Written by Liza John
Acquisition of language is a milestone in the process of development. Since communication and interpersonal interaction is vital to leading a social life, it is imperative that your child progresses through the natural course of language development.
Many parents get concerned when their child does not start uttering words within 18-24 months. While you need to keep an eye on how well your child can communicate, remember that development looks different for each child. Factors like having siblings, a multilingual family, attending day cares, and exposure to media have a significant impact on the pace at which your child learns to speak.
Laying The Foundation for Language Acquisition
You might be tempted to believe that a child learns the use of language from reading, listening, or even writing new words. However, these are only ways to develop the vocabulary after the concept of language has been established in a child’s mind. Children are often expected to utter words or close approximations by the 12th or 13th month.
For this to occur without a hitch, the child should have been given the opportunity to engage in symbolic play. Symbolic play refers to the time when a child uses one object to represent something else while playing. This is a key element of language development because language itself is symbolic, that is, a word is used to represent one or more objects. If your child has enough opportunities for symbolic play, language will come to them easily.
Training your child in nonverbal communication is also important to boost their verbal communication skills. Maintaining eye contact, taking turns while interacting, and responding to external stimuli are all related to the development of language in a child.
Boosting Language Development in Children
One of the best ways to teach your child about the syntax of a language and to improve their vocabulary is by describing each activity as you are executing it. For instance, if you are giving your child a glass of milk, make them pay attention by saying, ‘I’m pouring the milk into the glass’ or ‘this large glass of milk is cold’. In this way, your child can associate words with objects and actions, which leads to quicker learning.
The game of I Spy is one of the most effective ways to get your child to notice and label the objects in their surroundings. When you are on a walk with your child, point out a ‘big brown dog’ or a ‘small baby bird’ to widen your child’s word bank. Engaging with the environment they are in will make children more attentive, and the novel situations will make them grasp concepts better.
If your child is not old enough to say full words but can imitate your speech, reinforcing the behaviour can help with language development. When your child babbles something, parrot it back at them. Imitate their facial expressions and any sound that they produce, this will give them a chance to learn how conversations work. It will also boost their desire to attempt imitating you and your speech.
Rhymes and Stories
Nursery rhymes are always a hit with children because they convey a small story with the help of a rhythm. From rhymes and board books to picture books and songs, your child gradually gets an idea of how words need to be strung together to make the best sense. Studies have shown that children who were read to during a young age get a quicker start at reading and spelling as they grow older.
Giving your child a chance to give their input into the conversation can equip them with better communication skills. For example, while reciting their favourite rhyme, stop after the first few words and prompt them to continue. Alternate between the both of you to see if your child remembers the lyrics and knows how to repeat them. Another way to include your child in the conversation is by responding to their requests only if they use proper words or sentences. If your child wants some juice, prompt them into saying ‘can I have some juice?’ instead of simply pointing to it or saying ‘juice’. This can introduce your child to etiquette while conversing with people.
Gaining mastery over a language is a tedious process. As a developing child, language acquisition indicates the development in aspects like neural connections, psychological wellbeing, and even intellectual abilities. Punishing or harshly criticising your child for making mistakes during language development can have adverse effects, so try to be patient if they are not making progress. If you see that your child is way behind in their language development by the age of 2, be sure to consult a specialist.