Entries in Vocabulary Skills (3)


The 25 Words Your Toddler Likely Knows

Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER) -- If your toddler is having trouble building her vocabulary, you’ll want steer her toward the word “dog” rather than, say, “aardvark.”

It may be common sense, but now there’s a growing body of scientific research to back it up, says psychology professor Leslie Altman Rescorla.

Rescorla, the director of the Child Study Institute at Bryn Mawr College, presented research on late talkers in the United States and around the world this past weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science‘s annual conference.

Rescorla said that recent studies of children’s language development in Greece, the Netherlands and South Korea echo findings she published in 2001 -- that whether a child is slow to learn language or learns language at an average rate, there are certain commonly used words that she is likely to know.  And when working on language intervention for late talkers, Rescorla said, it’s good to focus on such words when building a basic vocabulary.

Based on her own research and that of collaborators in other countries, Rescorcla compiled a list of the 25 most commonly used words and expressions by children at age 2.  They are:

-- mommy
-- daddy
-- baby
-- milk
-- juice
-- hi/hello
-- ball
-- no
-- yes
-- dog
-- cat
-- nose
-- eye
-- banana
-- cookie
-- car
-- hot
-- thank you
-- bath
-- shoe
-- hat
-- book
-- all gone
-- bye bye
-- more

Rescorla said children are considered late talkers when they say fewer than 50 words at the age of 24 months. Such delays may be symptomatic of hearing problems, an autism spectrum disorder or another developmental disability.

Her research on children with language delays -- and no other disabilities -- showed that late talkers were, “functioning at the normal range” by about age 4 or 5.

“The important point is they’re not learning language in some very unusual way, they’re just learning it later,” she said.

A long-term study by Rescorla of late talkers in affluent Philadelphia suburbs found that by age 17, the teens’ performance was at or above average, though they still lagged behind the language skills of their privileged peers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Listening to Hip-Hop Music Help You Learn a New Language?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ALBERTA, Canada) -- Paula Chesley, a visiting professor at the University of Alberta, is no rapper.  But in a study released Wednesday, she found that hip-hop music could actually help children and young adults learn new language.

Some rap lyrics are notoriously difficult to understand, but the correlative study published in PLoS ONE found that the number of hip-hop artists that a person listened to could predict knowledge of non-mainstream words and phrases used in hip-hop songs.

“Hip-hop is highly prominent in mainstream culture nowadays, and thanks to technologies like iPods, smartphones [and] YouTube, adolescents and young adults are able to listen to more music than ever before,” said Chesley.  “This means they get the benefit from repeated exposure, enabling them to better process contextual details that allow for learning these words.”

Researchers gave 168 undergraduate students a set of rap-specific vocabulary words and then told the participants to define them. Students were likely to understand the meaning of the specific vocabulary words tested if they also indicated hip-hop was their preferred music, had social ties to African-Americans and knowledge of pop culture in general.

“Associating language with a melody is generally beneficial to memory,” said Chesley. “In addition, literary tropes such as rhyme, which is omnipresent in hip-hop, are also beneficial.”

While hip-hop tends to interest younger generations, the music genre may still serve as language therapy for older adults as well.

“Insofar as motivation and the desire to be cool seems to be a key element in the learning process, older people currently might not derive any benefit,” said Chesley. “That might change though as people who have grown up with hip-hop get older.”

But Susan Bookheimer, a professor of cognitive neurosciences at UCLA Medical Center, said, “There is no reason older people wouldn’t benefit, provided they actually attend to the lyrics,” and said the research could contribute to novel approaches to language therapy.

“The study is correlational only, that is, they did not introduce new words intentionally in hip-hop songs or use control conditions, so it is difficult to know how useful that would be,” said Bookheimer.  “However, I find it a very exciting finding with clear implications for enhancing knowledge in school-aged kids, particularly among those who struggle with traditional memorization approaches or who are generally disengaged in schoolwork.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Verbal Crutches May Help Kids Learn New Words

BananaStock/Thinkstock(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) -- When speaking with adults, liberally sprinkling "um" and "uh" during conversations can be quite distracting and may make the speaker seem less knowledgeable.

But the use of these verbal crutches when speaking to young children may actually help them learn new vocabulary, according to a new study published in Developmental Science Thursday.

Researchers at the University of Rochester found that children between 18 and 30 months old paid more attention to a new word if it was preceded by an "um" or an "uh," as in:  "Look at the, uh...," as opposed to "Look at the...."

The researchers think this could be because children may use the verbal fumble as a sign that a new word is coming.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio