The first word my son told was "ma!". Ever since, he puts a smile in our face for every new word he spoke. When my son said "Dinosaur", I almost shouted! We did not expect him to say it as we did not teach him. I thought that's a complicated word, at least for kids. I tried teaching him "Crocodile" by showing one on TV. He did repeat after me, but, in his own way. It's always exciting to hear our little ones speak new words. Our parents and grandparents say that typically baby girls will start talking sooner than boys. I don't know the logic behind, but, have found it true it in most kids.
Have you wondered at what stage and at what pace language acquisition happens?
Researchers believe that within a year and a half, most kids can pronounce 50 words and understand about a 100. The count hits 1,000 words when the child turns 3 and goes all the way to 6,000 when they are 6. When calculated from birth, the rate of learning is at 3 words per day. This is applicable for the most verbal and communicative families. There will always be some deviation and some kids just don't fit in to the bell curve. Some of them, we call as prodigies. Like Rowan Hamilton, Dublin who mastered Latin, Greek and Hebrew at the age of 5. He learned 15 languages when he was 13, that includes Sanskrit and Marathi as well. There is a lot of people to name. We, Indians are very good at language. See this wikipedia link - list of Scripps Nation Spelling Bee champions. Indian origin kids have been all over the list.
Alright, that's enough of facts. But, why is language so important? It increases the ability to write well and comprehend what you read. More than anything, it increases confidence. A good command over language, will take you places. The art of persuasion largely depends on the your command over the language and the choice of words you use. No wonder vocabulary makes it to the IQ tests. So, let's see the not to-dos and to-dos for the language development in kids.
What not to do for language development
No DVDs, TV programs or gadgets can aid language development. They are absolute no no! The mighty Disney launched DVDs (Baby Einstein) that claimed to boost the language development in infants. That was later proved wrong by the studies conducted by the University of Washington. In fact, the study concluded that those DVDs hinder the development and does not aid. The programs are designed to deliver content and they are incapable of responding to a kid's reaction. Parents can use them as a medium of education, and not a self-learning tools. But, such mediums should be heavily moderated and should be attended by the parents. Check how much tv time should be allowed for kids.
Well, how to help them develop their language skills
- Talk to them, a lot - There is no substitute/ shortcut for this. Talk to your kids, respond to them, communicate with them - positively and regularly. And, do it a lot. This will improve your kid's reading, spelling and writing abilities by many folds. A kid whose household was verbal and positive tend to be good at the fore mentioned skills than the ones that are less verbal.
- Read stories to them - It's never early to start reading to your little ones. You can start as early as they 3 months old or even earlier. If your kid is old enough, get story books with vivid pictures. Elaborate the characters in them. Slowly, your kid will get trained to sit for longer duration. It will improve their ability to listen and focus.
- Use variety of words - The number and variety of words you use will boost their vocabulary and IQ. When ever you expose them to a new words spell it, in the pace that they can understand. 2,100 words per hour represent moderate rate of conversation. A typical person hears about 100,000 words per day. These number are indicative and largely varies with culture, family, and individual.
- Make associations - Make associations while exposing them to new words. The way we remember things is based on associations and analogies. Bark like a dog when you talk about dog, sound like a train when you tell about train, etc. They will smile, laugh and listen to you. Count the stairs when you are climbing up or down, talk about colors when you get them dressed. Simply- do a commentary of what's happening around your little one. Listen to them when they respond and respond back. You can employ of the methods mentioned in how to distract a toddler.
- Stick to your mother tongue - A person can express his/ her feeling best in their mother tongue. That's why, during intense emotions, even subconsciously, we get back to our mother tongue. The connect that we can create with our mother tongue cannot be replicated in another language. It's very important that you talk to your little ones in your mother tongue. You can juggle between English and your mother tongue. So that your kid won't give a strange look when you need to use English at public places.
- Bilingual parents - Parents from different language background can use both the language for communicating. Our pediatrician is a Konkani and his wife (who is also a doctor) is a Marathi. He talks to his son in Konkani and his wife talks in Marathi. The little chap knows both the languages. The kids will anyway learn rest of the required languages in their schooling. These kids will pick up the languages a little slowly, but, will be able to communicate in all of them.
Having said that, please understand every kid is unique. Do not benchmark your kid with someone. Some will need more time to grasp, but, some will do it real quick. Before plunging in to any methods, spend some time in understanding your kid's interest and do not force anything. When you tend to force, think about how you felt when you were forced by your parents on anything.
Your little one could be be a good painter, a sports person, a poet, a mathematician or just anything. They will become what they want to be if you do not interfere, but, guide them, mentor them, enable them and give them their space. Your quality time to your kid and the freedom you give to them are the best gifts you can ever give to them. Happy parenting!