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How Children Learn To Talk

Children learn to talk by interacting with adults and peers. There are few factors that contributing to the development of talking.

Factors that affects talking development

Dr. Mastura Badzis, a specialist in children’s development and education of International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) reported that each child has different pattern of talking ability and closely depending on their health and environment factors.

  • Environmental Factor
  • Health Factor
  • Genetic Factor

Environmental Factor

Stimulation from environment is important for the development of speech and language in children. The environmental exposure included adults, peers and living environment is crucial for the speech and language development. Children whom deprived of speech-language stimulation are at high risk of having delayed in speech and language. Peers way of speech also have great influence in children speech and language ability.

Health Factor

Healthy children usually have better speech skills compared to the one that has health problem. Children with disabilities are at higher risk of developing delayed in their speech skills. Children who frequently been admitted to the hospital due to health problems can compromise the interaction development between families, peers and the children. This would affect their development of speech and language skills.

Genetic Factor

Any children that have family history of delayed speech and language development is at risk of having the same problem too.

Children language development milestone

0-3 months
As early as 0-3 month’s baby start to learn how to talk. They show interest in interacting with adults by smiles and sometimes laugh.

4-6 months
Baby starts to produce vowel sounds at the age of 4 to 6 month. They learn to talk by play and manipulate vowels sounds production.

6-8 months
At the age of 6-8 months, baby starts to use repetitive syllables for example, “dada”, “papa” or “mama”. They start to use these syllables to communicate though it’s non-meaningful.

8-12 months
Usually, the first word would emerge at 8 to 12 months. First word usually is the one that commonly heard or use includes; mommy, daddy, or milk. They can understand and follow simple common instructions.

18-24 months
When they are at 18-24 months, toddlers starts to use two words in a sentence. They use, ‘I want milk, want some’, to indicate their needs in daily activities.

3 years old
At 3 years old, a child should be able to combine at least 3 words in a sentence or a phrase.  They should be able to understand and use both nouns and verbs in their speech. These include; ‘I want to sleep, daddy goes to work’.

4 years old
Children at this age starts to use longer and complex sentences by combining simple sentences together. At this stage, environmental factors such as peer relationship had significant effect on speech. It increases the vocabularies and improves narrative and re-telling story skills.

Tips on Developing Children Speech Skills

Speech and language stimulation plays a vital role for the children’s speech development. Parents can help stimulating children learn to talk by actively interact with them while playing, reading books and watching television. Active interaction also helps to stimulate and help children to develop speech, language and other new skills.

  • Let your child choose his favorite toys or topic

    Steps to let your child choose his favorite;

    1. Identify your child interest so that you can easily entice them with it during interaction.
    2. Wait for child to give response. This is the time your child use to process and understand your message.
    3. Listen to any sounds, words or sentences that your child produce so that you understand better what your child wants to say.
  • Follow your child interest when they started to communicate, be it in the form of words, sounds or body sign/language. This can be done by;
    1. Playing together with them
    2. Imitate them when they produce any sounds or words
    3. Interpret the sounds or sign shown by their body language
    4. Give them feedback when they are doing something
  • Taking turn to continue interaction. Things that can ensure continuous interaction;
    1. Suit the turn-taking activities with your child. A balanced communication needs you to also taking into account the length of your child’s turn, as well as his rhythm and interest
    2. Tell them it is their turn by giving them cue
    3. Face expression; smile or raising your eyebrow
    4. By touching or pointing like touching their hand or show them what you want
    5. Ask question such as ‘’who’s turn is it now?’’. Ask the right questions when interacting with them. Make sure they understand your questions.
    6. Use daily routines to take turn while interacting with them, for instance during meal time etc
  • Add on new words during interaction. You can help your children to add new words while talking to them.  For instance;
    1. Give your child new word, but don’t expect your child to immediately able to copy
    2. Use nouns, verbs or words that explains feeling
    3. When they mention a word, repeat the word or use that word in a longer and complete sentence.
  • Talk with them while doing daily activities. Talk while playing with your child. You can also try to talk with them while reading books or listening to music with them

Therefore please spend some time with your children to help them to learn how to talk. Create a helpful environment that can enhance their learning abilities. If you think that your child is having some problem in their speech ability, bring them for further checkups at the nearby clinics or health centres. Early intervention can reduce the risk of having speech and language delay.

Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer : Ernie Heliza bt. Yusof
Translator : Maryam bt. Aizuddin
Accreditor : Nur Fariha bt. Md. Shah
Reviewer : Nadwah bt. Onwi