One of the most studied topics in history is language acquisition. Skinner (1957), a pioneer in this field, explains to us how in the first months of life, our children reproduce all the sounds of all languages and it is the parents who will selectively reinforce those corresponding to their native language. This selective reinforcement results in word selection. For example, the child asks for water and they reinforce it by giving him what he has asked for.
Other key aspect for language development is imitation, which is created with social interaction and is linked to the environment, culture and environment, giving meaning to the creation of language.
In order to explain language acquisition, it is important to keep the following concepts in mind:
- Voice: The sound we make when air from our lungs passes through the vocal folds in the larynx causing them to vibrate
- Speaking: It is the action of speaking that involves the muscular action and coordination of the lips and jaw, reproducing sounds that cause language to be formed.
- Language: Allows people to express themselves logically and includes the oral part, which is the reproduction of words, and non-verbal, which includes gestures, smiles and looks.
- Communication: Transmission of a message with different forms of expression, and that involves a sender and receiver
How does child language begin?
- From 0 to 6 months:
At this stage, they generally do their best to communicate with adults by trying to make sounds or babbling (the prelude to words) in this way they get our attention. Sometimes these sounds are mixed with cries, which together with gestures, looks and smiles (non-verbal language) will be their forms of expression.
In these first months they will recognize their mother's voice, then, around the fifth month, they discover the sounds of the space around them, creating more interaction. We must remember that not all babies make the same sounds and that each one progresses at their own pace. It is important to be attentive to his interaction, for example, if he smiles or shows a response when the mother speaks to him and, if there is no response, consult with a pediatrician.
- From 6 to 12 months:
They begin to look for more interaction and more requests appear: with their fingers they point to everything they like or want, with their hands they begin to say hello and goodbye. There is more intention in wanting to pronounce certain words and it is, also at this stage, when they show interest in animals, cars, etc., giving rise to the imitation of their sounds.
At this stage they can understand around 50 words and they better understand what the adult wants to communicate to them, nodding their head to what they are understanding. Both parents and caregivers, upon observing this dynamic, begin to ask them more questions, creating greater interest in learning in babies.
In this process each child will develop little by little and at their own pace. It is important to observe eye contact, if he has developed gestures aimed at communication, if he imitates any syllables and if he understands simple instructions. Otherwise, it is advisable to consult with a specialist.
One way to reinforce language is through games, songs and stories, since babies store all this information that is accompanied by many emotions. They develop and everything becomes more interesting for them, they discover their world and their desire to talk becomes more pronounced.
- From 12 to 18 months:
At this stage the language is more related to the object, here they begin to say that everything is “MINE”. Functional and symbolic play appears, like kitchenettes. They play at being superheroes and are curious to know the names of the objects, so they have a greater range to play, it is a world of imagining and creating.
Just as they are learning to say new words, they may not say them correctly. To correct them, we will do so by telling them just once how to say it correctly, without giving it any more importance.
At this stage your language will increase to approximately 250 or 300 words. Their language will vary and they will begin to form short sentences. We can reinforce it by reading stories, playing or singing, it will be a way to stimulate its expressiveness.
- From 24 to 36 months:
At this age they already feel greater security and firmness in their language, they want to know everything and become masters of questions. They will put a why in everything? or a what are you doing? Their sentences tend to be longer, they add verbs and pronouns and they make more sense and the pronunciation of words is getting better and better.
It is good to involve children in activities at home, based on their age and development, thus we encourage language by describing the action we are going to perform, thus stimulating the cognitive part and their autonomy.
Language acquisition is a very important stage in our children's development and we can accompany them by encouraging and stimulating it.