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Modeling Language

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We model language by saying the same things over and over and over, and naming the same objects, as we go through our routines with children. We’re modeling the grammar of our culture or subculture (for example, Chinese or BEV – Black English Vernacular), as well as vocabulary. Most people who live and work with young children spontaneously simplify their language, stripping it of confusing and cluttering extras, and coming straight to the point.

Some Tricks:

Refine the child’s pronunciation by accepting the language she gives us (not correcting her), and then pronouncing the word correctly as we repeat her communication back to her by way of communication: “Yes Sal can have some milk,” Sal had asked for “mim.” Language learning is interactive – it takes at least two people for progress to occur – one to try it, the other to respond to it (reinforce it) and refine it so it becomes possible for folks other than the tuned in mother or father to understand it,

Expand the child’s shorthand communications toward sentences in the same manner, the caregiver repeats almost what Sam said: Mom plays back, “Sam says, ‘I wanna see doggy,’” Sam had said, “I wanna doggy,” but had intended to communicate that he wanted to see the dog standing just outside the gate of the caregiver’s home.

Negotiate each communication with the toddler. Jerome Burner points out that mothers, fathers, and other caregivers often do not know what their children have in mind when they vocalize or gesture, nor are they sure their own speech has been understood by their children. But they are prepared to negotiate in the tacit belief hat something comprehensible can be established,

Conversing with very young children is something of a joint problem-solving process. Communication always occurs in a context – the child is eating, trying to open something, looking at something, feeling tired, feeling constrained – so a combination of using context clues and trial and error usually solves the problem. As in any learning, a child progresses faster if challenged at the frontier of what she already knows and knows how to do than if merely left to mature. Caregivers can watch for language delays and collaborate with parents as needed

Ask Dr. Susan