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Child's Language Development

August 03, 2016

In this global era, it is expected from every one to be linguistically smart and learn at least 2 foreign languages to meet the global standards. Proficiency in English language has become a necessity. Parents and teachers attempt to start teaching the language, oral as well as written, at a very young age and expect children to show outstanding language skills. But before we get started with sculpting our children to be linguistically proficient, we need to understand the language learning process. This will help us set our expectations about our child’s language skills. It will also help us nurture them in the right path. If we take a step back and look, children acquire listening and speaking much before they attempt to read and write.

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LSRW Explained!

Listening skills:

Children acquire mother tongue naturally with very minimal formal teaching. The important role parents perform is, talking to their children. Speaking to the child and interacting helps them form the fundamental building blocks of listening and speaking.

The best way to help children pick up a language is to simply speak to them in that language.

Children have an amazing capability to process and distinguish several different languages and categorize them into appropriate buckets. For eg: If we have a household where in the parents speak English, grandparents speak Hindi and maid speaks Telugu. Kids can, not only pick up all three languages but also, speak and translate it for them. The more language exposure we give in formative years, the better opportunity they have.

Talk a lot to children. Sing lots of rhymes & songs. Read and tell stories every day. Show and talk about different things children encounter generally. Give simple and crisp instructions and make sure they understood them. You will be amazed at their comprehension levels. Just give it a try. They might not speak but, they can identify and show through body gestures. If you notice that your child is not responding, don’t hesitate to consult a pediatrician. It could be a simple problem such as ear infection too.

Listening is an on-going process. The complexity of the listening and comprehension varies as they grow. So, as they grow, change the length and the complexity of the songs, stories or instructions as per their capabilities.

Few things to avoid:
  1. Avoid baby talk with your children. They try to mimic you and may not learn the correct way.
  2. Avoid the temptation to play nursery rhymes or cartoons on TV. We might think that exposing a child to nursery rhymes or other animation shows on TV will help the child with their listening and speaking capabilities. But, these hamper the child’s development significantly and cause speech delays. When a child is watching TV, his/her brain is overworking to keep up with the fast moving images on the screen.

Speaking Skills:

Once they master basic listening skills, children attempt to speak. We need to create different opportunities for the children to speak. Letting them recite songs and rhymes, retell or create stories, answer simple questions, play in groups and talk to peers help children master speaking skills.

Focusing on speaking and listening will help children become more comfortable and confident with language and lays a solid foundation for further language skills: reading, writing. Reading and writing should not be introduced to the child unless they are ready.

Few things to avoid:
  1. Never criticize the child when he/she stammers.
  2. Don’t laugh when they don’t speak clearly.

Reading Skills:

Once the child begins to speak clearly, we can focus on their reading skills. Children need to be aware that sentences are made up of words and words are made up of sounds. Several games related to rhyming words, beginning and ending sounds etc can be played. Let the teachers introduce the phonics and augment their learning at home with some of the simple activities suggested by the teacher. Be ready to encourage and appreciate your child a lot as they accomplish simple tasks such as reading three letter words and subsequently small sentences.

Don’t forget to continue reading to your child.

Few things to avoid:
  1. Never criticize the child when child makes mistakes while attempting to read.
  2. Don’t teach wrong pronunciation. When in doubt, check the dictionary.

Writing Skills:

As children master reading skills, we can attempt to slowly start introducing them to writing. By now, children would have seen a lot of print media and can fairly visualize how different letters are made. Before introducing the child to writing, the child should be physically ready to write. Precursors to writing alphabets or numbers actually starts few years before. Children need to do several activities such as tearing paper, playing with dough,cutting, crumpling, painting & scribbling. Tracing letters or characters start much later and progresses towards words and sentences. Writing can be a challenging skill for children to learn and take a little longer time to develop interest.

Few things to avoid:
  1. Don’t force the child to practice writing before they are ready. It sets a negative tone. When children are very young, focus on pre-writing skills instead actually teaching them to write. This will help them prepare for writing.
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