Oral language is, quite simply, listening and speaking. It’s the often-overlooked foundation for literacy. The stronger a child’s oral language development, the greater the child’s literacy success.
Because increased literacy correlates to enhanced learning ability and sharper critical reasoning skills, an emphasis on oral language gives children a proven foundation for dramatically accelerated success in life. Oral language stimulates thinking. Through listening and speaking, children learn how to organize their thinking and how to focus their ideas. Engaging a child in challenging conversation using advanced vocabulary and concepts helps to accelerate language acquisition. The more language a child receives (receptive language), the more language the child has to speak (expressive language).
Given, then, that the words a child hears are the words the child will speak, it’s never too early to talk to an infant. When we observe a baby who responds excitedly after hearing its name, or a not-yet-verbal toddler who responds appropriately to a spoken request, we see how children acquire language and its meaning.
Children’s receptive language is well developed by the time they begin to speak. By the time they begin kindergarten, they have mastered most of the fundamentals of their language. The key, then, is to consider all children as conversationalists, even when children are not yet talking. Humans are born with an innate gift for figuring out the rules of language used in their environment. Children rely on the adults around them to teach them these language rules, and this instruction happens during conversation.
Oral Language: A Tool Every Parent Can Use
Every parent can use oral language every day to benefit their children.
Oral language is perfect for busy parents because it requires only time and conversation.
It can be done in any setting and for any length of time. Because children are free from so many of the worries and stresses that preoccupy their parents, they view with equal excitement every opportunity to engage in conversation—in the car, at dinner, at the store, anywhere.
Sometimes a parent worries that a child might ask a question that the parent can’t answer. With oral language, the answer isn’t the point—it’s the conversation that’s of importance. Thus, a young child treasures every opportunity to have a conversation with the parent.