Why are Metalinguistic Skills Important?

March 4, 2013 by Geoff Nixon

“Metalinguistics” isn’t exactly a word that most people know. As a parent, you may have never heard the word. It rarely comes up in conversations with other parents or even teachers.

Metalinguistics is the ability to look at language skills as a thing; to evaluate language as a process or even a system; and to maneuver around successfully in using language. Typically adults do not talk about the syllables in the words they are speaking or the actual meaning of a word in a sentence — which are metalinguistic skills. The term was coined in the 1970s when researchers used it to describe the process of learning multiple languages, however it applies to many facets of language.

Once you understand the intricacies of your native language, you can successfully begin to learn another, new language. You can start to compare and contrast the languages and remember that in one language you do a-b-c, whereas in another, the rule is d-e-f.

Metalinguistic Awareness Depends on Metalinguistic Skills

Metalinguistic awareness is the awareness that you can change language in different ways, that you have the power to manipulate it. For example, if you write a letter to someone and realize afterwards that sentences #4 through #7 do not make sense, you can rewrite those sentences. You have the power to change them.

As they grow up, kids start to examine their own work, such as their written letters or homework assignments, and begin to see that there may be better ways to say something. For example, they may write a sentence like:

“I went to the big pond for a big day of fishing in the lake.”

Metalinguistic awareness will alert them to the fact that there’s a discrepancy in the sentence: is it a pond or is it a lake?  With metalinguistic awareness, a person can reflect on the language.

They could also understand – with metalinguistic awareness – that if someone says, “My little dog is an Olympic athlete,” it doesn’t mean that the dog participates in the Olympic athletic events. Instead, it means that the dog is very athletic, good at athletic skills, and the owner thinks that the dog has a lot of potential.

Children with auditory processing disorder (APD) have difficulty with metalinguistics and metalinguistic awareness. However, programs created to assist children, teens or adults with APD focus on metalinguistic skills to bring these learners success.

As a parent, improving your student’s metalinguistic skills allows you to ask him or her to do their homework and to check it. You can expect higher grades and your student will gain understanding. Get more information about Learning Difficulties programs offered by Gemm Learning.

  • Norma Rodriguez

    My Son Noel was diagnose with Asperger’s and he also score low on his Metalinguistic . I would to know what we can do to help him.

    Thank you,
    Norma Rodriguez

    • Please give us a call directly to discuss his diagnosis; no obligation yet, a great deal of positive information will come from the chat. 877-914-4366