Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Language development

I was asked by the school of my kids to write an article on "literacy".I thought it would be good to write about how language is the base for learning anything.Hope I am able to come across well.

Good Language-Foundation for Literacy

Language is a very important means of communication between people. Our entire development depends on language as it gives meaning to every action, thing, emotion and thought. There can be no development of the world if language did not exist.
Language is important as it is an important tool to communicate. It catches an incident, crystallizes it and then can recall, recollect and be related later. Otherwise without language the moment would just be passing moment. We even think in language.
Human mind is wired to acquiring language. The moment the baby is born, his vision is not clear but his entire focus is on the buzzing, booming and bustling world of sound. From birth to five years, the entire development plan of nature is such i.e. everything is developing, sensory motor, biological, psychological, emotional and intelligence and it is only focused on one aspect and that is development of language. Once it is done, the brain has done its most important function for the rest of the life. Because based on the language that we develop, all the cognitive development takes place on that foundation. All our academics are dependent on the development of language. Once you learn it , it is easy and one can learn math, physics, literature, etc.Though the mental, physical and cognitive make up is there to learn the language , we still need to learn it.For eg. If an Indian is adopted by a Chinese , he’ll learn Chinese as his atmosphere is that of language.To learn it otherwise , I would require a teacher.I don’t learn that language by just being born to that family.A brahmin’s son would learn the shlokas as his environment is constantly teaching him that as so is it for a musican’s child.A child learns language by the atmosphere he lives in.So our language environment has to be very rich in order to make sure the child has acquired the most important aspect of life.A child in a rich environment has more emotional , cognitive and language development than a child who lives alone in a languageless atmosphere.
There are certain essentials of language learning.It is the way we talk.Most of us talk so badly.We are so much in the rush of things , that we seldom stop and think of the way we are talking.How is it that some people are able to attract and get people’s attention for hours and there are some who we run away from as we don’t like to hear them.Our voices have to have the intonation, expression, inflexion and there has to be the right expression in the voice and on the face.It is this that will attract people to the most boring discussion too.The most exciting discussion can be a bore if the speaker is dull and expressionless.It is for this reason that the nursery and pre- school teachers need to have a pleasant personality so that they can attract little kids’ attention as their attention span is very small.A teacher who is able to modulate her voice, excite and use the correct expression and intonation will have children paying attention and doing very well in her subject.
It is important also to have our conversation using full sentences. These days people are rushing past and are not taking out time to talk.One should speak full and grammatically correct sentences and expect the same from the kids.Take time to stop and correct the child and help him to develop his language for him to have an all round development.Parents need to read books and inculcate good reading habits and clear conversations.Have discussions on varios topics.I have come across a few mothers who tell me that their 3 year old is not talking.I first ask them how many people are there in the family and then how much time are they spending with them.Some living abroad complain their children do not talk.As it is there are few members in the family and then they are busy cooking and doing household chores and the child is either left alone to play or left to play with the maid.What type of language environment is that?There is no language input.how will the child learn?Then there are people to keep the child busy they put on audio and video cassettes.But let me tell you there is no substitute for a live conversation!
The next question is “what do we talk to the child?” Well everything!!If we see from the child’s point of view, everything is new and exciting and fresh to him.Go down to his level.Be a part of his curious world.Change things around the house for him to notice,give answers to his whys and hows. Use a lot language to be part of his excitement and you too will dicover joy of reliving a new life fresh from his eyes.It will increase his awareness and it is curiosity that will make him more observant. The most important, effective and accepted means of developing language remains its use in real life communication situation. If you don’t dust your home one day , it is okay but spending that time with the child to show things around in your surroundings and talking about it would go a long way.Better still , take him around and do your daily chores and take your toddler around asking him to pull the bed sheet there and pushing the chair there and see him happily oblige you.He is happy, occupied,close to his mother, mother is doing her daily chores and the exchange of words helps him to build language.Language is learnt by listening, understanding and then applying it to other situations.When the child does not have language around him, how will he listen, what will he understand and where will he apply it?Parents are busy and send little toddlers to schools and pre-schools when it is essential to be with parents to learn lessons of communication.At home left to maids, when they do not speak, they expect teachers in school to develop their language.A teacher in school has to look after the needs of 30 odd students each with a different language.How can the teacher teach each child to talk?This is the duty of the parents to make sure that when the child goes to school , he has a foundation of enough language from where the teacher can take off and develop it further. Create an atmosphere which includes all kinds of speech which means not talking sweetly all the time. There has to be a difference between your tone and expression when you are angry, excited, sad, happy, questioning etc.
We as parents are responsible for the groundwork and should help the children to build a strong foundation of language for them to acquire greater heights and achieving their dreams.

Ruchi Goyal

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