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Time to talk 2

Time to talk

The magic of conversation

Having the undivided attention of a parent is one of the most important experiences a child can have. With no phone or laptop or channel changer to distract anyone, not the child and not the parent. And without worrying about any sounds that are mispronounced or words or bits of words that are being left out or said in the wrong order.

To become competent speakers children need to experience conversation about whatever happens to interest them – animals, plants and gardening, music, sport, art, building, and so on. Adults involved in such conversations need to make their own contributions simple and brief, giving as much space as possible to the child. If the topic is a big one, it is better to to tackle it bit by bit than to try and cover it all in one go.

Taking turns

Conversation is sometimes about achieving some goal, convincing, persuading, entertaining, or just enjoying company. It almost always involves recognising the role, interests, motivations of another, and their need to make their own contribution, in other words, taking turns.

Good conversation, with sensitivity to listeners and taking account of their most likely perceptions, and making sure that there is a common understanding of whatever is being talked about, is probably the same in all cultures.

Conversation or discourse is quite different from the faculty of language and Universal Grammar.

A great subtlety and sensitivity

No one was more aware of possible complexities here than Lev Vygotsky (1934). He wrote the book as he lay dying of tuberculosis, rushing as he knew his time was limited. Writing little more than ten years after the civil war in Russia, with parents and children and siblings sometimes having been on opposite sides and trying to kill one another, he was well aware of the issues at stake in the minds of children and their families. This subtlety and sensitivity does not fully emerge in the highly abridged English translation, half the length of the original, completely omitting Vygotsky’s discussion of psycho-analysis.

There is always time to talk

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