Language and Communication Skills

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Introduction

All humans are born with a need to communicate. Language is the tool which allows them to do this. It begins very simply with crying sounds used to tell the parents how they are feeling and builds up quickly, by the age of 5 they can usually use a huge rane of words, put together in complex sentences to describe, question, discuss, express feelings etc.

Language has to be learnt. All babies babble in some way, even deaf babies. Language development begins at birth – a new mothers first reaction when holding her baby is to hold her close to her chest and look directly into her face and talk to her. This is the surest way to give her baby the best start.

The development of oral language is one of the child’s most natural and impressive accomplishments.

Almost all children learn the rules of their language at an early age through use and over time, without formal instruction. Thus one source of learning must be genetic. Human beings are born to speak; they have an innate gift for figuring out the rules of the language used in their environment. The environment itself is also a significant factor.

The inborn abilities and environmental content of the developing child are both of critical importance if children are to be successful in this journey to linguistic competence.

A child can learn these skills very early on in life, but training and motivation are of great importance to the perfection of the technique.

It will be discussed how children learn these skills and why these skills are extremely important in the developments of a child.

Main Body

The communication process begins the moment a child is born.

Communication is both verbal and non-verbal. The non-verbal interactions between a young child and his/her family lay the important foundation for later language development. Speech and language are the tools that we use to communicate with one another or share thoughts, ideas and emotions.

Speech is talking (verbal); it’s one way that language is expressed. Infants have to realise that the sounds we make with our mouths carry meaning, that is constructed from discrete units (words), that words can only be combined in certain ways, and that there are many, many words to learn.

Language can also be expressed in other ways (non-verbal), such as writing, signing or even some gestures such as eye blinks or mouth movements to communicate.

Communication (a central force that drives the development of language) begins before children utter their first words. Children employ the face, body movements, cries and other pre-verbal vocalisations to communicate their needs, desires and moods to those around them.

The Face
Even very young children find the face fascinating to watch, Carpenter (1974) and Sherrod (1979) believed that from the age of two weeks they will fixate on a face in preference to other visual stimuli, especially if the face is moving in speech. However, Barrera and Maurer (1981 a,b) were unable to observe any evidence of selective attention given to the configuration of the face in children less than two months old.

Meltzoff and Moore (1977; 1983 a,b) have made even more dramatic claims; in their observations they claim that children as young as two to three days old will attempt to copy facial gestures made by adults around them. Again however Hayes and Watson (1981) were unable to observer these findings. If Metzoff and Moore’s observations are correct, their findings suggest that even a very young child can have enough facial neuromuscular control to make expressive gestures of attention. They also believe that a newborn child can not only copy facial expressions but can also attempt to copy rudimentary manual gestures. As a child matures and gains motor control, the twelve month old child will raise its arms as a gestural request to be picked up; will hold out an open palm as a request to be given an object, wave goodbye and so on....
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