Children’s Communication Skills
Communication skills . Think of a newborn, unable to understand or use a single word. In just a few short years, that same child could know thousands of words and use them to retell an experience, express an opinion, negotiate with you, or crack a joke. That very same child could grow up to use words to plumb the mysteries of the world, discover something new, write epics, and inspire others to hope and dream. Our words have enormous power: to wage war or bring about peace; to change an individual—or an era—for better or for worse.
Yet we enter life knowing none, understanding none. The quest to understand the remarkable process of human growth has inspired many of the researchers in this book. MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe says that even as a child she was awestruck by the question: how do you start with a molecule and end up with a person? Roberta Golinkoff, a developmental psychologist at the University of Delaware, describes the same wonder in her quest to know how we learn language:
Levels of Communication skills. I wanted to understand how kids become the adults that they do. When a child is born, they’re saying nothing. By the end of the first year of life, you’re lucky if they say “da da.” Then by the end of the second year of life, many of them are speaking in sentences. How did that happen? Tracing the course of how that happens—how children learn to communicate—is a journey into the mind at work, says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University. Children’s communication skills
An Exercise: Cracking The Code
Can you read and understand the following?
What technique did you use to figure this out? Did you try to sound it out? Did you look for patterns in the letters? Were you able to figure out what I’m saying? If not, I’ll tell you later in the chapter. Children’s communication skills
An Exercise: Sailing In A Sea Of Sound
Remember the last time you were surrounded by a language you didn’t understand. How did you begin to make sense of what was being said?
I started studying Spanish when I was forty-three. I was motivated to communicate in order to visit our exchange student’s family in Venezuela. I enrolled in classes at our local university, began reading in Spanish, sought out Spanish people to talk to, and listened to tapes from Radio Nacional de España over and over. One moment stands out as evidence of my progress. It was in the summer after I had begun taking classes. I was sitting on our porch listening to a Radio Nacional tape. Suddenly I realized that instead of listening hard for words that I couldunderstand, the words that leaped out at me were those that I couldn’t understand.
It was like going from looking at a photographic negative to looking at a positive. The white and black had suddenly changed places. When Philip and Lara were young, we spent several summers on the Greek island of Kos. We stayed with German friends, living high in the rugged mountains in Asfendiou, a community of five villages. The history of this island is a checkerboard of foreign occupations—Turkey occupied Kos for almost four hundred years, followed by Italy, then Germany. During the occupations, the Greek people sought refuge in the mountains.
When the occupations ended in 1948 and Kos was reunited with Greece, many abandoned their mountain homes, some even leaving plates in their cupboards and baskets in their windows, and returned to the seaside. The families now living in these semiabandoned villages are a collection of nationalities, with no Americans and just a few English speakers. I was surrounded by multiple languages, so my mind turned into a running tape recorder, practicing the simplest of phrases again and again—“good morning” in Greek (Kalimera), “good morning” in German (Guten Morgen)—trying to remember new sounds and translate them into words I could understand. Children’s communication skills
Animals can communicate. My fish used to thrash around their aquarium if it was feeding time and one of us came nearby. And my dog Lola has a great communication skills. If she wants a dog biscuit, she goes over to the cabinet where the box is kept and stares at me until she captures my gaze. She then turns and looks upward, directing my attention to the cabinet door. If I don’t look at the cabinet, she stares back at me and then at the cabinet again, literally pointing with her nose. Finally, bingo—she gets her biscuit! She understands a number of words, like ball, bone, biscuit, and bye-bye.
Communication skills. She even seems to understand sentences. If I say, “Norman is coming” (versus just “Norman”), she runs to the window, barking, puts her paws on the sill, and looks out at the driveway. If Norman is already at home, she goes to look for him elsewhere rather than running to the window. I have even experimented with her comprehension of words. If I am holding an adult conversation near her, her ears are typically motionless, but if I quietly and without emphasis insert her name into a sentence, her ears begin to wiggle up and down, back and forth, even though she remains resting on the floor.
We found remarkable uniformity in employers’ top two concerns—“spoken communication skills” (29 percent) and “written communication skills” (28 percent). Every other skill was mentioned by only a handful of employers. So what happens between the time that children are born and the time when many enter the workforce apparently lacking these skills? First, children need to acquire the tools of language—the ability to comprehend, speak, and read words—but then they need to learn to use those tools with power and precision—i.e., to communicate. That is the story of this chapter. Communication skills.
Mind in the Making
The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs
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