Making Language Catchable

There’s a saying that “Language is caught, not taught.”  It would be impossible (and boring for both the adult and child!) to sit down and directly teach a child every word, phrase, or sentence structure he needs to know.  It also wouldn’t lead to very natural results.  Instead, the best language that children learn is picked up incidentally (indirectly, informally, in the course of daily life).  So, how do we make our language more “catchable”?

One of my favorite therapy tools is an inflatable beach ball.  It stores flat and works for hundreds of different activities and goals.  I loved using it in sessions when I first started as an SLP, but I quickly realized a problem.  Some of my smaller or less coordinated patients were having a difficult time getting their hands around the ball.  Then, my ball sprung a leak and began to lose a bit of air and deflate.  At first, I thought I’d need to patch it or replace it, but then I noticed something: this slightly softer ball with excess material to grab became so much easier for the children to catch!

Thinking about how to make it easier for children to catch a ball can help us conceptualize ways that we can make our language easier for children to learn.  When you play catch with a child, you:


  • Slow down your throw (slow down your rate of speech)

  • Give lots of chances to catch the ball (lots of repetition)

  • Don’t stand so far away (get close to the microphone of the child’s hearing technology)

  • Wait for the child to throw the ball back (give lots of wait time and make it a conversation, talking with the child, not at him)

  • Use a bigger/softer ball (make your words more “catchable” with acoustic highlighting)

  • Coach the child on how to catch (provide guidance and scaffolding until he can get it right)

  • Have fun (language learning should be fun, not a chore!)


The next time you’re having a conversation with your child and trying to help him catch on to new language, whether it’s a certain vocabulary word or a new sentence structure, think about the things you’d do to make a ball easier to catch, and change your language accordingly.  Play ball!

5 thoughts on “Making Language Catchable

  1. Genial , es una muy buena metáfora para tener en cuenta, muchas gracias la llamaré Estrategia Rozenberg !!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: