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Archive for the ‘listening’ Category

Understanding the Silent Period

Although much research has been done about second language acquisition, it is still a mysterious topic for some people. Which is very strange since 17.9% of the population in the USA (2000 Census) said they spoke a language other than English.

But acquiring a second (or third, etc) language is a complicated process that varies greatly depending on the experience and exposure with the new language, the learner’s  personality, and their emotions around learning a new language. The silent period is an initial phase of the language acquisition process, during which children acquiring a new language in natural settings are silent and concentrate on comprehension. So, literally they don’t speak much during this period but they may respond when necessary in a non-verbal way or by using a set of memorized phrases.

However, this silent period phenomenon is also observed when we see how children acquire their native language. We know that during typical language acquisition, a baby spends many months listening to the people around it long before they start using words. Comprehension always comes before production in a natural process of language acquisition, therefore, when acquiring a second language, it is natural that they also follow this process. But, because usually children who come from bilingual homes start learning or are more consistently exposed to their second language when they come to school, it is expected that they speak their second language quickly, without having them the opportunity to follow the normal acquisition process. This can be frustrating to teachers since the length of the silent period can vary greatly for students in classrooms from a few days to a year, and because the child is silent in the dominant classroom language, it can be hard to know where they are in acquiring English.

Next week, I’ll give some suggestion to the classroom teacher who has a student going through the silent period!

Do you have any experiences with silent period you want to share?

Typical Language Development: 3-4 years

ahhh 3 year olds, the babies are growing. At this age they are more active, talk more and they want more independence. They are exploring the new world and trying to make sense of it. Now, they understand and can express themselves better, so here’s what to expect:

Expressive Language

  • They talk about activities at school or at friends’ homes.
  • People outside of the family usually understand child’s speech.
  • They use a lot of sentences that have 4 or more words.
  • They usually talk easily without repeating syllables or words.

Receptive Language

  • They hear you when you call from another room.
  • They hear the television or radio at the same loudness level as other family members.
  • They answer simple “who?”, “what?”, “where?”, and “why?” questions.

What can you do to help encourage language 

You should continue doing the things you were encouraged to do between 2-3 years old. But now expand on social communication and storytelling skills by “acting out” scenarios of daily routine such as cooking, taking naps, or going to the doctor with a dollhouse or other toys. Do the same type of role-playing activity when playing dress-up. As always, ask your child to repeat what he or she has said if you do not understand it completely. This shows that what he or she says is important to you.

Have they shared any interesting news from school or daycare?

Music Benefits…

…language skills!!

I love this topic! I’m combining two loves: language and music! The best part is that one helps the other, which makes my job a lot easier and more fun!

Have you ever wondered why children enjoy singing the same song over and over and over again? Here’s why. Children are learning so manythings at the same time, that it can get frustrating, so when they learn to do something well, they like to practice and maybe show off a little! They are proud of their accomplishment! Which is perfect when they are developing because they learn to perfect their skills!

Here are some of the areas of language that children develop while singing: vocabulary, comprehension, listening, expression

Vocabulary: Children’s songs are highly thematic. They talk about a situation (Itsy Bitsy Spider) or about animals (Old MacDonald) or about our body parts (Head, shoulders, knees and toes). While singing these songs they are learning tons of vocabulary words. The more words they know, the longer and better sentences they make, and the better they can communicate their thoughts!

Comprehension: While singing songs, children start learning if the words are talking about an animal or a toy or a color. We might use a toy horse when singing Old MacDonald and they are now learning that the word horse goes with that toy they really like. Or we touch our body parts when singing Head, shoulders, knees and toes. That’s comprehension!

Listening: When children are learning new songs they have to pay attention to the words so they can imitate them. They have to be attentive to the intonation and pronunciation. And all that is required is to listen!

Expression: After they listen, they start imitating, practicing those words. When children know the songs completely, they transfer that knowledge to every day situations. Maybe after they learn to sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider, now they can talk about spiders if they see one! They might see one climbing up something and talk about how they are going up the water spout!

So when your children sing that song 20 times a day, just think that they are learning new words, learning pronunciation, using the correct intonation of the word and also practicing how to correctly articulate the sounds! Did you have any clue they are learning ALL these skills when they sing one song? (20 times a day)

Another benefit of singing is that children are able to memorize the words faster because the can chunk or divide in small parts the sentences and even the words. Some songs divide one word in syllbles and that helps children learn the word much better. Plus, repetition is the key to learn something new (hence the 20 times a day!). And how much more fun it is to sing all day! Wouldn’t you prefer to learn things by singing, than sitting in a boring office trying to memorize next week’s presentation?

Ahhhhh I love my job!

Are there any skills you’d love to practice 20 times a day?