Factors contributing to vocabulary spurt in Kikuyu children aged 18 - 24 months from Othaya division, Nyeri district, Kenya.
Wanjohi, Peter Githinji
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Language development determines children's future educational and social success. Performance in schools at all levels is related to the with language foundation in the early childhood years. In the recent past there has been a public outcry in Kenya over poor performance in K.C.P.E. results especially in English and Kiswahili languages as well as Mathematics and the Sciences. With the exception of Kiswahili, knowledge, skills and concepts in all other subjects are transmitted and tested in the English language, which is a second and/foreign language to the majority of children in Kenya. Competence in the first language will lead to competence in English and other foreign languages. It is within the first language acquisition period in the early years of a child's life that a vocabulary spurt occurs. This spurt is associated with cognitive and/or psychosocial development. The language policy in Kenya states that first language be used for instruction in the early years of a child's life. However, concern has been raised that children are being introduced to foreign languages too early, even before they have mastered the first language- the language in which the spurt occurs (Koech Report, 1999) which in turn impedes acquisition of other languages especially English and Kiswahili. This, consequently, negatively affects the knowledge, concepts and skills transmitted in those languages, negatively jeopardizing the child's education and resulting in functional illiteracy in later years. Few studies on child language development in Kenya have focused on vocabulary spurt, at which level, stimulation and intervention measures can be put in place. None have investigated the vocabulary spurt in Gikuyu. Without studies in this area, intervention measures to support language acquisition and learning will not be effected, which will in turn impact negatively on the educational and social success of children in their later years. This study was concerned with the investigation of the occurrence of the vocabulary spurt as well as personal, family/parental and environmental factors that may influence it. The study was carried out in Othaya Division of Nyeri District, a predominantly Gikuyu speaking area. A sample of 100 children aged 18-24 months children was selected for observation. Data was collected using reports from parents and other key informants through an adapted and modified MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories (MacArthur CDI). The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) tools was used in the data analysis. Chi-Square was used to test the relationship between independent and dependent variables while Multinomial Logistic Regression Analysis was used to establish the contribution of selected factors to occurrence of vocabulary spurt. The findings of the study suggest that children do undergo a vocabulary spurt. Out of the ten factors investigated, age and vocabulary stimulation were significantly related to vocabulary spurt. Likewise, age, vocabulary stimulation and social-economic status had a significant contribution to vocabulary spurt occurrence and language development in the early years. The study recommends that ECDE stakeholders address specific age related differences in children under three years in providing early stimulating linguistic experiences and language activities that are relevant to children's psychosocial development