“Babies” shows the four babies from different parts of the globe and exposed to different types of culture. Ponijao, Mari, Bayarjargal and Hattie are still too young to be able to belt out several sentence for a movie script so they used different ways of communication which is an interesting aspect of the film. Tehre are no dialogues in the movie so the characters communicated through crying, gestures, facial expressions and cooing or babbling. The methods they use to express themselves are very similar although the language and culture are different for each infant. The babies seem to have their unique personalities and temperaments. The child-rearing practices are different from each culture but it is apparent in the movie that when a baby cries the mother already knows the possible reason for the baby’s reaction.
Crying is one of the first ways in which the infant is able to communicate with the world at large. While people may not always be accurate in their interpretation of what babies are trying to communicate. Their cries are an indication that they are attempting to communicate. In addition, it is further explained that crying is one of the first social acts of the infant. It marks a shift on the infant’s part from being silently dependent on the mother to be able to communicate with the world at large. Mari, Ponijao, Hattie and Bayarjargal have various scenes where they cried to express pain, hurt, or hunger.
The cries of the newborn infant gradually become differentiated, so that by the third or fourth week of life it is possible to tell what the cry signifies from its tone and intensity and from the bodily movement accompanying it.
Crying during early months of life also provides another purpose. It tells whether the baby is normal and healthy or whether there is something wrong. For example, high pitched cry of low intensity and long duration often means that baby is suffering from malnutrition or from brain damage. There is one scene in the movie where two babies from Namibia were playing and later on both of them cried because they are fighting.
The baby from Mongol has an older brother who keeps on bullying him. There is a scene in the movie wherein the baby found out that if he cried out loud, his mom will definitely scold his older brother for bullying him. The baby from Tokyo, Japan got frustrated while playing with a stacking toy and she belted out a tears and she had tantrums at the same time.
One task in learning to communicate with others is learning to speak. Because learning to speak is a long and difficult task and because babies are not mature enough for such difficult learning during the first year of life, nature provides substitutes forms of communication to be used. These substitute forms are known as “prespeech forms”
Prespeech forms normally appear in the developmental pattern of learning to talk: cooing, babbling, gesturing, and the use of emotional expressions. Cooing is the most frequently used form during early months of life though from the long range point of view, babbling is the most important because real speech eventually develops from it.
As vocal mechanism develops, babies become more capable of producing a large number of explosive sounds. Some of these speech sounds are retained eventually develop into babbling or lallation. In time, some will form the basis of real speech. The number of sounds produced in babbling gradually increases. The babies in the movie are about 6 to 8 months old are able combine certain vowel and consonant sounds such as “ma-ma”, “da-da”, and “na-na”.
There is a part of the movie where the African mother is making babbling sounds while she is playing with her daughter. Somehow the daughter understood the babbling that she laughs as a response and even tries to mimic the sound or sounds that her mother produced.
Babbling begins during second month of life, reaches peak by the eighth month and then gradually gives way to real speech. Babbling has completely disappeared by the time babyhood comes to an end. Babies use gestures as a substitute for speech, not as supplement to speech, as do older children. Even after they are able to say a few words, many babies continue to use gestures, combining them with words to make their sentences by outstretching their arms and smiling, babies can readily communicate the idea that they want to be picked up. The gestures presented by the babies are affected by their environment and culture. When they push away their plates, at the same time saying “no”, it is obvious they are trying to communicate to us that they do not want food.
Learning to speak involves three unrelated difficult tasks. Babies are learning how to pronounce words, building vocabulary by associating meaning with words that can be used to communicate meanings to others and combining words into sentences that are understandable to others. These tasks involve not only control over the vocal mechanism but also the ability to comprehend meanings and to associate them with words which acts as symbols for meanings.
Because these tasks are far more difficult than may be apparent for the first time, it is understandable that only foundation skills involved in speech will be laid. While many babies say words long before babyhood ends, they often do not associate the correct meanings with the words nor are they able to combine the words into meaningful sentences.
The baby learns to pronounce words using speech sounds partly by trial and error but mainly by imitating adult speech. Consonants and consonant blends are more difficult for babies to pronounce than vowels and diphthongs. Much of the baby’s speech is incomprehensible up to the age of eighteen months after which there is gradual but marked improvement. The baby’s first “sentences” which appear between twelve and eighteen months generally consist of one word accompanied by a gesture. Gradually more words creep into the sentences but gestures predominate until well into childhood. Babies learn the names of people and objects first and the verbs such as “give” and “take”. Just before babyhood ends, they learn a few adjectives as well as a few adverbs. Prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns are generally not learned until early childhood.
The movie exemplifies that language and culture are related in terms of a baby’s development. The cultural differences may not be apparent and obvious during the first few months but as the infant grows, cultural background comes into play. The babies in the movie may have similar ways of expressing themselves but the meaning of whatever gestures or sounds they make vary depending on the social and cultural context.
Cultural differences affect communication because gestures and word choices in one country may not hold the same meaning in another country. For babies, it is necessary to effectively learn that messages through gestures and nonverbal were very important communication tools. Cultural differences can also affect communication because non-verbal messages are different in many different cultures. Although the babies live in different environments, it is implied in the movie that they reach the same milestones when it comes to development. Again, variations in culture or environment, the milestones for the development of babies are most likely similar in more ways.