The following points highlight the eight main factors influencing language development of a child. The factors are: 1. General Health and Physical Status 2. Intelligence and Cognitive Development 3. Learning and Maturation 4. Environment 5. Sex 6. Relationship with Family Members 7. Number of Family Members 8. Bilingualism.
Factor # 1. General Health and Physical Status:
General physiological condition and Motor development influence language development. Severe and prolonged illness and poor health particularly during the first two years of life retards the development of speech undoubtedly. Due to illness the child is separated from others and hence cannot learn to speak.
He also lacks self confidence because of constant illness and weak health which may retard his spontaneous desire for effective self expression. Since the child feels unwell most of the time there is no enthusiasm to talk and communicate with others. Slightly deaf children and children who are hard of hearing may have slow speech development.
Delay in speech development may be due to deafness. It a child does not start his first word by the requisite time his ear and vocal cord should be examined by a specialist. A healthy body produces a healthy mind. A healthy child is always happy, active and full of life and progressive. He has a wholesome personality, curiosity and interest in the environment, motivation and desire to learn.
A sickly child shows regression and backwardness in all types of development. Hence all satisfactory step should be taken to improve the health condition of the baby so that retarded language development can be checked before it does further harm to the baby.
Factor # 2. Intelligence and Cognitive Development:
Language and intellectual development are so highly correlated that it is said ‘The child’s speech is the best single indicator of his I.Q.’ This is absolutely true. A child who is early in speech is above normal in I.Q. on the contrary, a delay in some months due to illness or other factors does not mean that he is dull.
This delay may be due to other factors as well. The ability to know the meaning of words and to gain from language symbols suffers because of difference in I.Q. Mentally alert young children usually talk early. They also understand or comprehend early what is communicated to them through language.
They very quickly grasp and understand what is told to them and recognize objects and people in their immediate environment, call them by name. They can express their needs and desires in correct and simple sentences.
When my grandson Anurag was 18 months old, his grandfather told him “go ask Maa (me) “dress me up, I will go out with Jeje”. The baby came to me alone when I was in the Kitchen and told “Maa dress me up, I will go out with Jeje. This sentence becomes longer when spoken in Oriya.
These two sentences spoken by the baby contained 10 Oriya words. I was simply amazed at the remarkable speech development of the baby and took him in my arms and gave him a big kiss as a mark of reinforcement for his great achievement. This child has very high (Developmental Quotient) as tested by me.
Some children may be slow beginners, but subsequently develop mastery in language development. This delay may not be due to low intellectual development, but other factors. Keeping other factors constant, babbling at an early stage indicate higher intellectual growth.
Growth of vocabulary depends to a considerable extent on cognitive growth. In a dull child integration in language development is very poor, while an intelligent child shows great integration.
Studies and experience show that children with superior intelligence are better in vocabulary linguistic growth and sentence construction. They also show competency in the structure of sentence, length of sentences uttered and application of the words rightly. Studies of Cruickshank Johnson (1958) show that the lower the I.Q., the poorer is the speech.
Factor # 3. Learning and Maturation:
Child’s language development depends a lot on learning and maturation. Infact, the interaction of these factors is crucial in determining the language development of the child. With the increase in age the vocal cord of the child matures and his learning also increases. By the interaction of these two factors language develops.
Whatever training might be given to a neonate or a three four months old baby until his vocal cord and speech muscles are not properly developed, he cannot speak a word. The fact that most of the children start speaking between 18th to 28th months suggest the strong influence of maturation in the language development.
The nervous system and the speech muscles are adequately developed by this time to start speaking. Another proof of the role of maturation in language development is that irrespective of culture, race, religion and geographical differences certain phases of speech development have a fixed sequence and they occur within a fixed range of age inspite of the individual differences.
Hence after proper maturation when the child is taught, motivated and reinforced to speak, he gains from it. Thus learning helps in language development only after a certain age, only after maturation of speech organs. Learning undoubtedly facilities language development.
If the child is not provided with proper facility, reinforcement and motivation to speak through various measures, if nobody communicates or interacts with him and he is left to live alone, his language development is affected due to want of proper training.
Hence both maturation and learning are essential for language development. Language development suffers severe setback if either one of these is deficient.
Factor # 4. Environment:
It has been established through research that favourable and stimulating environmental conditions improve the development of early speech and unfavourable environment retards it. It has been observed that orphans adopted in foster homes have better language development than orphans staying in institutions or orphanages having unstimulating environments.
The role of environment is therefore of extreme importance in the development of language. Even the effects of unstimulating environment on speech development are quite lasting and more or less permanent. The verbal ability is restricted and inhibited in poor and an illuminating environment where the child does not get any encouragement to speak.
Social class which is mostly linked to environment influences language development. Irwin, a Professor of Psychology in the University of Iowa, USA has found that by increasing the stimulation of the environment of a young child in lower class background will lead to heightened interest in language and would lead to improvement in speech.
The caretakers in the institutions usually speak less and hence never stimulate the children to speak or communicate. Due to poor environment also there is delay in the organisation of language and cognitive development. Greater opportunity to talk with adults increase the scope of language development.
Factor # 5. Sex:
During the first of life effect of gender is not observed in language development i.e., boys and girls show similar development in language. But from second year girls show better speech development than boys; girls show greater mastery of speech sounds and talk fluently than boys.
This difference becomes more pronounced with passing of age and with the difference in Socioeconomic status. Closeness of mother daughter relationship perhaps do help the girl child to have better speech development than the boy child. Boys commit more grammatical mistakes and their pronounciation is also less accurate than girls. This difference in the language development of boys and girls in enduring.
Factor # 6. Relationship with Family Members:
The relationship of the child with his family members has lasting and enduring effect on his speech development. Excessive love and over protection of parents on the one hand and faulty child rearing practices, careless handling of the child, lack of proper parenting, continued and constant tension between parents and children, particularly mother and children lead to tension, anxiety and emotional problems.
The child feels insecured. In family children come in closer personal contact than in institutions. Those children who are reared by foster mothers or baby seaters from a very early age they lack closeness with the mother and family tie. They are slow in learning and retarded in their language development throughout their life.
Too much pampering of the child by parents has negative effect on language development. Over protected and anxious mothers allow their children to speak less and restrict their language. Democratic and flexible attitude of mothers encourage the children to speak more.
Factor # 7. Number of Family Members:
This has got significant effect on language development. Some view that in a single child family the language of the child well-developed, polished and free of mistakes compared to a family with large number of children where because of competition there is more conflict and defects in language development are observed.
But another group of Psychologists argue that when there are large number of children in a family, the children get a chance to talk with each other .which facilities their language development.
Factor # 8. Bilingualism:
Bilingualism develops when a baby is compelled to learn two languages in the early childhood. When a child speaks in native language at home and another foreign language at school or even when he hears two languages at home (when the father and mother speak different languages) his language development is retarded for the simple reason that it creates confusion in the small baby and his thinking power is affected.
Hence language development is delayed and adverse effect is observed on the vocabulary, spoken language etc. of the child. Due to transfer of training principles, one word of one language is used in the second language leading to faulty sentence constriction.
It is therefore not desirable to teach two more than one language to the child before he enters school (5-6 years age). By learning two languages before school going age, it becomes difficult for the child for adjustment. Defects in sentence construction and comprehension is also observed.
When two languages compete with each others, because of competition of responses there is negative effect. The child’s emotional and social adjustment is also affected due to bilingualism. Realising the adverse effects of bilingualism Thompson (1962) has remarked “There can be no doubt that the child reared in a bilingual environment is handicapped in his language growth.”
When father and mother speak in different languages at home, it further affects the child’s language development than when parents speak one language only. Children of immigrant parents are usually subjected to bilingualism.