Create a Rich Language Environment for Your Child
Like a plant growing healthily in the sunlight, a child that has access to a rich language environment develops beautifully. Language learning among babies and infants has confounded researchers for many years, with little to no agreement on what works best in raising our children to speak and understand languages well. Most research and basic behavioural observation has shown that our children imitate us to best learn the language. However, the latest research has shown that building a rich language environment greatly increases the speed and proficiency with which a child can learn a language. Here are a few tips to create a rich language environment for your child.
The Environment is as Much Mental as it is Physical
You don’t need elaborate word walls or flashcards to make your child aware of what words are. Labeling everyday objects with words will slowly help children associate the word with the object but that is more of a long-term result. Let children explore the environment around them and try to say things. Children need time to express themselves and use the language to do so, as a parent, you need to patiently listen. Let your child speak and you must listen and react to what he/she is saying.
The most important source of language learning for a child is the parent. Spend a good amount of time speaking directly to your child, try to have a full conversation. Children learn by mimicking their parents as they see them the most every day. It’s not just the words that you use that are mimicked, they pick up on body language and context as well. As important as it is to learn a word and know what it means, it is even more important to know when and where to use the word. Encourage your children to express their needs and wants through their words. This will minimize the tantrums and frustrated noises that children make to try and get what they want. If your children don’t know the words for certain concepts, identify those for them and help them express these thoughts.
React and then Correct
Every time your child addresses you, the first thing you must do is respond. The response should be positive, try and smile and be open to hearing what your child has to say. Give your child your attention when they are addressing you, so they feel encouraged to talk. You can try to gently correct any mistakes later and don’t worry about them learning something new right away.
Variety and Depth
Children need to be exposed to many different words and sounds to develop and use a language. There is a window in the early development of a child’s brain, where learning language patterns and vocabulary take on an advanced level. Parents can take advantage of this fertile time by reading new words to their children. Studies have investigated how a large vocabulary (15,000 words) that have been introduced at this time to result in much smoother future learning of the language. Introducing your child to 10 words a day from the ages of 2 to 6 will help to build up that huge vocabulary.
Encourage Play and Imagination
Language learning doesn’t have to be work either, it can really take off when you play with your child. When you read a story, let your child ask all the questions that he/she wants to. Be patient and answer everything while leaving some room for the child to contribute to the answer as well. You can even start to visualize the story by drawing pictures together. Things can get even more interesting when you encourage your child to tell you a story. This role reversal can yield some funny and endearing results, with your child taking the story in many different directions. Don’t ask too many questions about why or how the story is taking place as that might stop the flow or confuse the young storyteller. Instead, tell your child what you like about the story or share small details that you think he/she might appreciate. Let your child’s imagination play as much as possible as this makes them very active and engaged in using language to further their ideas. All of this really helps with self-confidence and self-esteem.