Since we live in a gadget age with so much digitalized speech, I thought it would be good to remind you how your child learns to talk. Gadgets that “talk” do not teach children to speak early or well. It is through hearing and seeing and having a relationship with people that children develop the ability to use language.
It is so important to help your child develop a good vocabulary and to learn to speak clearly. A broad vocabulary lays a strong foundation for learning in school, later on.
If you can teach your child more than one language, do it! You can give them a head start in language learning. When a young child learns to speak in more than one language, later in life, they will pronounce like a native speaker in each of those languages. It also teaches them how to learn other languages later, too.
In your child’s first two years of life, they are constantly listening to sounds, sorting, putting them together, and trying to understand. They make sounds and watch for which sounds get your attention. As you speak and listen to your child, they begin to start to communicate. Sometimes beginning to speak is quite gradual and sometimes they seem to suddenly put words together.
Here are some basics:
First, speak to your child. Don’t use a high pitched voice and baby words. Use your adult voice and grown-up words because children learn from example. Using baby words instead of real words slows toddler speech development. They eventually have to learn the correct names. This wastes time and effort, from learning additional words.
Second, narrate what your child is doing and experiencing. This lets your child know you are actively involved with them and helps build your bond with them. They also learn the words while involved in the activity. This creates connections in their brains using more than just their sense of hearing. Make sure you also give them time alone and without your narration to learn on their own.
Third, ask questions. Answering your questions about the things they are playing with, gives your kids a chance to use new vocabulary and gain fluency in speech. Subtly in conversation, you can correct grammar or pronunciation by reflecting back to them.
Fourth, read lots and lots of books. Stories teach vocabulary, expressions, and grammar without effort. The stories expose your children to situations they wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Use lots of expression as you read to reinforce the meaning of the words. Linger over reading so your little one can take in the images and colors and feelings that the story provides. For more on benefits and how-to, see: Read
Finally, you model speech even when you are not aware of it. They not only learn when you speak to them, they learn as they hear you talk to others. They hear your tone and pronunciation and inflections. They are comparing and contrasting with other things you say. They are memorizing and will begin to practice what they have heard you say to others.
All of this takes time. Make your time with your little one as valuable as possible. Try to not be distracted by media when your child wants to talk to you. And don’t let the daily grind wear away your enthusiasm in your child’s development. Some words you may have to say hundreds of times before your child says them. Occasionally, you’ll be surprised to hear him say a word, you only remember saying once in his presence. Enjoy the process!
For more about learning more than one language as a little child see: Bi-Lingual Learning