Language is an intrinsic part of the human being; we all possess the innate possibility to develop language in our genes. The presence of the gene FoxP2, which is unique to human beings and aids in language and speech development, tells us that our linguistic ability is at least partially hard-wired. These genes are activated, or expressed, only through experiences the child has with spoken language during their formative years. Maria Montessori wrote that “The child has a mind able to absorb knowledge. He has the power to teach himself. A single observation is enough to prove this. The child grows up speaking his parent’s tongue, yet to grown-ups the learning of a language is a very great intellectual achievement. No one teaches the child, yet he comes to use nouns, verbs and adjectives to perfection.”
The way in which adults and the child’s environment have a direct impact on language development is of great interest to Montessori educators, as well as how the structures of the child’s brain will be influenced by their experiences. From birth to three years old, children are in the sensitive period for language and the quality of their language environment is crucial to their brain development. In the Toddler Community, opportunities to support language development are offered not only through specific materials but in communication and conversations with the children consistently throughout the day. Children are learning not just words as vocabulary, but every single aspect of language and need to be spoken to like adults so that they can learn the complex version that they will be speaking.
The importance of conversation as a tool for language development is further explored in the article below: