What is core vocabulary?

Did you know that 85% of what we say is communicated using only 200 basic words? These words are known as “core vocabulary,” and they are primarily made up of verbs, pronouns, adjectives, and prepositions.

For example, “like,” “it,” “don’t,” and “I” are all part of the core vocabulary. You can see how you could create a full sentence using only these words– “I don’t like it.”

Why is core vocabulary important?

When introducing words to a child who is not yet talking, it might seem easier to teach the child nouns because they are concrete and can be shown in a picture.

Consider the word “banana.” It is easy to show a child a banana or a picture of a banana to teach them this word. But how useful is the word “banana” in most everyday situations? If a child only knows one or two words, and one of the words is “banana,” that would not help them to be able to communicate in most circumstances. For example, they would not be able to tell you that they need help.

On the other hand, a child could be taught the word “want,” which is a core vocabulary word. How many different times throughout the day would the word “want” be useful? The child might want to get dressed, want a certain pair of shoes, want an apple, want to read a story, want a hug, or want a toy.

If a child can only say one word, and that word is “want,” they would still be able to communicate in a variety of settings and activities throughout the day. If they are not able to communicate that they want something, this could lead to frustration on the part of both the parents and the child. Other very useful and important core vocabulary words include go, play, help, open, don’t, and finished.

Pictures and Communication Devices

Although core vocabulary can be useful for any child learning language, it is most commonly talked about when a child is using pictures or a device to communicate. Core vocabulary is essential in these situations.

By providing a child with words that are part of core vocabulary, the child is able to communicate in any situation. See below for an example of a core word board that would allow a child to communicate numerous ideas throughout their day.

How can we teach core vocabulary?

The best part about core vocabulary is that it can be taught anywhere and any time of day. For example, if a child was learning the words “go” and “don’t,” you could show them these words while playing with toy cars. The best way to teach core vocabulary is modelling, modelling, modelling! The more you use these words when you are talking to the child, the better they will learn to use the words themselves.

So, while playing with toy cars, you could say, “Red car go, blue car don’t go!” Or, you could ask the child to say “go” before you push the car to the child. It is very important for the child to hear the words they are learning many times. So if you are practising the word “go,” you could use it when getting ready, driving to the shops, going to the kitchen, going outside, and going to bed.

It’s amazing how useful a small number of words can be in our everyday life!

Our therapist Abby, has particular interest and training in the use of picture and communication devices and core vocabulary. To make an appointment with her, call us today.