The importance of oral language competency

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Associate Professor Pamela Snow of Monash University presented a keynote speech on the link and implications of oral language competency and vulnerable young people.

Oral language competency is the ability to process and comprehend language. One’s language competency is formed during infancy and childhood, and refers to the degree of language enrichment in the home.

Dependent on socio-economic status, the consistency and frequency of language and words spoken to children by parents can differ greatly. Parents who do not work outside the home can manage 616 words an hour, working parents can manage 1,252 words an hour and higher income earning parents can manage 2,153 words an hour.

The importance of language competency helps to form the basis of communication skills, and in turn, determines the success of maintaining relationships.

The complexities and nuances of language pose challenges for those with low levels of oral language competency, such as understanding what are jokes, metaphors, sarcasm and innuendo, to name a few. Children need a lot of emotional and linguistic exposure from their parents as they navigate through the complex world of interpersonal relationships.

By formal measured standards, 50-60% of young offenders have a language impairment. As such, it is highly likely that boys with behavioural difficulties have underlying language difficulties.

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By recognizing oral language competency as a key area of childhood development, policy makers, teachers and youth justice systems can be better equipped to assist vulnerable young people.

In what ways did your parents communicate with you as a child? How often do you spend time talking with your children?

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

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