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Wednesday
Jun082011

FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES: TEACHING YOUR TODDLER THE LINGO (OR LANGUAGE)

"WHATTUP!"
As someone who moonlights teaching English to adults (technical writing for business of all things), I know the importance of mastering the language, and the earlier you can grasp all of its concepts the better. So you won't hear me complain about the fact that my 15-month-old daughter is well ahead of the curve when it comes to conquering many of the common words you and I use everyday. At last count, I think she had mastered about 50 of them, but more importantly, she is slowly beginning to put two and two together and stringing a couple of words together at a time to make short, grammatically incorrect phrases. Now, I'm not saying she doesn't need some work when it comes to diction, or inflection, or verb conjugation- she should conquer that by junior kindergarten- but for now I'm happy to see that she understands the concept of communication, and its importance to her development.
Children are sponges, and with so many people (me, her mom, grandparents, caregivers, aunts and uncles) to help her learn the lingo, it amazes me what comes out of my daughter's mouth on any given day. Some days I come home and my wife can't wait to show me the new word or phrase my daughter has learned for that day. In quick succession she has gone from babbling to a few key words like "Mommy" and "Daddy" and "Doggy" to more complex words like "No" and "Now" and "Night Night." And she has no problem using them in the correct context:

"D.D., are you tired?"
"Night night."
"Do you want Daddy to take you?"
"No!"
"Do you want Mommy to take you?"
"Now!"

But what's more amazing is her ability to put ideas together on her own. It's one thing for your daughter to know how to properly use the words "more" and "please," but watching her put them both together for the desired result of conning her father out of his whole bowl of ice cream is priceless. Or seeing her frustration when she's sitting in her Zaidy's lap, and he's not paying attention to her when she wants him to read to her, and she grabs the book, shakes it vigorously and says: "Grandpa.. READ!"

In the words of Hannibal Smith, "I love it when a plan comes together." And, there is nothing that makes me prouder than to watch my daughter conquer the complexities of the English language at such a young age. Sure, all her friends are walking, but I'll take talking over walking any day. Why get something yourself when you can ask someone else to do it for you? My kid knows her first and her last name, her age, and her favorite colour (yellow). She is able to effectively communicate when she is finished eating ("all done"), when she wants the food off your plate ("french fries") and the appropriate way to pet a dog (while gently stroking the beast say: "nice"). She even knows her geography, playfully screaming "Bubbie" when we are within three blocks of her house. Sure, she still likes to say "hi" repeatedly to every person she encounters, forcing me to strike up conversations I don't want to have with complete strangers, but you take the good with the bad. From my experience, and this works for adults too, first you teach them the words, and then you teach them when to use them.

Here are some helpful links to help you get your toddler down with the lingo:

http://www.englishclub.com/young-learners/english-for-babies.htm
http://www.pbs.org/parents/readinglanguage/baby/talking_milestone_baby.html
http://www.ivillage.com/baby-talk-8-easy-and-fun-ways-improve-your-babys-language-skills/6-n-136622
http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1968874,00.html

And, remember, if you want the TV to teach your child the language be prepared for some interesting conversations... with your daycare provider, other parents, child services...

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