About every six months or so another language learning program is introduced to American families. Varying programs use flashcards, sign language, or a variety of other props and methods to convince parents that their toddlers will surpass others if they just use this proven method. A new study that’s come out of Stanford University may have proven that these programs are nothing compared to the voice of parents.
Dr. Anne Fernald authored the study and set out to study the differences in language acquisition among children across all socio-economic backgrounds. The study revealed that babies and toddlers who received grammar rich and varied language had a definite edge over children who did not.
So, what does this mean for language learners, specifically language learners who are trying to learn in a virtual environmental? More than anything this once again proves the power of human interaction. Language attrition is ideally achieved through human interaction, with as much face-to-face as necessary.
Some of the conclusions that the authors drew from their findings are also applicable to language learning:
1. Fit conversation into everyday activities
When you are learning a new language, usage during, before and after your tutoring sessions are important. Create an environment where you are speaking throughout your everyday life. Some simple ways to incorporate language include talking through your morning routine and teaching a friend a few phrases.
2. Turn off the TV
If you find yourself pressured for time when it comes to practicing, then take a few minutes to check the amount of time you spend on entertainment. This includes television, internet, tablets…any screen time that might be wasted time. Force yourself away from the screen and practice your speaking and writing skills – both of which don’t require a screen!
3. Don’t just label things, make connections
While identifying vocabulary is great for language learners, take it a step further and use that word in a complete sentence. Dr. Fernald calls this making nets of meaning. Start to make connections between words and study context to make inferences to decipher meaning.
Sometimes we can complicate language learning beyond what’s necessary. Keep it simple and keep talking whether it’s to yourself or to a child in your life could always use some extra human communication!