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Infants » Communication

Learning Language is Fun for Babies

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The average child will learn the language spoken in his or her family and community simply because the ability to learn language is rooted in the biological nature of human beings. As the child’s body and mind mature, so does the ability to understand and speak a language. Which language? Naturally, it will be the language spoken all around the baby/child, complete with dialect, accent, and details specific to the family’s socioeconomic group. Whether or not people consider themselves language models, they are “demonstrating” a language (or two if they’re bilingual), with a particular dialect or accent, pronunciation style, vocabulary, set of cadences and idioms and are saturating the little human being in it.

Whether or not they think of it that way, these people are providing a total immersion language learning lab. Children imitate and practice by babbling away much of the day in a specific manner that changes with their maturational developmental level. Whether or not people have ever heard of (or believe in) behaviorist theory, they naturally “reinforce” certain of the sounds babies, one and two-year-olds utter – by responding to them, and repeating them – and “extinguish” those sounds that don’t “mean” anything to them.

In many cultures and socioeconomic groups, adults don’t attend to what little children are saying to them, and don’t have conversations with children, yet words and even grammar somehow unfold and are absorbed (probably some of each). The children develop normal language.

The central theme of this particular article is not how children achieve normal development but what concerned parents and other caregivers can do to assist infants, and two-year-olds in achieving optimal self-esteem, self-discipline, mental health, and good character.

Language will develop without special attention or intervention. Yet there is much we can do to enhance it. Because possessing excellent language skills is basic to so many kinds of excellence in life – including reading and interpersonal success – if we’re aiming high all around in our child developing work, we have to consider it important to facilitate language development.

Why do young children need language?

The development of language – first nonverbal, then verbal – is an essential element in infants’, toddlers’, and two-year-olds’ constant efforts.

§  To connect in warm and mutually trusting ways with appreciative parents and caregivers – to develop a feeling of inclusion, a basic human need.

§  To cause parents, major caregivers, and other miscellaneous people around them to respond to the signals and grins the little ones give – and, soon, to their words, phrases, and sentences – in order to develop a feeling of personal effectiveness.

§  To create sense out of their surroundings – to develop confidence in their ability to comprehend – to develop confidence in their intellectual competence.

§  To coordinate and control to some small but swiftly increasing extent “id” part of their personalities (the purely emotional, volatile, not yet socialized part) – e.g. to use words instead of claws to get what they want (or they would soon be ostracized from the human community).

§  To become competent members of their cultures and communities (families, ethnic groups, child care programs etc.) able to understand instruction, express ideas and feelings in accordance with cultural customs of those around them; become able to get peers’ and grown-ups’ attention and cooperation; become able to assist in comforting peers and adults appropriately.

§  To connect with siblings, cousins, little friends and neighbors, and regular baby friends in child care settings. As they grow older, children need language for additional reasons, but these are the reasons that children younger than three need words and other communication skills.

Ask Dr. Susan