Saturday, October 15, 2016

How to Boost Your Child's Language Acquisition

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:

Cooing and babbling with your baby in sweeter than honey tones, is different and distorting simple words to sound far removed from their original pronunciation is different; while the former is helpful for establishing emotional bonds and base for language learning, the latter is restrictive for baby's correct speech development.  It is the cutest thing in the world to hear a toddler says choo choo for train or moo moo for cow, but he says it because that's what he has heard which is why he has never tried how to form 'train' or 'cow' with his tongue. A baby's tongue becomes stronger and trained when trying to produce or imitate sounds. You keep saying choo choo and moo moo to him and he shall keep saying choo and moo well into his preschool stage. 
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 dates

Throw 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 Talk

The 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 Them

Reading 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 Actions

This 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 Proverbs

We'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.

Avoid using too complex sentences

For the same reason as above, try to avoid using complex sentence structures while conversing to him. It helps the child to understand simply and correctly and avoids misleading confuions. Moreover speaking in short simple sentences helps him latch on to basic grammar and the language syntax giving him a strong and solid base.

Expand his Vocabulary

Use real words with real sounds and stay away from cutie cutie baby talk. This helps extend his vocabulary. In the initial stages of language development children communicate by just naming an object, a feeling or an expression. Example: 'Cold!' to tell you he's feeling cold, or ' Ball' to tell you he wants to play with a ball. This is followed by linking two or more words together. Example: 'Play ball!' ( I want to play with a ball.')  or 'Me cold!' meaning I'm feeling cold. At this stage helping your child pick up a good vocabulary is enormously beneficial to his expressing himself, being able to communicate effectively and to get hold of the language faster. Besides he will learn and reproduce real accent the way adults learning a foreign language cannot.

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