island Con La Nonna E Santino. If you are interested in reading the Telegraph article I mentioned in this post, you can find it here: “Babies who hear foreign speech pick up languages faster.” If you have a favorite dual-language book that you read as a child or that you read to your kids, let me know about it in the comments below. Buona lettera!