Ah… Language. Something that we use so heavily for communication in everyday life, yet not something we think about consciously. For young children, however, language is especially important to their learning, social development, as well as their general well-being. Imagine how you would feel if you were unable to tell someone that something was bothering you!

Language acquisition starts even earlier than a child’s first words. It begins when parents interact and communicates with their newborns, by engaging them in rhymes, songs, as well as just making comments about everyday things (e.g. “Look at that bird over there!”). When the child enters a school setting, such as in a preschool, language becomes even more integral to their learning. With a poor command of the language, children may appear unmotivated, distracted, have poor social skills, as well as fall behind their peers in terms of their learning.

The following are 4 important language skills that your child needs to know by the time they enter Primary school:

  1. Pragmatic skills- how to use language

This skill is especially important when it comes to your child’s relationship with their peers. Pragmatic problems appear to be an important factor in how children judge each other’s likeability. Disliked children made more irrelevant comments, are less responsive, and less clear in their intentions when initiating play.

  1. Phonological skills- differentiating between the 44 sounds of the English language

The importance of developing phonological skills is often overlooked. Having a good awareness and ability to manipulate the sounds in our language are the building blocks of developing literacy and are the main area of difficulty found in children with dyslexia.

  1. Semantic skills- ability to understand the meaning

Semantic skills refer to the ability to understand the meaning in different types of words, phrases, narratives, signs and symbols and the meaning they give to the speaker and listener. Difficulties with semantic skills can lead to children not fully understanding what has been said. This may also lead to weaknesses in reading comprehension.

  1. Syntactic skills- rules of word order and word combinations in order to form phrases and sentences

Good syntactic skills require an understanding and use of correct word order and organization in phrases and sentences and also the ability to use increasingly complex sentences as language develops.

Playing word games, modelling appropriate conversations for them during their social interactions, as well as exposing your child to good English (both audio and through reading) are starting points on how you, as a parent can work on these 4 important skills to ensure that your child has a strong language foundation in preparation for Primary school.