Do you remember all the work that went into learning to read? I was reminded recently while at a conference in Montreal where I experienced immersion into a french speaking world. I have been reading fluently for so long that it is difficult to work so hard for the meaning of each word. It is easy to forget how complicated language development is for our children; it has been so long since we learned ourselves.
I caught myself listening to other people’s conversations and listening for familiar sounds or words. This is one of the strategies children use to learn and why it is so important for them to hear a language spoken regularly and fluently.
I then used my brain in a different way as I looked at words and signs and tried to figure out their meaning by using the pictures or symbols next to them. On my first night I walked along the street by my hotel in search of a restaurant that I would enjoy. I found one with a sign that had Cafe in the title, which was promising, but it also had symbols of dancing girls on it. Despite my concept of the meaning of the word, I decided to use the symbols on the sign to determine that I should keep on walking.
The next day I took the subway and again relied heavily on symbols. Thank goodness the symbols on the maps matched those at each station! Symbols and pictures are the “map” that we use to decode language and the head start of all language development and comprehension.
See if you can recognize some of these symbols: