Twins & Baby Language Development
People have always been fascinated by the possibility of a "twin language," also known as idioglossia or cryptophasia. However, most experts agree that it is not really a separate language but more of a "code" or series of shortcuts that twins develop in conversing with each other. The tendency to develop idioglossia seems to strike identical twins (who share the same DNA) more often than fraternal twins (who are no more alike than any other siblings). In the book Twin Connections: Stories That Celebrate the Mysterious Bond Between Twins, identical twins Denise and Heather Allan write, "We speak to each other in a language no one else can understand, nor can we enlighten them. We didn't realize this until we were six or seven years old when someone pointed it out. It involves using the same number of syllables, but making a different noise. . . . Other times, we start talking about the exact same thing at the exact same time. More frequently, when telling a story or having a conversation, we finish each other's sentences."
According to a 1987 study, idioglossia exists in about 40 percent of all twins, but often disappears as they grow. But why do they appear in the first place? This may happen when twins copy each other's attempts at learning language, sometimes copying incorrect mispronunciations. Other theories include the notion that parents of multiples may talk to their children less as they spend their energy just taking care of their basic needs, and the siblings, left to their own devices, come up with their own way of communicating.
Even for twins who don't share a unique language, they may be able to understand each other better. One of my 4-year-old fraternal twins speaks less clearly than his brother, who often acts as his "interpreter" when we can't understand his speech!
Although "twin talk" may be cute, you should help your children learn to use correct language when speaking. You can do this by:
- encouraging them to play with other children so they're exposed to more speech.
- speaking to your twins individually rather than together; reading to them so they hear plenty of words.
- encouraging them to use words instead of gestures to indicate their needs.
But be sure to document your twins' unique way of communicating while it lasts—this is just one of the traits that make twins extra-special to raise!
Talk about parenting multiples with other parents who are doing it, too!