In most circumstances, a child's parents are the ones who teach the child how to speak. The process might seem simple, but it can be challenging for Hispanic parents trying to teach their children Spanish when living in English-speaking countries likes the US. They face pressure to focus more on English.
"Low-income Hispanic caregivers are often incorrectly told to speak English to their children instead of their native Spanish language, while doing so can actually be detrimental to their child's language abilities and academic achievement later in life," Brito said in a press release.
The app helps parents teach their children both English and Spanish, emphasizing bilingual language development.
"Not only does Háblame Bebé empower parents with accurate information about bilingual language development, but it reminds them that having a solid foundation in Spanish leads to better language outcomes for the child in both English and Spanish. Hearing native speech sounds is best for early brain development and developing language skills," Brito said.
Háblame Bebé trains caregivers to use evidence-based strategies in their heritage language. In the app users can access a developmental milestone checklist to monitor the child's learning. It can also be shared with the child's pediatrician.
Háblame Bebé also includes a daily conversation diary, a bilingual word registry to track the words a child uses in English and Spanish, and videos that discuss the benefits of being bilingual. The app sends weekly texts with strategies and reminders to talk to their children in both languages.
The app strives to support cultural identity, empower Hispanic parents and caregivers to feel proud of their heritage, and promote bilingualism. By passing along their native tongue, caregivers and parents can improve their child's academic outcomes.
"This intervention seeks to change conceptions of bilingualism and promote 'Language Nutrition' in the home language. Fundamental to Háblame Bébe is the message that parents are their baby's first and best teachers - regardless of what language they speak," the press release said.
Brito and Baralt collaborated with "Talk with Me Baby," an initiative that works to teach the concept of language nutrition and educate caregivers about the importance of talking to their baby everyday to close the "word gap."
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