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How do babies and toddlers learn to speak and acquire the knowledge to form sentences and become fluent communicators? Is it a natural skill they acquire or do they need help? Certainly children begin to learn to speak from the very day they are born. However, it is up to parents, to make sure they provide the children with the very best opportunity to learn to speak and communicate well.
How do they learn?
- Talk To Them - A mother who chats to her baby from the very first day, while feeding or walking or changing the nappy, is doing a great job to encourage good spoken language. Babies learn by hearing the spoken word and repeating and learning it for themselves.
- Show Them - Parents that discuss things in front of their children demonstrate the use of language and show the children how to discuss and communicate as adults.
- Play with Them - Have toy telephones to play with and set up pretend conversations. Chat about all sorts of easy things and encourage chatter.
- Share with Them - Families that have discussions over a meal share in the joy of eating and talking. Simply asking what happened at school or nursery today can be the simple question that leads to a great family chat!
Types of Language
By nine months, babies can understand simple words and commands ('stop', 'come here', etc.) even if they can't speak the words themselves. This is because there are 2 types of language knowledge: Receptive and Expressive language. When we listen we use our receptive vocabulary, when we speak or write we use our expressive vocabulary.
A child's passive vocabulary is improved through continuous repetition of words and phrases. Once repeated enough it becomes part of their passive vocabulary. So, the active vocabulary can only be improved through use of the passive. A child has to hear a word 500 times before it becomes part of their active vocabulary, so a parent needs to speak as much as they can to their children and in front of their children.