How Do Twins Use Language to Communicate?
The idea of twins having their own unique language has been around for years, but is there any truth to it? If so, how does this ‘twin language’ affect language development?
Before twins are brought into the world, they spend nine inseparable months together inside the close confines of their mother’s womb. Once they’re born, they continue to spend most of their time in each other’s company.
Considering all the time that they spend together growing up, it’s not hard to believe that some form of unique communication between the two is developed at some point.
Can twins really develop a language that no one but them can understand? Karen Thorpe, Ph.D., Professor, School of Psychology at Queensland School of Technology in Australia, explains that this is very rare, as Talk About Twins reports.
According to Karen, there are actually two separate and very different phenomena surrounding twin language, which are often confused as being the same thing.
The first, and most rare, which she calls “private language,” is a language that twins use to communicate amongst each other and no one else. This very rarely occurs and happens mostly with twins that live in isolated conditions, where there is little to no verbal and social interaction.
The second and most common is “shared understanding.” This is a completely normal and usual development stage where the twins are able to interpret their own immature, unclear or imperfect speech easier than you can.
As the twins are learning to speak, they tend to be able to understand each other far more easily than other children or adults can, because they are at the same developmental level and also because they spend so much time together.
This “shared understanding” gives them the appearance of having a “secret twin language.” In reality, shared understanding is quite common and can even occur in close siblings and friends.
The Age Range of Twin Language
A very popular video on YouTube is a video of twin toddlers talking away to each other. The video does make it seem like these two have some form of secret language that no one else can understand.
The “secret twin language” seems to happen mainly when twins are toddlers, like the two boys in the video, but then slowly fades as the twins become more adept at language. The twin language is usually completely gone by the time the twins begin school.
Twins Delay in Language Development
The twins’ secret language has often been linked to delays in their actual language development. All babies learn language through their environment, which includes the people that they spend the most time with. Twins are most often around their twin sibling and their parent or caregiver.
Pamela Prindle, from About.com, a twins and multiples expert, explains how parents and caregivers of multiple babies are usually more stressed and exhausted from caring for more than one young child simultaneously. This may cause them to be less socially and verbally involved with the young twins.
This means that the twins will spend more time communicating with each other. They learn to rely on nonverbal, shorthand methods of communication, sometimes even interpreting each other’s grunts and sighs. They mimic each other’s speech which can lead to the reinforcement of mispronunciation.
Reasons for Twins Delay in Language Development
Twins have been known to talk faster than other children, often abbreviating words and leaving out consonants. This has been suggested as an attempt to talk faster than the other sibling, in order to grab the parent’s attention first.
Another theory for the delay in speech is related to low birth weight and premature births. Statistics reveal that approximately 60% of twins are born prematurely. Apparently, the gestation period shortens for each additional baby.
An average single-birth pregnancy lasts 39 weeks, but when expecting twins, the gestation period drops, on average, to 36 weeks.
How Parents Can Improve Twins’ Language Development
The key is to detect speech impairments or other problems as early as possible. Although parents of twins are very short on time, it is essential that they make time to talk to their twins one-on-one so that they can hear the language and how words are being pronounced.
If you are speaking a language that you are not confident in, it might be a good idea to take a few classes to up your proficiency and ensure that your pronunciation is correct. Language Trainers offers a wide range of courses in many different languages for all levels, and free online language tests to help you gauge your skill level.
Reading is also an excellent tool in promoting language skills. Parents and caregivers should also ensure that one twin is not dominating the other in conversation or speaking for them–they should both be encouraged to speak equally.
Although twin language is not a mystical phenomenon, it’s still an intriguing occurrence to witness, especially in twin babies like those featured in the YouTube video.