Now you’re talk­ing

Your child’s lan­guage skills de­velop in leaps and bounds… from her first word by the time she turns one and then there’s no stop­ping your lit­tle chat­ter­box, writes Shanda Luyt

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

EVEN BE­FORE YOUR LIT­TLE one is born, the foun­da­tion is laid down, so that she can learn a lan­guage (or more than one), share her thoughts, ideas and emo­tions with the peo­ple around her some day, and be suc­cess­ful. As she grows, this skill is re­fined un­til she can com­mu­ni­cate and build re­la­tion­ships with self-con­fi­dence.

You can en­sure that your child’s lan­guage abil­ity blooms from an early age and even help her master more than one lan­guage.

Isn’t it amaz­ing how one day your child can hardly talk, and a few months later she doesn’t want to shut up! You can hardly be­lieve it’s the same child.

At 18 months the av­er­age child knows about 20 words, but at three years she boasts a vo­cab­u­lary of more than 1 000 words. So in just over a year’s time, she’s learnt more than 900 new words.

The first three years are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills be­cause your child’s brain de­vel­ops so in­cred­i­bly fast at this point. A child has more than 50 000 neu­ral path­ways that carry sounds of a hu­man voice from the ears to the brain. The brain re­or­gan­ises its brain cells as it were into con­nec­tions or net­works to form lan­guage. But if a child hears lit­tle or no lan­guage the brain waits in vain, and these cells will even­tu­ally lose this func­tion and ac­quire oth­ers.

So the part par­ents play in lan­guage ac­qui­si­tion is of car­di­nal im­por­tance. In­ter­est­ingly, we in­stinc­tively adapt to our child’s lan­guage needs.

The high melo­di­ous voice we of­ten use to coo when we talk to baby for in­stance makes it eas­ier to learn lan­guage be­cause the sounds are ex­ag­ger­ated.

Frances Slab­ber of the South African Speech, Lan­guage and Hear­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (SASLHA) says ev­ery baby is born with the po­ten­tial to com­mu­ni­cate and ac­quire lan­guage.

She does stress, how­ever, that a child’s lan­guage de­vel­op­ment is highly de­pen­dent on the stim­u­la­tion he gets from his en­vi­ron­ment.

She dis­tin­guishes be­tween speech, lan­guage, hear­ing and au­di­tory pro­cess­ing – all el­e­ments that play a role in suc­cess­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“Suc­cess­ful speech, lan­guage and au­di­tory de­vel­op­ment is to a large ex­tent de­pen­dent on a lan­guage-rich en­vi­ron­ment with lots of stim­u­la­tion from ev­ery­one around,” Frances ex­plains.

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