As our children grow up, their interactions with the world increase and they learn different ways to communicate their needs, wants, thoughts and ideas. Language – whether verbal or non verbal; spoken by words or expressions, is an important life skill to have. So on the 12th day of the #blogchatterA2Z challenge, let’s talk about L for Language.
Typically when we say language we either mean the spoken or written word. However, language is a system of gestures, signs, sounds and symbols used to communicate our thoughts. Add to that our body language and facial expressions along with the tone and tenor of the spoken word and you will understand how critical it is to use all of these effectively to have strong interpersonal relationships both at personal and professional levels. If you have seen the movie “The Iron Lady”, you may remember the grilling Margaret Thatcher puts herself through to perfect her language including tone and tenor. Hence while it may seem an easy skill to have, using it effectively is not as easy as it may seem.
Let’s have a look at the different ways in which we can help our children develop effective language skills:
Develop a strong vocabulary: word knowledge is a very critical part of overall language development in children. It helps children express themselves with more clarity, understand concepts better and even think better. Inculcating a love for reading early on will help significantly in boosting a strong vocabulary – in a way that conversations or hearing stories or watching TV can never do. But additionally, talk to them a lot, include as many diverse words as possible. Provide detailed answers to their questions. Ask them to repeat or paraphrase what you tell them.
Play word games: what better way to learn than play. There are a number of good games that you can play with children to help them develop depth in their vocabulary and learn to express themselves. Sharing some of them below. You can also devise your own games:
Show and Tell: this is a really good game that not only helps a child learn how to describe an object, it also helps them develop clarity of thought (how to describe an object, what aspects to describe, the order in which you describe etc.)
Story Telling: Show children a series of pictures and ask them to weave a story around it. Or give them a prompt or a few words around which they should develop a story. It helps both in developing a good vocabulary as well as creativity and imagination
Extempore: this is a good activity to help children think on the spot and develop clarity of thought as they speak. As compared to preparing a speech, extempore doesn’t give much time to think and helps children learn to think on their feet and use the right words at the right time.
Rhyming games: make up poems, small rhymes, get into word play with alliterations and puns. Am reminded of the movie Khoobsurat!
Using suitable language: as children grow up, communication skills become very important. It becomes important to understand how to use language effectively. In this context it is important to understand that the kind of language used should be suitable to the speaker, the audience, the context and the topic. If a teenager uses language used by academicians, it won’t sound right. If the audience is made up of lay people, using jargon will not work. If the topic is technical, usage of technicalities is appropriate and so on.
Using inclusive language: I talked about being inclusive a few days ago. In the same context it is important that the language we use and teach our children to use is inclusive. Typical exclusions are gender based (using only him or he), disabled people (using hurtful/ disrespectful language), ethnic etc. A lot of this will be influenced by how you yourself talk and interact with your children and others.
Using respectful language: words are powerful and children need to know they can hurt. Using words wisely is very important. Similarly, it is important to teach children to be respectful in their conduct and use respectful language. This is becoming even more important as a lot of our communication happens over emails and other electronic mediums. For example, telling someone that their viewpoint is totally baseless will not get anyone anywhere. Instead, trying to understand their viewpoint or respectfully agreeing to disagree may be more meaningful. Even criticism can be done in a manner that is not hurtful and can be used constructively. Again you are the first person your children will learn from – so it is important to observe how you interact with your own kids, especially in cases of disagreement.
Encourage them to write: encourage children to write a journal (I have consistently failed to get my son to do this though) – this helps them with their writing and composition skills, clarity of thought and enriches their ability to express.
Understanding tone and tenor: words are not always enough to convey meanings. The tone in which something is said is equally important. Is someone being serious or is it a joke? Is that real concern or not? Is something being said in sarcasm? Understanding the tone is important and it is equally important for children to understand their own tone when the communicate.
InterpretingBody Language: body language is a primary skill and it is important to teach our children to understand the various cues one gets from others and the cues they give out. The way we teach our children to be careful of what they speak, in the same way we need to teach them that they can control their body and the messages it sends out. A smile or the lack of it can convey a lot. Rolling of eyes or sticking out their tongue would mean disrespect. Make a game of acting out different emotions and ask them to guess. As they grow, they will be able to appreciate that understanding the body language of their loved ones will help them develop stronger bonds.
That’s it for today – I hope you found these useful and let me know if you have any suggestions as well.