Children are born with a built-in mechanism for language acquisition and believe it or not, the process officially begins the moment they are born. New research results claim to confirm language learning beginning while the babies are still in the womb!
Even if left to himself, your child is going to learn his mother tongue at the pace that coincides with his age. Yet, the multilingual world that we live in, places certain challenges for the little child who often has to grapple with two or three or even four or five different languages simultaneously that may need a little bit of help from your side to overcome. These steps are so easy you barely notice you even do them.
Avoid Baby Talk:
Sticking to real words with real sounds helps him learn the right words with right sounds which in the long run helps him process the underlying sound and word patterns of the language he hears and learns to speak.
Baby talk is cute but dangerously restrictive for children's speech and language development.
Expose him to Target language or languages. Lots of it.The more you expose your child to conversations, stories, friends, read-alouds, songs and rhymes or interactive games, the more he learns. Everything that comes out of your mouth (or that of people around the child) and enters his ears helps him get the hang of language whether just one or multiple languages. Did you know? A child is well able to differentiate between separate languages and their vocal ques.
Friends. Play datesThrow your child in the company of another child speaking a different language and your child may throw you a bigger surprise a few days later by rattling off foreign words or even sentences! Children learn at an amazingly faster pace when they have a friend they can play with which is why play groups, kindergartens, play dates etc are all hot bed of language learning for children.
Talk Talk and TalkThe more he listens, the more he is stores sounds in his mental hard disk. Every language operates on a different sound system producing different sound combinations and the child can understand it very well. Any language learning's first step is to listen to it. So indulge in conversing with your child, talking to him about things around him or just read to him or associate your actions with gestures and sounds and you may be pretty sure not a word nor a sound has been missed.
Read to ThemReading is actually extremely good and beneficial for babies and children for language acquisition. They may not understand what's being read but the sound of reading, the way words appear on your mouth while pronouncing them is what's doing the trick helping them to imitate you. Reading aloud to kids at later stage does the same: help them latch on to that language's particular sounds and underlying word and sentence formation pattern.
Associate your words with Gestures, Expressions and ActionsThis is very important and much used by language teachers irrespective of the age of their students. For example you say No and and you vigorously shake your head or you say 'sí' and you nod your head. When you associate your conversations with corresponding gestures you help your child comprehend what you're trying to say even when he doesn't understand the language. Next time you say 'sí' and he can reason that nodding your head means 'yes' so 'sí' means yes. Hurrah!
Moderate Your Speech to Suit his Ears and Years:Adults often use phrases and expressions that may be muddling for children and hinder their grasp. Example: 'I'll never do it!' This sentence spoken in disappointment, meaning you may miss your target, will confuse the child into thinking you will never do it as if it were a mistake. Another Example: A sarcastic expression 'Its the best pudding I've ever eaten!' when you mean to say its the worst, may go totally missing on the child.
Keep Your Language Free From Idioms, Adages and ProverbsWe're so used to punctuating our speech with idioms and adages that we don't even notice when we use them. Yet, to children who are gradually climbing up their language ladder may get a few serious jolts as they interpret language very literally. Traditionally, idioms are multi-word expressions whose idiomatic meaning cannot be deduced from the meaning of their parts. For example, we cannot infer the idiomatic meaning of the idiom 'Bite the dust (“cease to exist”) based on the meanings of the words bite, the, dust.
Curiosity killed the cat; A child may not be able to figure out who or what is 'Curiosity' and why she should hurt the cat.
'Jump. Its a piece of cake.' And you force your child to wonder where's the piece of cake.
The typical age at which children begin to understand puns and idioms is 7-8 years.