My recent visit to Estonia included a weekend off, and during that time, I did some Yoga and Pilates classes. I don’t speak the language, but I nevertheless found it relatively easy to follow instructions. I think this reflects some important points about basic levels of communication.
Because I had taken a great many classes in English, I knew the phrases that the instructor was likely to use. Although I couldn’t make out the exact words, I began to recognise the sounds that represented inhaling and exhaling, or breathing in and breathing out. I didn’t know exactly what, “Lolli, lolli, lolli,” meant (or even if that’s how it should look on the page!) but it was a logical assumption that the meaning was something like slowly or gently or carefully.
My brain was putting together knowledge it had accumulated through experience at home, matching that with recognisable repetitions throughout the class, and using some astute guesswork to make meaning within this unfamiliar language. Alongside this, there’s the cadence to pay attention to; despite Estonian being unrelated to English (interestingly, it only shares a common root with Finnish and Hungarian) it still holds true that the intonation gives clues to the meaning. No-one shouts or uses a higher pitch if they want someone to move slowly and carefully.
It struck me that these are the sorts of indicators that babies are looking out for when they are first exposed to the language they will be expected to learn and speak as a native.
It is consistency that allows the learner to spot patterns and make assumptions about what is being communicated. Naturally we are going to use the same words to describe the same objects, but how often do we think about keeping other elements of our speech constant and predictable? As adults, working in our mother tongue, we tend to focus only words, falling back on decades of instinct to take care of the rest, but we will be really helping our children learn if we pause to consider that they are paying attention to the whole package.
I'm working away from home at the moment with very little time for blog-writing, so this week I'm posting my recent interview with SEN Resources - and here's a link to their page: https://senresourcesblog.com . Hope you enjoy it.
INTERVIEW WITH NIKKY SMEDLEY ON PLAYING LAALAA IN TELETUBBIES TO WRITING HER NEW BOOK ‘CREATE, PERFORM, TEACH!’
I was a bit star struck this week, Nikky Smedley who played the Teletubby Laalaa (my favourite childhood TV character) kindly agreed to answer some questions I had about her new book. When I found out that she had written ‘Create, Perform, Teach!‘ I was intrigued as to how she moved from children TV to the education sector.
Create, Perform, Teach! is a fantastic book. It helps to inspire early years practitioners to engage children through creativity and performance methods. Nikky Smedley provides practical advice and ideas of how to do this covering everything from puppetry to music and dance!
We loved how easy to read the book was, its range of brilliant ideas and how these ideas will ultimately help children to develop a range of important skills such as speech and language, creativity and gross motor skills.
It was only a month or so after my publishers and I decided on the title for my book (released Thursday 19th!) that I realised it pretty much summed up my entire working life. I am passionate about these three things, and most passionate of all about the places where they conjoin.
It’s impossible for us to understand - or to be more accurate, to remember - what it’s like for a baby or toddler trying to get to grips with conversation. Even if we decide to learn another tongue, we at least know what language is, we grasp the concept; our little ones are starting entirely from scratch. So how can we help them?
Here is the third and last in this series of articles based on conversations with children, and first published in Teach Early Years magazine. In each piece, I focussed on one prominent theme. For this one, it’s LISTEN!
My thanks to editor Jacob Stow for allowing reproduction, and if you want to know more, details of this and their other magazines and resources are available at: https://www.teachwire.net
- What does it feel like to be a child?
- I feel like I’m just an ant in the world, some people don’t listen to me that well. Like nothing that I’m saying is important. W (male)