Use Observation to Improve Linguistic Capabilities in Child

On our blog exists a wealth of posts in Chinese on child development and education. This series of posts is inspired by one of those posts. You can see the original here.

We are breaking down the original post into multiple posts. One of the reasons is due to the way Chinese language is written, each word takes up the same amount of space typographically. Thus, a ten word sentence in Chinese takes up maybe ⅓ of the space the same sentence does in English. As a result, though the original essay in Chinese doesn’t look very long, to cover all the points from it in one English post would require a post 3 times that length! Plus, the Chinese language can express numerous complex ideas within a few characters and is very dense. We would not be doing the original any justice if we tried to cram everything in one article.

This blog post focuses on the innate ability of young children to pick up languages. Thus, even though Chinese is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, it’s also so easy that even a baby can learn it. In other words, with the right nurturing environment, your child will absorb additional languages almost effortlessly. (Although we all know it takes a LOT of effort on the parents’ part. Just a lot less effort from the child!)

To unlock that potential, we simply need to observe the child and their daily environment; provide the right “ingredients,” model ways to combine these “ingredients,” create an environment that encourages curiosity, and practice, practice, practice!

In this post, we will be focusing on how observation will increase your child’s linguistic capabilities. In this case, we will be using learning the Chinese language as an example.

 1. Observe your child, their environment, and their daily living activities 

One of the simplest ways you can improve your child’s Chinese is to give them vocabulary that is relevant to their lives and interests. Tap into the power of your child’s innate interests by teaching them the appropriate terms for the activities and subjects they enjoy.

Where do they spend most of their time? What do they do throughout the day in these environments? With whom do they spend that time? What do they enjoy? What do they hate? What would your child choose to do if they could use their own discretion without any adult interference?

For example, perhaps your child loves dinosaurs. You may need to spend an evening looking up names of different dinosaurs. You can provide Chinese books that show lots of dinosaurs and their Chinese names. You can watch videos or listen to audiobooks of dinosaurs in Chinese. Whatever is dinosaur related, provide it for your child. You will be amazed at how quickly they can learn all the different dinosaur names and how much they will talk about dinosaurs to you, their friends, or any human with a pulse and ears.

Also, this is why so many music and Mommy and Me classes teach children songs about their bodies, faces, foods, animals, and feelings. These are definitely relevant to the toddler and preschool set and they’re more likely to remember the words because of it!

Note: This will require prep work if you yourself do not know the vocabulary. It definitely requires a willingness to say, “I don’t know, let me look that up” and spend time looking up translations.

 2. Observe how your children process information and knowledge 

Does your child prefer to listen to stories or watch videos? Do they remember terms better if they do crafts or physical activity? Do they flip endlessly through books and pictures? Do your kids recall everything if it’s for a game or competition?

While there is definitely more than one way to learn and process new words - and you should expose your child to as many of these as possible - it’s still important to know which ways your child has a natural affinity for. This information can only help you as you tailor their learning.

 3. Read to supplement actual experience 

Realistically, it is not possible for a child to experience everything personally in their life. Reading can give the same benefits as actual experience.

Why is this under observation?

Your child will be reading the observations of different writers and translating those words into their own memories and experience.

For example, different authors describe the feelings of joy, happiness, anxiety, or hope with different terms and to varying degrees. They will use a variety of examples, imagery, and metaphors to flesh out a story and thus, your child will learn all these new ways to express similar and disparate feelings, thoughts, and lived experiences.

This is also why reading stories from diverse points of view and genres is so vital to a well-rounded vocabulary. If you only read the same types of stories to your child, it only reinforces similar terms whereas if you read widely, you constantly add new words to your child’s lexicon.

The next post in this Linguistic Series will be about memory and why building up a vast storage of words is important. Stay tuned.