Follow Same Steps To Learn Vocabulary, Regardless of Language Spoken
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
of the language they are learning to speak, young children learn
vocabulary in fundamentally the same way, according to a study by
researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development of the National Institutes of Health.
researchers found that, for the seven languages studied, nouns comprise
the greatest proportion of 20-month-old children's vocabularies,
followed by verbs and then adjectives.
findings appear in the July-August issue of Child Development.
study shows that while languages may differ greatly, the sequence
by which young children learn the parts of speech appears to be
the same across different languages," said Duane Alexander,
M.D., Director of the NICHD. "By learning about the normal
progression of language development, we may be able obtain information
that will help children who are having difficulty learning language."
the study, Marc Bornstein and Linda Cote, researchers in NICHD's
Child and Family Research Laboratory collaborated with researchers
in Argentina, Belgium, France, Israel, Italy and the Republic of
Korea to study language development in children learning to speak
Spanish, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, and American English.
all, 269 mothers of children age 20 months took part in the study.
Of the children in the study, 117 were girls, and 152 boys. All
of the children were firstborn, had been born at term and spoke
only one language (the main language of the community they lived
in.) The mothers filled out a standardized questionnaire designed
to gauge the extent of their children's vocabularies. The questionnaire
included examples of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and "closed-class"
wordspronouns, question words, prepositions and articles,
mothers in every country reported that their children said significantly
more nouns than any other word class (verbs, adjectives, closed-class
words)," the researchers wrote.
researchers added that the finding held true regardless of whether
the language spoken tends to emphasize nouns, as does American English,
or verbs, as does Korean.
is a universal order to how children learn language," Dr. Bornstein
explained. "No matter what language they speak, children are
acquiring classes of words in a particular order because of what
the children are bringing to the task."
Bornstein theorized that children learn nouns first because nouns
are concrete things that can be seen and touched. Verbs and adjectives
are more abstract, and so are more difficult concepts for children's
minds to grasp.
NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biomedical
research arm of the federal government. NIH is an agency of the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NICHD sponsors
research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child,
and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and
medical rehabilitation. NICHD publications, as well as information
about the Institute, are available from the NICHD Web site, http://www.nichd.nih.gov,
or from the NICHD Information Resource Center, 1-800-370-2943