When we saw that latest viral video – the one with the twin babies “talking” to each other – we knew it was time to call on UW-Green Bay’s resident expert. (If you haven’t seen it, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/viral-video-twin-babies-secret-language-13247451 ). Prof. Jennifer Zapf of Human Development runs the Language Learning Lab at UW-Green Bay and she and her students conduct speech-acquisition studies with toddlers not much older than the boys in the video. She didn’t get back to us right away because, it turns out, she’s participating in a major conference that is itself abuzz about the adorable clip. Her response Wednesday night, in part:
I have heard about this video all day – I’m at the Society for Research in Child Development conference in Montreal right now and folks are definitely talking about it! I think what it boils down to, in some respects, are the large number of capabilities that must be present for a child to learn language — attention skills, memory skills, decision-making skills, etc. A whole host of cognitive skills must come together to create language in a child… They are definitely communicating — it appears in a special way — but whether that classifies as language has been the topic of great debate here!
OK, here’s the plug: If you agree this is fascinating stuff, and know anyone with a toddler, be sure to tell them there are fun opportunities for parents and children to assist local research in this area. Zapf and colleagues are always looking for additional participants. It’s easy and doesn’t involve a big time commitment. Our very first post on the Language Learning Lab included most of the relevant info.