Teachers’ Conversational Style and Children’s Language Development

Instructional language programs in German childcare centers have shown limited effectiveness. Two reasons may be that (a) the training is unconnected with everyday situations in which children typically acquire language and (b) the programs adopt a cultural model of psychological autonomy, a model that may be inconsistent with some children’s background. In the present study, we implemented an everyday-based language intervention in four German childcare centers. In a pre-post design, teachers (N = 37, M = 32.97 years) were first trained to adopt an elaborative, socially oriented style. Their language behavior, videotaped and analyzed during daily routines over 1 year, demonstrated significant changes (e.g., asking more open-ended questions, referring to social content and decontextualized content more often). Independent of their families’ cultural orientation. children’s (N = 85, M = 3.42 years) language competencies significantly increased beyond age-related development norms. In comparison with a control group of children who visited childcare centers implementing instructional language programs, children of the intervention group performed significantly better in nonword repetition (an indicator of lexical knowledge) after 1 year. The results demonstrate that, in a brief intervention, teachers’ conversational style could be effectively changed toward promoting language development in a culture-sensitive way. Although the direct link to children’s language development remains to be proven, results indicate that children with different cultural backgrounds could profit from this everyday-based approach without using extra settings, materials, or instructions.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
This entry was posted in Conversations, language development and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.