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
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.