We never fail to celebrate incomprehensible babblings uttered by our toddler, giving meaning to them as if they were real words. On the other hand, we beat ourselves in frustration when every other child except our own has already begun talking.
Find out more about why children’s speech development is crucial, and how you can help.
Express yourself For young children, speech is key in expressing preferences, dislikes, and intentions. For older school-aged children, it is an indispensable ingredient of reading, spelling, mathematics, and writing.
Since speech is used in virtually all aspects of our lives, any breakdown, however small, impacts on the quality of our output at home, in school, and in the community. Imagine how challenging learning speech can be for children, much more for those who exhibit difficulties in speech and comprehension.
How kids first learn to speak Babies aren’t born with the ability to speak. They coo and they cry in an attempt to communicate with parents and caregivers.
Paying attention to everything their parents say, babies pick up random words and sounds. They soon realize that they can echo these sounds, and vocalize with syllables that they invent. They watch the movement of jaws, mouths, and faces, then experiment with their own vocal and facial movements.
The first “ba-ba-ba” and “da-da-da” become their first shots at babbling at around 4 months old. By around 9 months, they continue to play with varying tones and phonics of every utterance they make. They’ll learn to put these together and form jargon, such as “ga-ga-da-doo.” After that, the 1-word stage begins.
Babies’ jargon are soon replaced by meaningful sounds or words as they grow older. Names for “important” objects come first: bottle, Mama, Dada, milk. Next are action words: carry, eat. Then adjectives: hot, cold. And finally, social words: goodbye, hello.
At around 18 months, toddlers will come up with the idea of putting 2 words together to form meaningful phrases, such as: “my blankie,” “no more,” “Mama gone.” At 2 years, language acquisition shoots up to at least 1 new word every 2 hours. Children usually skip the 3-word phase, going straight to stringing more words to convey ideas and messages to people around them. They will even assimilate grammatical rules on their own, making necessary corrections along the way until mastery is almost achieved.
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Frank Caplan, author of The First Twelve Months of Life: Your Baby’s Growth Month by Month, writes, “Speech develops faster and better if parents and caregivers make a conscious effort at early communication.” Throughout this exciting and early stage of speech development and language learning, it is imperative for parents and caregivers to provide immediate feedback or responses to the children. Studies show that when mothers respond with encouraging, affectionate, and nurturing sounds, babies will associate speech with comfort and pleasantry and become more interested in “talking.”
Photography by Jun Pinzon
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