5 ways to Help your Child Develop their Language Skills Part 1
Communication! It's important isn't it? My English teacher once told me that the point of communication is to be understood. It seems very simple, but for a young person who just spoke to express anything that came into her heart and mind, this statement made me stop in my tracks and think. We all want to be understood and not misunderstood. Even babies have different cries to let us know exactly what they need. (check out the video from the Oprah show below).
So how do we communicate? Through language! Body language and verbal language. Some would even argue that we send "vibes" or vibrations of thought, consciously or unconsciously.
In this hub, I would like to talk about verbal languages. I love to learn new languages as well as teach them. I have studied Hebrew, French, Mandarin and I am fluent in Spanish. I have been teaching languages since I was 14 and attained my first job as a language tutor for my neighbor's child. I also studied linguistics while in college and am TESOL(Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certified. Throughout the years and especially while teaching English in China, I learned many things about how kids learn. I have put together some easy ways to help children develop language skills. These are some of the things that I want to remember to continue doing with my own child. I have split the hub into 2 parts and hope that you and your child will benefit from all the tips.
#1 Talk about everything
Take your child somewhere different as much as possible. Map out all the parks in the area, and get a membership to the local zoo. Visit the local science center, planetarium, aquarium, museum etc. Before you go. talk to your child about where you are going and what you are going to do. When you get there, point everything out and tell them about it and afterwards remind them of the things you saw and did and then ask questions. "Do you remember seeing the lion? The monkeys were funny; what did they say? ooh ah ah?" etc.
When you are cleaning or cooking describe what you are doing and invite them to help when appropriate. During bath time and meals talk about it; talk about everything that is going on or will happen. Ex: "we have to wash your hair with shampoo." You might want to try asking them to "wash" their bath-toy as well. "Can you wash the giraffe's hair?"
When you go for walks in the stroller, you might say "we're going left". When they get to the point when they can repeat a word back to you, on a walk or stroll around the neighborhood, you might say "Do you want to go left or straight?".
Giving them choices is also a good way to quiet a tantrum. For example, you may say "I see your upset, do you want to go home, or stay and play?" then stick to those options.
Associate things when teaching children concepts or just about anything. The human brain is amazing. It learns better not by focusing on one thing, but by associating two or more things. For example: sing the phone number that you want to memorize and you will be more likely to remember it. So, sing to your child about anything and find other ways to associate what ever you are teaching to other things or concepts. For example rather then saying "this is a ball" say "This bouncy ball is blue!" and rather then simply saying "let's put your shirt on." Sing it! "The shirt goes over your head la la la and then you find the holes for your arms la la la"
Repetition is king, so when you find your self asking "How many times do I have to say it?", the answer is "many".
#2 Expose them to languages early on.
If you would like your child to learn more than one language, expose them to those languages and in different ways. For example: through songs, cartoons, dialogue etc. If you plan on teaching your child more than one language, which I recommend, make sure you introduce the languages before age 3. Experts say that, on average, it's easiest to learn language patterns between the ages of 1 and 3. If your child is older, no worries, there is no time like the present. You might consider showing your child the Teletubbies show in Mandarin, or learn a song in Spanish and sing it to your child, and you may want the new bedtime book to be in French.
What ever language you speak to your baby, make sure that you try to speak correctly. Try not to use "baby talk". That just teaches your baby to speak incorrectly. Yes, baby talk is cute, and sometimes we just can't help it, but we should try.
If you know another language, start with that. If not, why not learn one with you child? There are also a ton of children's videos in other languages on Youtube. Choose wisely and watch them with your child or preview them before adding them to your playlist. Here is one of my favorites: Oznoz on Youtube. The Sesame Street videos posted by Oznoz are good for under age 3. This channel has the cartoon Pocoyo in Spanish and English. You can also do a search for sign language videos designed for kids. Sesame street can be found in many languages. I also recommend the app Duolingo. It's a free app for most smart phones or tablets. You can play and learn a new language with your child. My husband is learning Spanish with his 9 year old daughter using this application on his android smart phone.
The best way to expose them to any language, of course, is to read to your child. Reading a book with your child daily or nightly is the most important thing on this list. You can start this habit while they are in the womb. Also, as they get older go to the library with your child and let them pick out books.
Read Part 2 here.
Introducing your baby to other languages
Very interesting video about understanding the meaning behind your baby's sounds! Dunstan Baby Language on Oprah
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