Languages are not innate - they are learned. What this means is, while most are born with the ability to produce or understand language, there is no genetic reason or code that designates that a child learns English, Spanish, or Chinese. A young child living in Japan with Japanese-speaking parents would not suddenly begin speaking Italian as its first language unless he or she was significantly exposed to this other language.
While children learn their first language through exposure and mimicry, these are not the only ways that they learn. Many teachers and parents may become confused when their children come up with phrases such as "I goed to the bathroom" or "I sees two mices."
Between the ages of 2 and 6, the LINGUIST List explains that children learn an average of 10 new words a day, amounting to around 14,000 words by age 6. Unlike learning everyday vocabulary by observation, instructors must teach the rules of the language.
What should teachers do when children suffer from learning delays?
There are a variety of factors that contribute to a child's language learning delay. While many are due to physical or cognitive difficulties, such as troubles distinguishing between sound and sight, hearing problems, attention deficit disorders and general mental capabilities, another cause could be a lack of exposure. Not all children are fortunate enough to benefit from ample language exposure.
To address learning delays or general language learning within the classroom, there are plenty of ways early childhood education instructors can support their students and encourage their natural growth. The first step is to discuss your concerns with parents and refer the child to a specialist for evaluation.
Techniques for creating a friendly language learning classroom environment
First, teachers should begin by talking with their students' parents. Some guardians may not be aware of what qualifies as normal language growth for young children, which is why it is important to encourage them to practice speaking with their children. This will also help teachers evaluate what language background their students come from to help them account for bilingual or multi-cultural learners.
A large part of language acquisition is socially focused. Through learning their first language, children also gain essential social skills through interacting with their peers. Partnering students with a "conversation buddy" each day to discuss various topics or their opinions will help them become comfortable not only using language, but effectively conveying what they mean to another person.
As no two children learn the exact same way, try introducing new words and language rules through rhymes, themes, games, songs and more to hit on a vast range of learning styles. Implementing phonemic awareness activities and drills will also reinforce what they are learning and help key rules and phrases stick in their young minds. Mimicking language is not enough to achieve true language understanding. Children should be able to critically think about their language and produce unique or understandable sentences based off of what they are learning.
At ProSolutions Training, we offer plenty of online child care courses for interested early childhood education professionals. The "Language & Literacy Package," focuses on learning the key concepts behind how children acquire language, along with essential phonemic awareness skills teachers can incorporate into their classroom to encourage language growth. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you!