Follow the Leader for Language Learning
Most mothers and fathers are well aware of the importance of language learning. After all, language is not only critical for communication it underlies cognitive development and social development as well. However, they may not be aware just how easy they can make language learning for their child.
Although the normal range for the onset of “expressive” language, the speaking of words, is huge – from 6 to 24 months of age, the normal range for the onset of “receptive” language – the understanding of words, is very early and narrow – from 6 to 8 months of age. And the child’s receptive vocabulary can grow steadily and quite rapidly from that point on. But it is critical to keep in mind that although the child’s mind is incredibly curious and absorbent at that point, her attention span is extremely limited. Consequently, sitting with the child and attempting to teach her a pre-set list of words is pretty much a waste of time.
The most effective thing to do is simply follow the child’s lead. As she starts crawling about to explore and investigate her world, she will make discoveries that, to her, are absolutely amazing. When she does, just talk about what she is interested in, focused on, and excited about at the moment.
For instance, she finds an old candy wrapper under the couch and is totally captivated by it. You can say something like, “You found a candy wrapper. It’s yellow. Your shirt is yellow. Mine is blue.” By the time you finish, she will be off to something else. But in those few seconds when you are talking about what SHE wants to know about an incredible amount of language learning will take place.
In other words (no pun intended), when it comes to language learning, informal and on-the-fly is both the easiest and the best way to go.