Language is a tool for communication.
Language development is all about opening up that communication channel that is so uniquely human and that holds such immense potential for each one of us. The best thing you can do to improve your child's language skills is to give her plenty of opportunities to realise what an exceptional communication tool it is for her. This will automatically spark your child's motivation to master this wonderful tool, which in turn will fuel her thirst for knowledge and her willingness to practice. So, how can you show her how amazingingly useful and fun language is? Below are four examples:
Talk to her. It is never too early to start talking to your child. And it is never silly. During pregnancy, your voice enjoys a very special status! It is the only one your child heard from the inside. Your yet-to-be born baby is already picking up on your language. A newborn might not understand the logical meaning of what you are telling her, but she can already learn so much from your voice. She is beginning to take those crucial statistics that will allow her to understand which sounds make up your words and how words come together to form sentences. As an older baby, labelling objects and describing actions will allow her to start developing her vocabulary and to understand the logic behind the categorisation of items. As a toddler, putting feelings and emotions into words will eventually help her master her own emotion, thus avoiding tantra and meltdowns. Language helps a baby understand that each of these very different animals is called "a dog".
Read with her. Written language is often more beautiful and precise than spoken language. Reading with your child (not TO your child by the way) means offering her the pleasure and the resources that written language holds for her. Read everything and anything with her. Bear on a Bike, The Gruffalo, and I love you, of course. But also the newspaper, what you find on the back of a theatre ticket, the ads on the bus and your friends' texts. Try not to force your child to read (I know, almost impossible with how school works in most countries), but make reading a natural part of your interactions with her.
Language is just a means to an end. The end is efficient communication. As soon as your child realises all the potential that language holds for her, she will WANT to take advantage of it and she will ENJOY experimenting with more sophisticated words and phrases. Reading is serious fun.
Sing with her. The rhythm and melody of music makes it easier to perceive and remember words and phrases. Sing loudly, sing quietly, sing when you are happy, sing when you are sad, sing in your home and sing in the street. It does not matter if you feel you are out of tune. You will always better than Beyoncé to her ears! Sing also when you need to capture her attention. My kids' school teacher sings when she needs to get the class to stop playing and start concentrating on their learning activities. It works way better than screaming!
And of course let her sing, even if it does not sound as pretty as you had imagined. Let her try out her voice. Let her experiment with how she can put together her internal states, the sound of her voice and the rhythm of her utterance. Don't judge her singing. Just let it flow and, little by little, she will shape it and fine-tune it to be fun and communicative.
When it comes to language development, it is all about being a good model for your child and enjoying stuff together. This is true for almost everything with parenting!
So dare to have fun, and you both will learn so much along the way!
You sing so much better than her ;)