As much as I want my son to learn a second or third language, I don’t think I would have ever thought to have used my child as a science experiment. d’Armond Speers decided he would teach his son to speak Klingon, and total immersion was the only way to do it.  For the first three years of his son’s life, the only language d’Armond spoke around the boy was Klingon.

“I was interested in the question of whether my son, going through his first language acquisition process, would acquire it like any human language,” Speers told the Minnesota Daily. “He was definitely starting to learn it.”

d’Armond does have a doctorate in computational linguistics, and it should be pointed out he did this “experiment” 15 years ago (which probably helped his doctoral research).  Regardless, the boy did learn bits of the Klingon language, but now speaks normally to communicate effectively with other children.  My guess is he discovered girls don’t like jibber-jabber, and switched to the smooth vocal stylings of Barry White.

via Minnesota Daily

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

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12 Comments

  1. J Michael T
    November 19, 2009 at 12:13 pm — Reply

    Nice. I won’t comment on what he did (!), but my family is fully bilingual and the little ones have no problem switching back and forth seamlessly between two languages. It’s amazing to watch. I guess it’s true what they say: “a young mind is a terrible thing… not to mess with”. ;-)

  2. November 19, 2009 at 12:38 pm — Reply

    My wife speaks three languages, so I have no doubt my son will be able to understand the key words and phrases.

  3. Zamboneer
    November 19, 2009 at 1:19 pm — Reply

    Well, I guess after having a guttural, imaginary language barked at you for the first three years of life, the kid is either a basket case or completely fearless.

  4. Jacin B
    November 19, 2009 at 3:42 pm — Reply

    I’m a Trek fan, but I’d still say this borders on abusive.

  5. lifeisaglitch
    November 19, 2009 at 3:57 pm — Reply

    My family is fully bilingual ..some of us trilingual…and my dad is practically a manly and far more bearded C3P0.

    BUT as children my siblings and I were all taught Danish first despite both of our parents being immigrants. This helped out tremendously in school and paved the way for picking up English as well. I have no doubt children are very quick at picking up languages and it seems that the kid (In the story) also speaks English now BUT I think its important to recognize the ramifications of it and the reasons why the dad might have chosen to do this.

    The kids English might have suffered.
    Knowing a lot of bilingual families (Being a 2nd generation immigrant myself in one of the cities with the most minorities in DK) I can tell you that ALL (Anecdotal but very consistent) the ones that started out with learning Danish and then their parents language tend to do much better in school and therefore also pick up even more languages. This “stunt” might actually have stunted (I’m so sorry) the kids English, a language he now uses as opposed to Klingon.

    Now that’s the ramifications, the reasons for this seem appalling and even lack what one might call good intentions on behalf of the child. If you look at it its easy to say hey that’s cool teaching your kid another language, oh and bonus points for the geekery. But hen there’s the fact that the kid is taught one of the more useless languages on the planet which doesn’t even provide a very good basis for learning any other languages. And the kid was taught to do this at an age where he had NO CHOICE, simply because his dad though “I like Star Trek, wouldn’t it be cool if..” selfish, stupid and I wonder what other choices like this one the father has decided to push on his child.

    The ramifications may be discussed but I CANNOT see any good reasons for doing this.
    Couldn’t he have waited for the kid to mature and then ask if he wanted to learn the language? And its not even like the whole thing lived up to being an “experiment” as he suggest (Dumbest hypothesis ever!) …Selfish and stupid..I’m just glad he kid is all right.

  6. ~wyntermute~
    November 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm — Reply

    Why do we need to get licenses (to drive, to carry weapons, to go fishing, etc) but not a license to have kids? Like, I’m pretty neutral on “the ramifications of teaching your newborn klingon by total immersion”, but if there were some sort of regulatory process we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. :)

  7. Navarre
    November 19, 2009 at 9:26 pm — Reply

    Unlike firearms and driving, there is not a universally accepted, quantifiable criteria by which one could be evaluated for the ability to parent a child.

    Teaching your child Klingon isn’t abusive but it certainly isn’t placing much of a priority on your child’s intellectual potential as it relates to the rest of the world.

    • ~wyntermute~
      November 19, 2009 at 10:50 pm — Reply

      Just because there is no “universally accepted” way doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to attain one. Besides, there are lots of people who will tell you there are different ways to drive a car (assertive, aggresive, passive, badly, etc). And even more besides, there are “extreme good” and “extreme bad” parenting styles that most people can differentiate betwixt. I call “bullpucky” on ‘parental relativity’, and wish somebody would “do some studies” or whatever one might do to attain this sort of lofty goal. :) I’m not saying I know the ‘right way’ (nor do I believe this thread is the place to debate what that ‘right’ way is), but there are some “wrong ways” that can be seen a mile away. Maybe weeding out the parents who’d tend into that latter group BEFORE childbirth is the way to go, instead of employing social workers to break up families (whether they’re ‘healthy’ or not, it is still a broken family that results). Basically, the point I’m trying to make is that “such a huge and life-altering amount of responsibility is granted to any two beings that can hump, and I’m thinking this is part of the problem.” And now I will stop derailing the thread. :D

  8. David Cain
    November 20, 2009 at 4:27 am — Reply

    I once had a similar idea where I would never introduce a child to either verbal or written language. Instead I would only communicate physically, such as through fighting and violence with the child. My guess is that the communication parts of the child’s brain would adapt to interpret body language, no matter how subtle, as easily as you or I listen, speak or read. This would give the child an advantage in combat, being able to see his or her opponents moves instinctively before they happen.

    • November 20, 2009 at 9:21 am — Reply

      David Cain, you scare me. Please do not adopt a hot asian girl and attempt this experiment. Nothing good can come of this.

      • ~wyntermute~
        November 20, 2009 at 6:14 pm — Reply

        Ladies and Germs — and I presume we got more of the latter than of the former in these parts — I present to you the…. POST OF THE WEEK~!

        *Awards ceremonial watch, adorned with the logo your favorite LSH-member etched upon the face* Y’all are gonna have to figure out how to share the watch, cuz this award goes to both halves of the ‘joke’. ^_^

  9. Carl
    November 20, 2009 at 12:36 pm — Reply

    This reminds me of an old Steve Martin bit.

    If you want to play a dirty trick on a 2 year old, whenever you’re around him, talk wrong. Then on his first day of school, when the teacher calls on him, “May I mambo dogface to the banana patch?”

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