She has been in our lives for close to five years now and not a single day has passed without us making a remark about her language skills. Initially, it was about her 'aargh, aargh' and it soon graduated to what would be her ‘’first word’’. There was so much excitement around when we counted how many words she spoke together. The joy her first full sentence gave us was priceless! And then, once she was hooked to cartoons, we were surprised how soon her vocab, accent and even actions changed.
Later, the world of playschool and formal schools expanded her horizons and my little birdy has become a 'chirpy chick'.
In this journey, there was one question, which we have been asked by countless friends, anxious parents, teachers, day care instructors, everyone and anyone we meet, that is- What did we do that her communication skills in English and Hindi are so fluent?
Are you guys from America? Or have you people lived abroad? Are common remarks by people who have quizzed us on her language skills.
At times, we have laughed it through and get away by saying ‘whishi, whashi abrah ka dabrah’ parenting. But on most occasions we have given a lengthy explanation. This is an effort to put together our list for all parents struggling with language issues of children.
Here it goes:
Don’t talk in sign language when you can respond. Always explain who, what, where and why.
A friend cautioned us early and we took it as fish takes it to water- Never ever imitate or do baby talk to your infant or even a grown up toddler while interacting. Always, be clear in your diction.
Treat the child like another human being on day 1, so while doing anything for her/him, with her/him, talk it out to her/him. Don’t bother on whether the child understands’s or not. I believed mine did after a while. So yours would surely.
The child learns what he/she hears. So you speak, English, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali any language he/she will pick them all. There could be slight messing up between all, but don’t freak out. Their transmitters sort it at the appropriate time. What is important is that the child should be able to communicate what he/she wants to say.
A child’s vocabulary grows with the speed of light, depending upon exposure levels. So regulate the kind of content you don’t want your child to learn. And you can only do that by keeping a close tab on what the child is hearing, with whom she/he is interacting and ofcourse what the child is watching.
If you are touchy about making your child learn your mother tongue then don’t bank on others to make him/her learn. Start speaking in all times.
If you are one of those who feel ashamed that your child is not speaking proper English, stop insulting or begrudging your baby. It’s you who is to be blamed. Now pull yourself up, and sharpen your grammar. For, the day you start communicating in English with the child you will start getting responses in English.
The child should know the difference in tones, especially in the voice of parents/guardians/teachers/wardens etc. And the best way is to teach it early. Identification that a reprimand would follow after a stern tone is a learned behaviour for the child. So be consistent in your tone. Always remember you mess up and so does the child. So you can’t afford mistakes.
We live in real world and not some ideal dreamy place where we can isolate or insulate our children from slangs or abusive words. If you have been avoiding using bad language at home that’s great. But don’t punish the child on picking these up from somewhere outside; always explain good and bad language. At the end, we don’t want a shy child struggling to find meanings of abusive words. It's better we tell them they exist and are not good
In all stages of growing up, a child’s language finds new dimensions of aggression. And it can only be dealt with firmness and consistency in your approach. So when mine whines, she knows it would not affect us and we would not give in to her demands. So decide your limits and define your boundaries.
Last but not the least, I followed self-designed ‘’language rules’’ dealing with my daughter. I am sure you can think some for yours too.