“Can’t I just give him a few apps and tv shows to learn another language?” a friend asked me. The answer is no. Online games, Smartphone apps, YouTube clips, tv shows, and DVDs at a certain age are helpful tools, and there are many convenient and accessible options. But these are supplemental sources, not primary, and we cannot solely rely on them.
Human interaction is crucial to children’s language development. Research shows that the interactions of children, caregivers, and the environment influence the rate and quality of language, speech, and communication development. This influence is believed to be more sensitive to caregiving practices than any other sensorimotor skill (1). When considering all the sensorimotor skills and the rate of development in the early years of life, this is profound. In developmental science, these continuous dynamic interactions of children, caregivers, and the environment is referred to as the transactional model. Broadly speaking, everything is affected by something else and affects something else. It is bidirectional and reciprocal in that we are impacted by the interplay of nature and nurture within our own contexts (2).
With respect to bilingualism, all three components of the transactional model are necessary. The combination of secure, affectionate relationships and a stimulating environment that provides ample interaction opportunities motivates children to communicate and provides feedback (3; 4). The attachment and bonding between children and their parents and caregivers plays a role in supporting bilingualism and its cognitive and social benefits. Infants with strong attachment are more eager to produce sounds and syllables and the same is seen with toddlers producing words, phrases, and short sentences (5). The social interaction of a live human reinforces cues that attract attention, motivation, and referential information such as one’s gaze and facial expressions. These opportunities are needed as children learn most effectively through rich experiences in talking, listening, engaging in two-way conversations, and playing with adults and other children (4). When children engage in language-rich activities with their parents and caregivers, it promotes a positive attitude towards languages, helps children internalize the language, builds self-confidence as a bilingual speaker, and promotes communicative and academic linguistic proficiency (3).
Although aspects of language can be heard through television and other screen and audio sources of edutainment, infants can only acquire reciprocal language with responsive sources that are saturated with affect. Young children need more than raw auditory sensory information to learn the phonetics of a language (6). Removing the parents and caregivers from the transactional model impacts the child’s bilingual development and the environment. Furthermore, one-way digital sources of content, without human interaction, have been found to have negligible effects on infants’ language development (1). If you plan to use these sources, then make an extra effort to interact with your child during these times with the understanding that dinner doesn’t make itself and sometimes these sources can be supplemental. We would not expect our children to learn their native languages primarily through apps, clips, and tv shows, and we cannot expect the same for additional languages.
The creators of Kids’ Candor, a new bilingual early child development program for parents to use at home, recognize the importance of human interaction on children’s language development. Kids’ Candor makes it easier for parents to raise their children bilingual since birth. Its curriculum encompasses games, original music, educational activity materials, toys, and easy-to-use guide cards in monthly kits called “educational modules.” Every month, parents receive everything they need for their child’s optimal bilingual early development. The materials and activities are all in one place, which saves parents time and effort on researching how to create an engaging environment for their children. Offering 5 stages to choose from, each kit is specifically crafted for the child’s age and development stage starting from birth until preschool. All the materials are bilingual (Spanish and English), and the users don’t have to know both languages to use it.
In a recent pilot test of its educational modules, parents responded extremely positively. A parent of two children shared, “I really enjoyed doing the activities with my children. It was also a learning experience for me as well as for them. To be able to teach them Spanish in a fun way was amazing because usually it is not easy to come up with creative ways to do so. Kids' Candor helped achieve all this.”
Kids’ Candor launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for the month of July and expects to launch by the end of summer 2015. You can join Kids’ Candor by supporting the Kickstarter here.
For more information on Kids’ Candor, see www.KidsCandor.com.