Learning your Mother Tongue

Language represents an important human characteristic. Admittedly, animals have languages as well, but these are confined to a restricted number of signs and incomparable to the unlimited possibilities of variation and creativity that human language allows expression of.

The language center in the brain is activated before a child has reached one year of age and the years following are of crucial importance for the development of language.

Children acquire their mother tongue, i.e. the spoken language, quickly and naturally and have a firm foundation in their mother tongue around the age of six. The best way to get a rich language is to have a talkative and well-educated mother.

13 000 words

A six year old can master up to thirteen thousand words. That means that a child who is unable to read and therefore entirely dependent on speech in its surrounding environment for language acquisition, must have learnt a new word every alternate hour of its woken life. Even if one was to halve the six year olds vocabulary, it would still have acquired a new word every fourth hour, which is still an impressive figure.

A child of around three to four, basically commands the whole grammatical structure, and adds to his or her language through increasing the vocabulary.

When teenagers have problems in school it is often based on the fact that they cannot handle the language. It is important that children learn their mother tongue from a native speaker. It is preferable that pre-schools have native speakers as teachers, in order for the children to be able to learn their language as well as possible. Parents too ought to be more active and for instance practice reading aloud to their children. The better one speaks one’s own language, the easier it is to learn a foreign one.

© Hans Malv, 2004