Child Development One of the basic features in which
One of the basic features in which human beings differ from the rest of the animal world is language. It is one of the forms with which we express ourselves. All humans have the innate capacity to learn each other's language, taught through repetition. The main objective and benefit which originates from language is communication. Moreover it contributes to view an insight into the human development. It therefore elucidates the child's development in general. The first step a child takes toward speech is through listening. It is curious to note that the slowest sense a child develops is hearing. This means that it may be that this strong hearing mechanism only responds and acts to sounds of a particular kind: those of speech. During the first months of life a child gradually starts to discern the sound of the human voice. At 3 month she turns to the sound of a voice. At 4 months he becomes aware of the source of the sound of a voice and concentrates on the lips of the speaking person. At 6 months the child produces simple syllables (ba, ma, pa'). At 10 months he realizes that words have meaning and that we speak for a purpose. A child gradually starts to comprehend speech and begins use words intentionally (tata, mama, papa'). From 10 to 18 months his vocabulary expands significantly. Maria Montessori maintained that adults should avoid using baby talk and speak correctly. During the period that goes from 21 to 24 months children experience what is called an 'explosion' into language . There is no smooth and slow advance word by word. We find an explosion phenomenon which occurs alone for no apparent reason. The child starts to use phrases and sentences. A 'silent period' may occur during this phase in which although the child does not produce the language he is passively absorbing it. The quantity of inner work may be immense, yet the outer signs of it are often small. There is a great disproportion between the powers of expression and the inner work a child is doing. At 30 months the child's basic lexicon is complete (about 200 words). A new period in the organization of language begins which continues to develop without explosions, but with a lot of spontaneity and liveliness. By the age of 6 a child's basic secondary lexicon is accomplished (about 2000 words) and progressively perfects his sentence formation. From age 3 to 6 a child's thirst for words is insatiable and his capacity for learning them is inexhaustible. Words should not be taught in a mechanical way but in conjunction with the object concerned so that their vocabulary keeps pace with their experiences. It is important to point out that a child does not remember sounds; he absorbs them and can then produce them to perfection. Language specialists have discovered that the child's development of language is very easy for him as it occurs almost unconsciously up to the age of 9. After this age ratio takes the place of unconscious absorbing of a language and the foreign language is learned only through the mother tongue. We adults an only use the apparatus of our own language to learn another language; no one but a child can construct his own machinery and so learn to perfection as many languages as he hears spoken about him. This demonstrates that language apprehension in a child is not result of conscious work. In many countries children begin to learn a foreign language at a very young age (2-3). In the early stages the teacher will balance the use of the child's mother tongue and the foreign language; the reason being to expose them gradually to the latter. Gesture is an important communication tool especially for young learners who still depend a lot on body language and facial expression to communicate. Other ways to enhance the absorbing of the language are the use of actions, pictures, mime, reading stories, singing songs and saying rhymes. It is significant to bear in mind that young children may spend a long time absorbing a foreign language before they actually produce anything. It is true that young language learners understand more that they can say and when they learn their first language they respond to it long before they learn to speak. Second language learners also have a 'silent period' in which they listen to the language around them, absorb it and produce it with their own grammar, which they adapt and expend as they are exposed to a wider range of language. Doing repetitive songs, rhymes and choral work will help stimulate young children to language without putting them in an uneasy situation of having to speak individually.
1. There are cases in which normal explosion does not happen at the right age.
'Gausman, Dale, North American Progressive Montessori Teaching Training Program ' Language Arts Section, 2002. ( I took this course three years ago. See website: www.montessoritraining.net) 'Montessori, Maria, The Absorbent Mind ' The Clio Montessori Series, Oxford, Clio Press, 1988. 'Reilly, V., and Ward, S.M., Very Young Learners, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002. 'Phillips, S., Young Learners, Oxford, Oxford Univer
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