Toddlers’ Environment Can Affect Vocabulary Building

October 14, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. foster / ˈfɔ stər / (v.) – to encourage
Example: They had a brainstorming session to foster new ideas.

2. volume / ˈvɒl yum /(n.) – loudness or softness of sound
Example: She asked her neighbors to lower the volume of their TV.

3. environment / ɛnˈvaɪ rən mənt / (n.) – a setting, either indoors or outdoors
Example: The students prefer to study in a quiet environment.

4. theory / ˈθi ə ri / (n.) – a proposed explanation based on observation and reasoning
Example: Scientists have long debated on theories about how the world began.

5. fluent / ˈflu ənt / (adj.) – can easily speak a language
Example: The boy wonder is fluent in six languages.


Read the text below.
A recent study suggests that a quiet environment fosters vocabulary learning among children.  

According to the study, noise distractions found at home, such as sounds coming from the TV, radio, or people who are talking, have a negative effect on a toddler’s ability to learn new words. Brianna McMillan /məkˈmɪl ən/, a psychology graduate student, and her professor conducted three experiments to look into this link.

During the three experiments, the researchers taught the children new words for unfamiliar objects, then were tested for their recognition of the objects. Only the volume of background noise differed for the experiments.

In the first experiment, toddlers aged 22 to 24 months were taught the new words in either a noisy or a quieter environment. The same procedure was done for the second experiment, but the participants were 28 to 30 months old. In both experiments, only the toddlers exposed to quieter background noise successfully learned the words. 

In the third experiment, the older toddlers were taught two words in a quiet environment. They were also taught two more words in a noisy environment. Results showed that the toddlers learned the words taught in the quiet environment, but not those taught in the noisy environment. Thus, the researchers came to the theory that children only made connections between words and their meanings when presented in a quiet environment.

McMillan suggests that to facilitate vocabulary building, toddlers must hear the words in fluent speech and in a quiet environment. She also said that adults can help by becoming more aware of the noise they produce around children, especially at this stage.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you believe that noise really has an effect on a child’s vocabulary building? Why or why not?
·         Based on the research’s findings, what can parents and schools do to help children build vocabulary?

Discussion B

·         Aside from noise, what are other factors affecting children’s development?
·         Who do you think has the biggest impact or influence on a child’s development? Explain.

October 14, 2016