By Talia Smith
A recent study from the University of Washington shows that brains are best suited to learn a second language between the ages of zero and three. In other words, it is never too soon to expose your baby to a second language.
Why are babies language learning machines? It’s because pure baby brains can differentiate the sounds of many languages, a skill that goes away over time. All of the world’s languages are made up of about 600 consonants and 200 vowels. Each individual language contains about 40 of these elements, called phonemes, which change the meaning of a word. Infants can discriminate between all 800 phonetic units. When exposed to the sounds of one language, infant brains can hone in on these 40 or so sounds and become little experts in the sounds of their native language. Babies with bilingual parents learn to differentiate between the sounds of two languages with 80 or so phonetic units putting them at a linguistic advantage.
Monolingual families may feel that their baby is at a disadvantage, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Introducing your baby to a second language through song is the perfect way to expose them to the sounds of a second language in a fun and easy way for parents. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month running now through October 15, we put together a list of three Grammy award-winning bilingual children’s musicians and educators whose songs will get your baby rocking and learning the sounds of the Spanish language.
Winner of last year’s “Best Latin Children’s Album,” 123 Andrés (Pronounced Uno, Dos, Tres Andrés) is a teaching and touring musician born in Columbia and now living in the D.C. area. His winning album Arriba Abajo features each song in Spanish and English. He recently published a learning guide in two languages, with the help of families and teachers who tested out the songs and activities. 123 Andrés’ music encourages bilingualism, tolerance and movement.
Cielo Suelo – 123 Andrés, del album ganador del Latin Grammy – Arriba Abajo:
Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer are a Grammy-winning folk duo who want to dispel the notion that parents need to have pipes like Shakira or Ricky Martin to be a star in the eyes of your baby. In 2011, they published a highly acclaimed picture book with an accompanying CD titled Sing to Your Baby. Responding to requests from parents and educators, Cathy & Marcy published a spanish edition, Cántale A Tu Bebé. The 11 lovingly translated songs on Cántale A Tu Bebé are sung by noted bilingual artists with each song in two keys for moms and dads. Cántale A Tu Bebé and Sing To Your Baby have both been adopted by the Celtino Foundation and are being used in schools in Honduras where whole families learn English through the songs or sing to their babies and toddlers in Spanish.
Here’s Sonia de los Santos singing “Mi Pequeñito”:
You can purchase your copy of the book and audio files HERE!!
Latin Grammy and Emmy winners, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band effortlessly intertwine English and Spanish into their kindie (kid+indie) hits while delivering smart, crafty lyrics with irresistibly fresh pop beats. Their most recent album Made in LA, features the immigrant anthem “Paletero Man” about a Mexican ice cream man who is “making his dreams come true in America,” Lucky explained to Billboard. Lucky and his wife and singing partner, Alisha, are raising two bilingual children while sharing Mexican-American infused tunes across the charts.
“Paletero Man” Lyric Video: