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Language Development in Preschoolers (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on May 1, 2014

Matthew’s confusion with words, using “baby carriage” instead of “cart,” is a common error for four-year-olds. They are learning so many new words at this time that there is a frequent misuse of words and mislabeling of objects. Often words that sound the same can be mistaken for each other. Alice said that her father just bought a new blue kayak to go to work. Alice confused the word “kayak” with “Cadillac” and therefore made it appear that her father bought a boat instead of a car.

Talking is a favorite activity of four-year-olds. They talk while they are playing, frequently describing what they are doing while playing (Howard, Shaughnessy, Sanger, & Hux, 1998). They want to share with you their experiences, from how they got up from bed in the morning to how they brush their teeth to what their dog ate for breakfast. Taking turns in conversation is difficult. They want to talk and be heard but have difficulty listening to others talk. At this age, some children talk incessantly, and teachers need to help these children learn to regulate their talking to allow others opportunities to speak.

As mentioned in the section on emotional development, “bathroom” talk is a common part of four-year-olds’ language. Four-year-olds are pushing the boundaries of their language and are learning what words are socially acceptable and what words are not. Four-year-old Liz yells to her friend, “Nanny, nanny, poo, poo. You can’t get me!” Liz is discovering new ways to express herself. Teachers need to help children understand that there are more appropriate ways to express themselves than through “bathroom” talk.

Five-year-olds’ language continues to grow, and their vocabularies are expanding to 5,000 to 8,000 words. The number of words in sentences is increasing, and sentence structure is becoming more complex. As a result of adult feedback, five-year-olds begin decreasing their use of overextensions of rules for verbs and plurals, frequently correcting their own errors. Remarking about his trip to the beach, Seth said, “I put my foots, I mean feet, in the water, and it was cold.” Five-year-olds are also using pronouns correctly. Seth used “I” to identify himself instead of using his name or the pronoun “you,” which is used by others to identify him.

Five-year-olds become increasingly more sophisticated in their ability to communicate their ideas and feelings with words (Ninio & Snow, 1996). Asking what happened in school can be answered with elaborate stories ranging from what they had for a snack to who spilled the paint all over the floor. As five-year-olds’ language becomes more complex, they often misuse words in a humorous way. Bryan told his mother that he was afraid to go to the doctor because he heard that he would get a shot with an arrow. He thought it would really hurt.

Five-year-olds also enjoy talking. They are also learning the conventions of conversation and are interrupting less frequently, learning to take turns, and listening to others while they speak. At this age, children enjoy using language to act out plays and stories. Through this, they show their skills of using conventional modes of communication, complete with pitch and inflection. A group of five-year-olds can perform the “Three Little Pigs” complete with songs and voice changes to imitate the various characters. Opportunities such as “show and tell” allow the children to talk in front of a group for a limited amount of time and use language to express themselves.

“Bathroom talk” is still a big part of five-year-olds’ playfulness with language. However, they are learning to control its use so that they are not caught using it by an adult. They are also fascinated with big words not typically found in their everyday vocabulary, such as “Stegosaurus” and “tarantula.” It is not uncommon for five-year-olds to learn the difficult vocabulary words that are associated with things that they are interested in, such as knowing Tyrannosaurus Rex if they are interested in dinosaurs or knowing all the names of Pokeman characters.

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