Development of Language
Among the fun things of being a grandma is watching how children learn. You can read books and study about child development, but nothing beats first hand experience. With six grandchildren, we have a good overview of what goes on and can process it better than when our own children were young.
Like all children, these kids love animals and machinery. As they age they know how to ‘help’ dad or granddad in the shop and before long, are truly helping. Language skills grow right along with the kiddos.
It makes me wonder this: Why don’t people who move to this country have the same desire to learn to communicate with the masses as these kids? How can they expect to get ahead? It is particularly vexing to me as I lived in France as an exchange student during high school and later as a college student at the Sorbonne in Paris. While living with the exchange family, I knew that the father, brother and sister spoke English but because I was there to learn French, that is what we spoke. I think the mother knew more English than she let on, but she wouldn’t speak it. It was good to know that if some emergency arose and English was needed, it could be spoken, though after my first week in the family, it was very scarcely used. That first week my French “sister” told me things in French and then English just to get me acclimated. Before that visit I didn’t know that one’s brain could actually be tired but by bedtime, my brain and I were exhausted. It got easier but that is how a language is learned—by using it.
By the time I was at the Sorbonne there wasn’t a language barrier. My classes, from art history to geography, were all in French. On the day of the semester final test—in France this is the only one that counts for the entire semester’s grades—I was ill. But you do not miss the test or an entire semester is down the tubes. I remember the geography part was an essay question. Fortunately for me, it related to agriculture and even though I could barely function, I was able to write a creditable piece based on my knowledge of growing up on a farm in South Dakota.
From my experience I know that immersion is the best way to learn a language. Sometimes a person has to be determined enough to learn that she will trade spending time with those who speak her first language and instead socialize with English speakers.
One of my best “tutors” when I lived with the French family was a six-year old Spanish girl who lived on the premises. French was her second language and our common one. She taught me the French equivalent of “Peas Porridge Hot,” in French and other fun things. Since she lived in France and spoke French at school, her language of Spanish at home and French everywhere else proved invaluable to her lifeskills. ❖