Hesperian Health Guides
Learning language early is important
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The best years for learning language are from birth to age 7. Usually a child learns most language between 2 and 4 years old. If a child does not learn language by the time he is about 7 or 8 years old, it will be more difficult for the child to learn it later. If a deaf child does not learn a spoken or a signed language, it will also be difficult for him to fully develop thinking skills. That is why learning language is so important.
How children learn language
Languages use symbols such as sounds, writing, or signs that allow people to communicate with each other. Reading, writing, speaking, and signing are all ways of using language.
The first step a child takes to learn language will be to learn the names for people and the words for things he sees every day — words like 'mama', 'cat', or 'baby'. But often, the first words he will say are to make something happen — words like 'milk', 'no', or 'up'.
Up, up, up, Adom!
|A child learns that words |
have power to make things
happen. It is very rewarding
for a child to communicate
and get what he wants.
Children first learn single words. Then they learn the rules for using words together. As they use language with other people, over time they learn the rules of language.
Children learn language by listening and seeing the language around them and practicing what they hear and see. Children develop their mental abilities when they learn more words and use them according to the language's rules. They make mistakes, and then begin to communicate successfully.
Language and thinking develop together
Language allows us to communicate with others. It also allows us to
communicate with ourselves. The language a child learns when he
is young gives him the tools to develop his thinking — the language
he uses to talk to himself. So even how we think depends on how
much language we know and can use.
The more children are able to learn a language — whether they speak or sign — the more they can understand their world, express themselves, think, hope, plan, and communicate with the people around them.
Children develop their thinking when:
- they see or hear people using words or signs to exchange information.
- they use language to describe what they see, hear, and touch.
- they use language to express what they experience.
- they use language to make connections between things.
Basic thinking skills and language
As they learn language, children organize their thoughts and make connections between different ideas:
If I find wood for the fire, then Mama can cook dinner.
I can reach the ball if I use a stick.
First I add the egg. Then I mix in flour to make the dough sticky.
tonight, so we need only 4 plates.
This is a pineapple, that is a mango. Both are kinds of fruit.
Mama is worried because Magda is so sick.
It is important that learning language becomes a part of the life of a child who is deaf or cannot hear well. Parents, community workers, and teachers must encourage children to learn and to use a language to express themselves, to communicate with others, and to develop their mental abilities.