Talk Together: Closing the word gap in the early years Recommended

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By Lorelli Mojica

This new article offers great advice for monitoring and developing young children’s initial communication and language skills.

developing communication in the early years
  1. Introduction to language in the early years
  2. One-to-one communication and language activities
  3. The nursery environment
  4. Group communication and language activities

Language in the Early Years

As young children observe, watch and play with others they begin to absorb the different elements of what is required to use language. They learn how to use language socially, and develop an awareness of their listeners, thinking about what and how they are saying things. They learn vocabulary and sounds associated with the language and begin to use them correctly. Once children begin to understand what others are saying, they start to learn how to begin put their own thoughts into words and sentences to be able to respond.

Language Development

Children’s learning of language develops at different rates, but it is in the first three years of a child’s life that the foundations of language skills are being formed. Research has shown that there is a link between poor language development in children at a very young age to their academic and future successes. It is the social interactions with the adults in these early years that is key.

Language Difference or Language Delay

In the UK, a language difference may be identified when a child is learning English as an additional language to the language they use at home. In their home language, development milestones are being reached as expected but differences in their acquisition of English may be apparent. With both rich and varied language stimulation in their first language at home and English in their setting, these language differences will disappear. It is when children are not reaching the expected language milestones in their first language that there may be a need to seek advice. Through regular verbal interactions, signs of language delay can be identified earlier and the necessary support put into place.

Stages of Language Acquisition

Although language learning varies at different rates from child to child, there are key milestones that give an indication of children’s language development in their very early years. In the Early Years Outcomes curriculum, Communication and Language is assessed in English, and children are expected to be secure in this area (30-50 months age band) by the time they leave nursery. Where English is not a child’s first language, it is important for practitioners to establish the strength of the child’s first language, and that language development milestones are as expected. Additionally for bilingual children, it is important to understand their stage of English Language Acquisition.

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