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每日英語跟讀 Ep.938: New Thoughts on Math Of Effective Baby Talk 與幼兒溝通 品質重於字彙量

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每日英語跟讀 Ep.938: New Thoughts on Math Of Effective Baby Talk

It has been nearly 20 years since a landmark education study found that, by age 3, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than more affluent children, putting them at an educational disadvantage before they have begun school.


Now, a growing body of research is challenging the notion that merely exposing poor children to more language is enough to overcome the deficits they face. The quality of the communication between children and their parents and caregivers, the researchers say, is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears.


A study presented last month at a White House conference on “bridging the word gap” found that among 2-year-olds from low-income families, quality interactions involving words — the use of shared symbols (“Look, a dog!”); rituals (“Want a bottle after your bath?”); and conversational fluency (“Yes, that is a bus!”) — were a far better predictor of language skills at age 3 than any other factor .


“It’s not just about shoving words in,” said Kathryn Hirsh- Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia and lead author of the study. “It’s about having these fluid conversations around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have morning coffee together or using the banana as a phone. ”


In a related finding, published in April, researchers who observed 11- and 14-month-old children in their homes found that the prevalence of one-on-one interactions and frequent use of parentese — the slow, highpitched voice commonly used for talking to babies — were reliable predictors of language ability at age 2. The total number of words had no correlation with future ability.


Even the 1995 study that introduced the notion of the 30-million- word gap, conducted by the University of Kansas psychologists Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, found that parental tone, responsiveness and use of symbols affected a child’s I.Q. and vocabulary.


But this year’s studies are the first time researchers have compared the impact of word quantity with quality of communication.


For the new study, Dr. Hirsh- Pasek and colleagues selected 60 low-income 3-year-olds with varying degrees of language proficiency from a long-term study of 1,300 children from birth to age 15.


The quality of communication accounted for 27 percent of variation in expressive language skills one year later, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek said.


But those who urge parents to talk to their children more say increased quantity of language inevitably leads to better quality.


Anne Fernald, a developmental psychologist at Stanford University in California, said, “When you learn to talk more, you tend to speak in more diverse ways and elaborate more, and that helps the child’s cognitive development.”


Still, Ann O’Leary, director of Too Small to Fail, a joint effort of the nonprofit Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation that focuses on closing the word gap, acknowledged that messages to parents could do more to emphasize quality.


“When we’re doing these campaigns to close the word gap, they do capture the imagination, they do get people understanding that we do need to do a lot more talking,” she said. “But we also need to be more mindful that part of what we need to do is model what that talking looks like.”


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