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Processes In Language Development
Most children learn how to talk without instruction. While there are several theories that describe this process, most agree that language development is highly predictable and is influenced by five key factors:
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Social – the child’s ability to recognize what the speaker is referring to, and an environment rich in language will positively influence a child’s language learning;
Perceptual – the child’s perception is essential; e.g., hearing perception at 6 to 12 months can predict vocabulary size at 23 months;
Cognitive processing – the child who is frequently exposed to language will learn faster than the child who is exposed to language less often;
Conceptual – the child’s ability to relate words to concepts is tied to his/her mental age and knowledge of words; and
Linguistic – the child’s current vocabulary influences new learning (e.g., toddlers usually understand that a new word refers to the object that they do not know).
Language Development in English
Although there are differences in the rate of learning language, most children will learn to speak English in the following stages:
Babbling (i.e., combining consonants and vowels such as in ‘baba,’ 7-10 months)
Intentional communication (i.e., using eye gaze, gesture, and babble for communicative purposes, 8 months)
First words (90% of children say their first word by 14 months)
Short word combinations (i.e., 2- or 3-word combinations, such as “Mummy up” or “More juice please,” 16-30 months)
Noun and verb inflections (i.e., using ‘s’ to indicate plural in ‘cat-s’ or ‘ed’ in ‘play-ed’ to indicate past tense, 16-30 months)
Complex sentences (i.e., among the earliest complex sentences are multiple parts connected with and, because, so, when and if; 28-45 months)
Including the listener in conversation (i.e., turn-taking exchanges, 36-72 months)
Telling simple action oriented stories (narrative abilities predict later language growth, reading comprehension, and other aspects of school success, 6-7 years)
Parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals can use this information to track the progress of a child in their care. Read full message...
Language Development in French
Native French language learners meet specific language milestones in a predictable order. Within the first few years of life, a French-speaking child will learn the majority of his/her language by speaking, listening and interacting with others. French speaking children are able to recognize speech patterns and voice melodies, or intonation, from a young age, just as English language learners do. When pronunciation is difficult, many young children will simplify to make communication more manageable. While the process of simplifying pronunciation occurs in both English and French, the patterns in which this process occurs are different. Additionally, the patterns of development and number of nouns and grammatical words used by toddlers differ between native English and French speakers. In both languages, children will continue to expand their vocabulary and will improve their use of grammatical structures as they age.
Language assessments in French and English typically involve three components: Read full message...
Language Development in Arabic
Arabic is spoken as a first language by over 200 million people and is used as the language of worship by more than 1.65 billion Muslims around the world. There are two broad forms of Arabic that co-exist and are used for different purposes:
the spoken form used in everyday informal communication and
the written form (Modern Standard Arabic or MSA), learned at school and used in written and formal communication.
While MSA is the official language of 20 Arab states, each region has its own dialect. Arabic children first learn the dialect spoken in their community and only later learn MSA through formal instruction. MSA is not a native language for any Arabic child. Read full message...
Language Development in Canadian Aboriginal Children
Aboriginal children who speak an Aboriginal language
upon school entry are considered to be learning English as a second language (ESL). However, Aboriginal children who do not speak an Aboriginal language, but who use a First Nations English dialect, are also learning a new language – the Standard form of English. It is important to note that ESL programs are inappropriate for First Nations English dialect students as these programs are designed to assist with assimilation into the mainstream culture and learning the dominant language.
Unfortunately, many young Aboriginal children who use First Nations English dialects are wrongfully labelled as delayed or deficient by teachers and speech language pathologists (SLPs). Researchers recommend that these children instead be treated as users of a different variety of English, focusing on positive accomplishments in their process of holistic, lifelong, and experiential learning. Children can learn more than one language successfully through effective language programming, acknowledging First Nations English dialects and supporting the learning of Standard English. Read full message...
Speech and Language Disorders
Communication begins in the very first days of life and undergoes three periods:
Birth – 6 months (infants communicate unintentionally through their cries, gazes, vocalizations and early gestures);
6 months – 18 months (infants begin to communicate intentionally, e.g., they point at an object while directing adult’s visual attention to it);
18 months onward (children use language as the primary means of learning and communicating).
Most young children develop language and speech naturally, but some experience difficulties in learning to understand and use language. These children often have speech or language disorders, which may put them at a greater risk for learning, social, and behavioural problems. Children with identified language impairments at age 5 are about 8 times more likely to have learning disabilities at age 19 than their peers. Thus, identification, assessment and intervention are important in the early years as they will impact children’s long-term outcomes. Read full message...
Specific Language Impairment
Children with specific language impairment (SLI) have significant problems in learning to talk, despite developing normally otherwise. These children do not have hearing problems or physical disabilities that could explain their delays. In fact, a child cannot be diagnosed with SLI unless he/she scores within the normal range on nonverbal IQ. Children with SLI have poor vocabulary and grammar, as opposed to poor articulation or stuttering (speech impairments). A typical child with SLI at age 7 or 8 may sound like a 3-year-old (e.g., “me like cake” rather than “I like cake”). Approximately 7% of children have SLI, and the degree to which they are affected varies greatly. Development of SLI is strongly influenced by genetics; however, environmental factors can have an effect as well.
SLI is diagnosed when a child has extremely poor language skills; these children may score in the bottom 10% of children his or her age on well-designed language tests. Diagnosing SLI requires testing IQ, which is difficult to do in children younger than 4 years of age. Since early language delays put children at risk for a range of negative outcomes, including low literacy levels, poor mental health, and poor employment, it is recommended to begin treatment as early as possible. Research shows that early intervention can modify both short-tem and long-term outcomes. Read full message...
Speech Sound Disorders
Children with Speech Sound Disorders (SSDs) represent 91% of school-based Speech Language Pathologists’ (SLP) caseloads. Approximately 16% of all children at 3 years of age and 3.8% at 6 years of age have speech delays. Children whose speech is difficult to understand by 5 years and 6 months are likely to have difficulties in language, reading and writing, with 50-70% struggling academically through Grade 12. Thus, early assessment and intervention by an SLP are key to success for a child with an SSD.
There are generally five goals of an initial assessment: Read full message...
Language Delay in Disadvantaged Populations
Children’s early language development lays the foundation for their literacy skills and, in turn, their school readiness and school performance. This is why the interactions that children have with their parents and other caregivers prior to formal schooling are so important. The following social risk factors can have an effect on the development of a child’s language and literacy skills:
Socioeconomic status (SES) – in which family income and the level of parental education play a significant role;
Race/ethnicity – children from ethnic/racial minority backgrounds often come from low SES families and are more likely to perform poorly at school and drop out than the population at large; and
Language minority status – in the Canadian context, meaning that a language other than English or French is spoken at home.
In order to promote language skills of children from low SES, racial, and linguistic minority status backgrounds, it is important to begin supporting their language development and learning early in life. Read full message...