Speaking, chatting, gossiping, discussing, conversing:
What would we do without talking?
I touched on this in part one but I want to elaborate about the importance of your baby hearing you speak and the impact this will have.
Vocabulary and knowledge of words is one of the most essential components of becoming literate. In short, the more words children know and understand in their early years, the chances of them having learning difficulties in learning later in life are lessened.
The responsibility for helping children to develop a good grasp of language lay with the adults who surround them during these vital early years. Let children see and hear you having a range of conversations. They will pick up the traits so quickly.
I’m not sure of the impact of ‘baby talk’ on a child’s understanding of words. Personally, I prefer not use this way of communicating. For example, ‘woof woof’, is a ‘dog’, ‘brum brum’, is a ‘car’ etc. This is only my thoughts but I can’t see why children need to learn two different words. It seems confusing.
Hearing a little one gabble using intonation, even though it is complete nonsense, is a wonderful thing. It is proof that they have listened and know that ‘talking’ is stringing sounds together using inflection. They are holding a conversation with you in the way they have observed adults talking.
Just look at this video. This little girl is obviously imitating Mummy when she is on the phone to Daddy. I’d say she is having a serious conversation. Do you think Mummy sits down and chats to Daddy?
They are using ‘sentences’ rather than ‘words’. Gradually, understandable words creep into these sentences so you can put meaning to their chatter.
The Range of Vocabulary
The more words a child can use and understand helps their thinking ability. Learning adjectives to describe sky could be as simple as ‘blue’ and ‘big’ but with words such as ‘bright’, ‘dull’ ‘immense’ ‘huge’, ‘far’ etc a child has a means of expression to describe in deeper and more detailed ways.
Every opportunity to chat with your child should be taken to encourage language building and comprehension. If you are cooking, give your child a running commentary – yes, I know, it may sound very boring to you but think about the vocabulary you are teaching; the names of the foods, the utensils, the processes eg mixing, stirring, whisking. There are hundreds of exciting words she could learn, thermometer and temperature are huge words but would sound better than, ‘let’s see how hot it is’. And that’s just a cooking session – just think of the vocabulary you could use in the supermarket or garden!
Children love the long and difficult words so don’t shy away from using them. They like to hear them and practise pronouncing them. Talking isn’t a hard activity for you to do and the amount of pleasure, attention and learning it gives children is limitless.
These ‘chats’ with your child not only build up an array of language skills but also build up the attachment/bond between you both.
The ability to express your opinions, thoughts and emotions is a talent which appears to be diminishing and one I feel we should fight tooth and nail to bring back with a vengeance.
Helping children to learn diverse and interesting language is giving them a head start in life. Although a good understanding of vocabulary will, undoubtedly, help them in school this shouldn’t be your focus. This would turn an enjoyable, fun and priceless activity into WORK.
“…we need to careful that our expectations are not driven by the pressure to formalise the child’s educational experience.”
James Law – Professor of Speech and Language Sciences at Newcastle University (The Conversation:April 2014)