Sunday, December 11, 2005

Motherese, Parentese, Gesturese?

We all know that interaction with children is believed to help them with their language acquisition - Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner and loads of others tell us so - but did we know that our body language could affect this too?

An article in today's Scotsman newspaper, citing research from Maria O'Neill at Portsmouth University, suggests that simple non-verbal communication like "Pointing at objects such as a dog while repeating the name; Tapping when counting items; Nodding and head shaking when saying yes or no" can rapidly improve a child's understanding of language.

This may not sound like such a revolutionary concept (and maybe it isn't, but you can never rely on a newspaper to tell you the full story!) and it's fairly clear that you can't really help children label things around them without some body language to identify the things they're labelling, but the real success of this approach seems to be with kids who haven't developed as quickly as others. Maybe it means that certain "learning styles" (a trendy area of teaching at the moment) can be applied to one year olds as well as 14 year olds and the rest of us.

Or perhaps it just means that we should be careful about slapping our heads and miming "d'oh" when our children can't identify their names on a Christmas card and open their brother's instead...

Useful for:
ENA1 - Child Language Acquisition

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