What does it mean to use rich language with your child?
As I discussed in my previous post, one great tool for laying a strong language foundation is to use rich language.
Rich language isn’t necessarily flowery language or fancy language. You don’t have to be a poet or have a PhD in literature to use rich language with your child. You can model rich language by using a variety of words in grammatically correct sentences.
Now, I’ll confess that even after I took undergraduate courses in English, I STILL make grammatical errors in English. And Spanish. And Portuguese. I’m not saying you need to speak your heritage language or a foreign language impeccably in order to speak that language with your child. But, the majority of the time, you want to speak in the language in which you’re most comfortable and in which you can give the strongest language model.
The key word there is the majority of the time. If you're learning a foreign language alongside your child, then it's wonderful to set aside time during the day to practice and speak with your child in the foreign language. If you don't speak perfectly, that's alright. You can learn alongside your child and still speak with them often in your strongest language so that they have a really strong language foundation.
What if you don't speak your heritage language perfectly? The same applies to you! If you grew up in a bilingual home but aren't as fluent in your home language as you'd like, don't let that stop you from speaking with your child in this language. Just be mindful that at least half of the time, you're speaking in a language in which you can provide RICH language models.
So, what are those rich models I keep talking about?
There’s research that supports that the more complex language that parents use, the stronger their child’s language will be. So, we want to use language in a way that allows us to describe many things in a child’s environment in a variety of ways. Here’s an example of rich language. Let’s imagine that your child who is two-years-old is looking at his truck. You decide to join him in his play. You grab another truck and begin to say,
Let’s drive to the store with our trucks!
Here we go! Vroom!
We’re driving our trucks so fast!
Oh no! Our trucks crashed.
Hey trucks, are you alright?
Let’s drive the trucks under the table.
Your truck is big! My truck is little!
Let’s wash our trucks!
Our trucks are so clean and shiny!
So, there’s a few things that I did there. I used some of the same key words over and over. I didn’t ask a lot of questions, instead, I commented! I talked about concepts that are appropriate for a two-year-old like big/little. I described what we were seeing. And, you can’t hear it through the computer screen, but my voice was fun and excited!
Now, I want you to pick one activity this week where you can use really rich language with your child. Tell me how it goes!