Section 2, Article 4 - Early childhood is a sensitive period for language acquisition, meaning that children master vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation fairly quickly and easily. This sensitive time in learning is when children soak up every bit of language they are exposed to, which is why they are often referred to as ‘language sponges.’ Explosions in language are seen at this stage of development. The average 6 year old knows more than 10,000 words, which is 20 times more words than the average 2 year old, pacing the acquisition of new words at 6 new words a day (). There is a wide range of variance between the average vocabularies at this age, varying from 5,000 to 30,000. Regardless of vocabulary range, young children talk about many things with many people. Egocentrism has a positive effect in one way: children at this age are usually not self-critical when they make errors, which aids in language development.
The average 6 year old knows more than 10,000 words, which is 20 times more words than the average 2 year old, pacing the acquisition of news words at 6 new words per day.
In contrast to their younger peers, preschoolers have the ability to engage in fast mapping, which is the process by which children associate new words with their meanings after only hearing it once or twice (). This forms a type of grid or logic map that the child can use to organize new words based off of preexisting understandings of related words. While fast mapping allows for speedy language learning, it is not always precise and children often incorrectly categorize or over generalize without knowing all the details of the new word.
Example: Children will sometimes incorrectly identify lions as tigers if tigers were the large cat the child was introduced to first.
Learning the rules for communication is a major focus for the developing child. The ability to use grammar involves the various structures, skills, and rules that dictate how humans communicate. Grammar skills are necessary for learning how to speak, read, and write. Children can have a sizable vocabulary, but without learning the rules for communication they will not be able to effectively engage in the world around them. Significant variations often exist in preschooler’s mastery of grammar. Interestingly, research indicates that genetics has a greater effect on language expression (speaking and writing) than language reception (reading and hearing) (). In the same line of reasoning, experience (nurture) has a stronger impact on what children comprehend from communication than their genetics (nature).