Language and communication…what are we really saying…

With this year’s Under Eight’s Theme being Language – connecting children to their world, it has made me think about what language is.

Obviously as educators, we all seem to go straight to the written and spoken word, focusing on books to read, poems and finger rhymes to say and writing we can put around the room.  Even Early Childhood Australia went straight to the spoken and written word in their suggestions list (there are some great ideas, and a fantastic downloadable resource… go to http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/state_territory_branches/queensland_branch/under_eights_week.html ) Which is wonderful, however is there more to it?

I was discussing this topic with a great early childhood teacher friend of mine who is involved with Under Eight’s Celebrations at our local school.  She, very wisely, suggested language is so much more than the spoken and written word and that this concept should open our minds to other forms of language and communication.  How true this is, particularly with children.

Babies communicate with us from the moment they are born.  As side from crying, most parents learn their language quickly (well, you have too…).  Their movements and gestures all have a meaning and parents learn that they need to quickly gain an understanding (or pay the price…usually lack of sleep!)

Watching how children interrelate also show us, every day, how much connecting to our world and communication is done through different non-verbal forms.  Parallel play and mirroring are perfect examples of this.  Very young children, unable to vocalise what they want or be confidently social yet, understand that proximity is the key, following others actions to say…”Hi, I want to play”.  Some will stand right in the middle of the action (often annoying older children greatly!), but they are trying to communicate with the larger group…”I want to be with you”.

Different social, religious and cultural groups have their own communication systems or language.  Even how people dress and what (and how) they eat are forms of communication.  Across the globe, misunderstanding of differences in social, cultural and religious forms of communication has led to the darkest moments in our world history.  Understanding rituals, symbols, traditions and belief systems are the steps to true understanding and communication, creating a language that links and bridges different groups.

I found this interesting quote on the internet:   The use of language has become deeply entrenched in human culture and, apart from being used to communicate and share information, it also has social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification and for social grooming and entertainment. The word “language” can also be used to describe the set of rules that makes this possible, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules.”

The thought that all we are, how we dress, the idea of class, social standing and belief systems, group in society or family group are all a communication…a language, before we even utter a word.  Often we are so entrenched in these subtle communications that we no longer consciously acknowledge them.

So when of considering “What can we do to focus on language” for Under Eight’s Week, maybe some be other points to consider are: What does our environment, attitude, routines, equipment and program communicate to the children.  What messages do we convey, without saying a word?

The theme of language and connecting is huge.  So many different ideas can be considered and children just love pondering and making sense of the world around them.

…And when pondering the enormity of language, communicating and connecting with their world, also remember to Have Fun!

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