How we start matters

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 first thing you want to provide for a strong foundation for language learning is a relationship.

Not a teacher who corrects, not a prison warden who keeps everyone in their place, not a trainer who pushes individuals to their absolute limits.

A parent is and should always be a warm, safe place to come ‘home’ to— someone who sees who you are, delights in you as a small human and says in lots of little ways,

​“You matter to me. No matter what, you matter.”

Take a moment to think again.

These are the people we want to be like and talk to in our own lives, aren’t they?

    The other fundamental principle for building strong foundations for our children, and this again is such an obvious thing you will not be surprised, but here it is:  go back to the beginning whenever you are learning a new skill or if you see something that needs your attention.

If you are starting a new language, start from the very beginning of how children learn language. If you are learning a new physical skill, go back and start with what comes first. If you are learning self-control, go back and learn how self control develops in children.

Interested in hearing more? This is the topic of my first session in the course “Building a Multilingual Home” and you can watch the first part of it for free here.
Next post will be specifically covering the foundation of early linguistic and emotional development in babies and children. Stay tuned!