How can I know what basics we have going strong? What do I need to work on? (Part 3 of 3 in a series on Foundations of Language Development by Elaine Thiessen. Ideas in this section by Alyssa Johnson)
We hope by now you’re saying: “Second language learning just won’t happen unless my child has the basics of relationship and communication going strong.”
No matter what you’re hoping to help your child learn, it will always come back to relational connection because you can’t force their learning. A good quote from an internet mom goes: “Learning can only happen if a child is interested. If they’re not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at their head and calling it eating.”
How can we foster their interest? By inviting their attention to it.
How do we get and keep their attention? By connecting with them (voice, eyes, touch), helping them see we are on their side, then drawing them warmly, playfully into learning with us.
Yes, you say.
Seems so simple, you say.
But every mom can think of a time they wanted their child to learn or pay attention to something, and just dragged the child away from something else the child WAS interested in, then attempted to tell the child what to learn.
Meanwhile the child is squirming, messing around, or beginning a tantrum in response.
What went wrong? Failure to connect with the child before the learning begins.
Here’s a few tips for building connection you can do today:
If our children have the basics of strong communication skills with us, that is the sign our relationship can withstand a “new language”. What are the foundational basics of relationship/communication? (Part 2 of 3 in a series on Foundations of Language Development by Elaine Thiessen)
For our purposes here, we are talking about how language is learned, but it bears repeating: that is never in isolation from all the other areas that are actively developing in children.
Let’s look at the very ﬁrst things that a child develops and needs for emotional well-being and language learning—since we’ve just established that the two go together.
The communication milestones for babies in their ﬁrst six months of life include the following:
They remain the foundation stones for those relationships throughout the rest of life...
They remain the foundation stones for those relationships throughout the rest of life, and reoccur in most relationships that develop in a healthy way over the course of our lifetime.
What is the foundation of your family's language learning process? (Part 1 of blog series on language development by Elaine Thiessen)
Building on strong foundations is not just a strong beginning—it also provides for a strong ending. To do this with children, most of us need to invest in understanding what that strong foundation looks like.
Since this blog is about language learning (bilingualism), we can narrow our focus to what a strong foundation for language learning looks like, or better yet, sounds like.
Even doing this, however, there is often a common mistake— language is isolated from all the other ways that children are developing, as if it is something that blossoms without inﬂuence or impact from social, emotional and even (or especially?) physical development.
Children’s new words almost always match up with what they have going on in their development, be it social, cognitive, emotional or physical in nature.
Language is an expression of all that is ﬂourishing in a child’s life...
but by far the most important area that impacts language development is the connection they have to safe, loving people.
When relationships are warm and supportive, children want to talk to and begin to sound like their care-givers—they imitate what they hear and then attempt to communicate with people they love.
Not rocket science…but sometimes we forget. You already know that, but take a moment to think about it.
Who are the people you WANT to talk to?
The power of books is not to be underestimated.
The right book can draw in a distracted child’s attention, it can calm down a fussy, upset kid, it can launch children into their own imaginative play that could last much longer than it takes to read the story.
A book can give words to something a child has never expressed before.
A book can open up a new world of foreign language for the eager listener in the hands of a nurturing native speaker!
Here’s more than fifty fantastic books that will work in just about any second language context/culture AND are captivating to almost every child.
Belonging is at the heart of human relationships—it is essential to what we are doing here, building a community that sustains life on earth.
You might say it is the soul of the human race: “It is not good to be alone.”
Or you could listen to how Brene Brown says it: “Connection is why we are here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”
Belonging begins for every child in those relationships where their physical needs are met, usually their parents. That sense of belonging within family is primal and when it is given sparingly or on conditions that are hard to achieve, it produces pain rather than the delight we are made for.
Connection and trust in childhood begins with food and basic care, but it is developed and becomes endlessly richer by the sharing of language.
Family jokes, sayings, and familiar prayers all create a culture that says “we are us.” Or as Ellen Pompeo says it as Meredith in Grey’s Anatomy, “You are my person.” We belong to each other.
Sometimes we move our families out of their familiar “nest” of neighbourhood, home, routines, friendships, and relatives—and take them across the world for any one of many possible reasons.
At this time our kids need more than ever to know that they still belong: that this set of family connections will never be broken. This becomes their stability in the crazy whirl of leave-taking, travel, and re-settling. A maze of broken connections requires the central anchor of family to remain more reliable than ever before.