Man Spoke Only Klingon to His Son for Three Years (And Wrote Us a Letter)

d'Armond Speers isn't really a huge Star Trek fan. The reason he spoke only in Klingon during his son's first three years of life was to learn about language acquisition processs. Yeah, sure. What a petaQ. Updated: Speers wrote in.

Yes, I think That Speers is such a horrid person that I had to learn how to say so in Klingon from our intern Don. It just baffles me that Speers actually sounds genuinely proud of his personal pseudo-academic project:

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


It's great that he wanted to see how languages are picked up, but did he not think that there's potential that he hindered his son's social development by keeping focus away from a real language? I'm all for teaching foreign languages early on, but lets make it ones that are spoken on this planet, please. [Citypages viaGeekologie]

Update 1: Turns out that d'Armond Speers is a daily Gizmodo reader and not too excited about what I or some of you have said. To his credit though, he wrote me a very polite email and at no point called me any number of foul words that I might not understand.

Among other things, in his email Speers explained that his son is 15 now and has turned into a great kid. While he didn't remark about which languages his son speaks or studies now (or about how the boy feels about his childhood language experiment), the general implication is simply that he's a happy camper without any social scars.

As far as the main issue went, Speers told me that the only time he spoke Klingon around his son during those three years was when the two were interacting directly. His son was primarily exposed to English in his environment and also observed Speers speaking the language to others, which was why this whole thing didn't work as planned:

This ultimately was the reason the attempt failed, because it was an extra effort for him to speak Klingon to me, that was obviously not necessary because I obviously spoke English.

Clever kid. Why should he be speaking in tongue-twisters to dad when he doesn't have to? Sounds like a slightly-too-early example of teenage rebellion and no reason it shouldn't, because according to Speers, aside from the Star Trek influence, his son had a pretty normal childhood:

Second, just because I spoke Klingon does not mean that I was teaching him to wield a bat'leth or drink black ale. It was a language, and we did normal things that other parents do.


While even after Speers' email (and his unexpected sense of humor), I still don't think that Klingon (or any constructed language) is the best language to teach a child who's still barely grasping his mother tongue, the man behind the story seems a lot more human now. And while I or some of you may not agree with his methodologies or that his child was his subject for study, Speers didn't seem to let his academic curiosities overpower his primary prerogative as a parent. So, final disagreement or not, I take back the petaQ.

Update 2: Original post image removed at the request of the fellow in it.



Nigerian Business Executive

*Alert: graduate degree in linguistics here*

It's a rather frivolous way to approach an interesting academic question, but there is no way he's hindered his son's social development. First, very kids don't really focus on verbalising in social interaction at that age as much as they do only 2 years later (watch a bunch of 3-yr-olds play together. You'll see). Much of what they communicate can be gleaned through stance, facial expressing, action, and other body language.

Second, and more importantly, up until somewhere around the beginning of adolescence children can acquire new languages very quickly to the point where they can speak them as if they had been speaking them since they first learned to talk. This is why there are bilingual kids from multicultural households. Moreover, immigrant kids pick up English (for example) and speak it like they have all their lives while their parents still struggle with it. As long as they arrive in their new country before the age of 12-ish, you'd never know they were born elsewhere.

When I was little, my mother used to take me along as a translator when she went shopping until she felt strong enough in the language to do it herself. Honestly, kids are little powerhouses when it comes to language. This kid may have a weird dad, but his social development has not been hindered by this silly experiment.

*Disclaimer - I wrote this while drinking my first coffee, so please forgive typos, etc.*