The Power of Language: Proven ways to improve child development

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Certainly, action speaks louder than words. But, do we know the importance of the words, especially in the development of a child? Do you believe in: ‘language shapes thoughts’? If not, why not?

There is no single answer for the debate on which came first: thoughts or language. Ludwig Wittgenstein‘s perspective of language, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” might sound exaggerated to some of us.

Do you know about the indigenous people of Himba Tribe of Namibia or the Kuuk Thaayorre tribe of Aborigine? Language shapes the cognitive abilities subtly, but profoundly, say the researchers.

“Speak a new language so that the world will be a new world.”

Rumi

Do we need language to communicate with each other? We know a lot of animals speak with each other, without the use of any language. Sounds and signs are enough to communicate our thoughts to others. So, why is language important?

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, it goes to his heart.”

Nelson Mandela
The Power of Language

If you put a group of strangers inside a room for eight hours, they seem to organize and group themselves naturally by the language they speak. Culture creates language, and as time goes on, language shapes culture.

Language is crucial for problem-solving skills, creative thinking and new perspectives.

Fun Facts about languages…

Himba Language

Himba Tribe has only three classifications of colour: buru, dambu and zuzu.

Himba tribe identifies the different shade easily

While the tribe were able to easily identify the odd man out in this image,

Tribe struggles to spot the blue colour

they struggled to identify blue as a different colour.

Why? Not because they can’t see a different shade than green. But, because their language identifies those shades as the same colour.

The Kuuk Thaayorre Tribe uses cardinal direction terms instead of “right, forward, left or back.” So, to speak with a Kuuk Tribe, you must know about north northeast or southwest. It is fascinating how it develops the spatial knowledge and navigational ability of the Thaayorre speakers.

The Mandarin speakers use vertical metaphor instead of spatial metaphors like ‘behind us, or above me’. Last month is ‘up month’ in Mandarin. Russian speakers must change their verbs to indicate gender and tense.

How does these differences affect the thoughts?

It doesn’t. Maybe, there is a possibility that we all see what’s happening in the world the same way. Language plays an important role in how we express it. Some languages don’t explore a lot of what’s happening around us, like other languages.

How to use languages to our advantage?

We know language improves cognitive thinking and problem-solving skills. But do we know how to apply it to our child development? Here are some easy ways:

Ladder of Feedback

Ladder of Feedback, as Sonya terBorg explains, is a more structured way to exchange feedback between students. Why do we need feedback? Simply put, we all need feedback to improve our lives. As kids grow, they have a lot of questions. They will have lots of choices and decisions to make. How do we tell them which option to choose or value?

The Ladder of Feedback

Remember these five words: Clarify, Value, Concerns, Suggest and Thanks for a better feedback session. Questions related to these five categories improve the conversation too. It also helps the kids to think from a different perspective by accepting suggestions from others.

Listening:

I would like to translate listening to “saying nothing.” We need not explain, add or suggest any new ideas while you’re listening to your kids. Ask yourself: Am I allowing them to express their thoughts completely and deeply.

Thinking:

Process their thoughts and throw questions that genuinely show interest in their ideas. “That’s one way to think. Did you look on another perspective?” or “I understand that you have some idea about this subject. But, what is the answer?” are some of the questions that improve the thinking ability of the kids.

Community:

When you discuss something with the kids, always go for collaboration or inclusiveness. Say ‘We’ more than ‘you’. It establishes that you both are learners in the kid’s mind. It also reduces the fear of making mistakes, as kids won’t have to take complete responsibility for going wrong in their tests.

“Oh, I see that we made some mistakes in learning Mathematics this time.”

“We can learn about pronouns together, and see if we can do it quickly.”

Ensure you don’t seed division when kids start learning.

Identity:

Introduce new words every day. It improves the vocabulary introducing them to new identities. When studying mathematics, tell them who mathematicians are. If you are reading a book about space, then tell them who scientists and astronauts are. It makes them think ahead to find who they want to be in life.

Initiative:

Instead of giving a ready-made answer to the problem, ask the kids how they want to solve it. Instead of “A is for Apple,” ask “What are the objects that you know to start with the letter A?” This method improves their way of creative and critical thinking.

Mindfulness:

The language of mindfulness encourages the kids to take risks and answer even if they are wrong. Instead of saying “It might not work,” try saying, “That’s one approach. How about trying this instead?” or “It is a good idea, or can we try the other one for good results?”

Always keep in mind the effects of your words on the kids. The negate answers could completely stop them from even trying the next time.

“Mumma, you promised to take me to the park today.” You realize that you have tight deadlines at work, and you can’t make it.

Instead of saying you can’t keep up your promise, offer them a better solution. “My work is not yet finished. How about you let Mumma work quietly, so we can go for a little stroll in the garden later instead? We can go to the park on the weekend. What say?”

The Seven Language Moves of Learning, helps the parent or teachers to improve child development deepening the connection between you and the kid.

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”

Buddha

By effectively using language, your child learns to hear words, instead of voice. They become aware of different situations, problems and possible ways to solve them.

To learn more about children development based on language, check these articles out:

Creating Cultures of Thinking: Language

Colour Categories: confirmation of the relativity hypothesis

Does Language Shape Thought?: Mandarin and English Speakers’ Conceptions of Time

Until next time,

With lots of love,

Sahana, aka the Tummy Mummy.

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