Helping Your Child to Acquire Language: How to be Explicit, Consistent and Redundant
Think of yourself arriving into the world that speaks different language. You do not understand what was said. You do not know where the word or sentence starts or ends. Your ears are not trained to distinguish sounds of this particular language. You do not have points of reference. You are overwhelmed. The problem of reference is the most difficult one at the initial stages of acquisition of a new language. The problem of how a child comes to know what words refer to which objects or actions is complicated by the fact that a single object or event has many parts and features that can be referred to in a great many ways.
The key to helping your child to acquire language as soon as possible is to create persistent frames of references within his immediate environment. To do it you have to be explicit, consistent, and redundant.
1. Use single words talking to the child initially
2. Point to object (clothing, food items, furniture, objects in immediate environment, etc.) and name it. Make sure to use the same word consistently identifying the same object.
3. Try to create situations where you will need to use the same word over and over. When you do it, use short sentence descriptive of the action and repeat it along with the action whenever possible. Perform a simple action yourself and describe it, for ex., when sitting in a chair, say "Mommy/Daddy is sitting." Give the child direction to "Sit down". Describe it to the child: "Sasha is sitting". By using similar sentences you are showing that language has a variety and assure your child that it is possible to master it. Do not be afraid to repeat yourself: you are naming this new world for your child, giving it proper order. By repetition you give your child better chance to learn, as well as setting comfortable boundaries. Children fear of unknown, they crave the comfort of the routine. As soon as you help your child to learn a few words, expand on this, build up his/her success by performing an action that your child is able to name. Make sure he or she has positive learning experience.
4. If your child wants to say something, do not interrupt or correct him in the beginning. In a while when his/her language improves, make sure to use principles of effective communication:
Listen to your child
Be patient, wait for your child to finish speaking
Ask open-ended questions (e.g.: "What is ...?"Where is ...?") Give the child enough time to respond
If the child has a great deal of difficulty with answering questions, give choices so that he can answer
Try not to anticipate child's needs
Talk with your child during snack and lunchtime about what he/she is eating
During about things around cold/hot water, weather, seasons, dangerously hot/cold objects, slippery soap; expand on how different objects feel when touched. Give choices, give visual clues
Be a role model. Be careful of what you say and how you say it. Children are great imitators!
Natalia Likhtik is New York State Licensed Bilingual (Russian/English), ASHA certified Speech-Language Pathologist with the extensive experience in servicing internationally adopting community - children of all ages, coming from the former Soviet Republics. Natalia Likhtik is an active member of the Bilingual Extension program at the Center for Cognitive-Developmental Assessment and Remediation and the instructor at the Bgcenter Online School. For a consultation or appointment call 845-694-8496