What On Earth Is Decontextualised Language, and Why Is It So Important?

Early on, a child’s language is mainly based around their current environment. Conversations are usually focused on topics such as daily routines, toys, food, and familiar people. As our children grow older, however, it is important that they learn to speak about things beyond the ‘here and now’. Their language needs to allow them to speak about things that they can’t see or touch in their current environment. This type of language allows our children to learn and think, and it is called decontextualized language.

Using this type of language, children are able to speak about things they have experienced or seen, have longer and more complex conversations, think through problems, tell stories, and speak about more complicated topics. Decontextualized language is therefore the gateway for them to be able to learn not only about their little world, but also the larger world around them.

For children to both comprehend and use language for learning and thinking, there are some foundation skills that they need to be able to do, such as:

  • Use language to predict (“I think the bird will fly away.”)
  • Talk about things that will happen in the future (“We’re going to the zoo tomorrow!”)
  • Pretend (“My baby is sleepy and needs to go to bed.”)
  • Describe (“My cereal is cold and soggy.”)
  • Talk about past experiences (“We went camping and I went swimming.”)
  • Use language to solve problems (“I can glue the nose back on if it comes off.”)
  • Speak about feelings (“I am happy because grandma is coming to visit!”)
  • Explain (“The cup is dirty so it goes in the dishwasher.”)

What’s all the fuss about this type of language? Why is it so important?

Learning and thinking language is pivotal to your child’s literacy development, and, in turn, their success at school. Studies have shown that mastering this type of language is a predictor of how well your child will learn the language used in textbooks and by teachers. Grasping academic language and understanding a teacher’s explanations are vital to a child’s learning in school.

Children with language delays sometimes struggle with academic language. As a parent, however, you can support the development of this type of language.  By using language for thinking and learning yourself during your conversations with your child, you will put them on a path to learning and understanding academic language.

If you’ve got any questions, or are concerned about your child’s language development, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you and support you on this journey.

-Emilia