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Oh No! My Child Is Not Yet Talking!

The importance of language

Children start to communicate before they can talk. For example, a baby cries to show hunger and smile when they look at their mother. In early stages of normal language development, children use gestures/signs to communicate.

Language can be used as a:

  • Medium of interaction with the family and society.
  • Medium of learning. Almost all education systems are using language through oral and in written form or both.

How children learn language?

Children learn language through:

  • Observe and explore. Children begin to use language to communicate as they began to explore and understand the world around them. The use of language reflects the level of exploring and understanding of the children towards their own world.
  • Imitate. Imitation is a skill before children can obtain language and speech. Children will imitate behavior and speech around them.

Therefore, parents and siblings should represent a good example and behavior. This is because small kids imitate others’ behavior by observing, learning and responding towards the environment around them.


Normal child language development


Kemahiran bahasa

0 – 6 months

  • Smile when listen to their parents’ voice
  • Move their head & eyes towards the sound
  • Produce sounds such as vowel sound (/aaa/) with high pitch (video)

7-11 months

  • Babble – ‘baba’, ‘mama’, ‘dada’ without any meaning
  • Understand ‘no’ and simple commands such as ‘bye-bye’, ‘salam’.
  • Imitate simple meaningful sounds such as sound of animals and transports

1 year old

  • Imitate syllable of words, for example ‘bola’ ? /la/, ‘abah’ ? /bah/
  • Acquire 10-25 words
  • Can show some basic body parts
  • Use social words, for example ‘hello’, ‘bye-bye’
  • Call names of closed family members

2 years old

  • Acquire at least 50 words
  • Combine 2-3 words
  • Follow command without help from others
  • Concentrate on one activity at least for 5 minutes

3 years old

  • Tell story by using longer sentence at least 3-4 words
  • Can say full name
  • Understand Wh-questions such as ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’ and ‘how’

4 years old

  • Understand concepts such as colour and sizes
  • Can answer questions that relate to objects’ function
  • Use longer sentences with connectors such as ‘and’ and ‘with’
  • Produce consonants at least 90% precisely

5 years old

  • Tell story about a topic by using longer sentences that contain at least more than 5 words
  • Use complex connectors such as ‘after that’, ‘or’ and ‘but’
  • Understand complex commands
  • Language and speech are similar to adult

(Source: Poster Terapi Pertuturan KKM)

Factors that affect children’s delayed of speech

Children need a good knowledge and a good language understanding for the child to start talking. However, children’s speech and language development can be disrupted by the following factors:

  • Health factor. Children with health problem, such as epilepsy.
  • Disruption towards brain development. For example, children with delayed development or who has syndromic characteristics might have language disorder or delayed speech.
  • Problem with articulators’ movement. This is one of the brain development disorders. It can disrupt the production of speech. Children may have difficulty to use and control the movement of lips, tongue and jaw to produce the speech sounds.
  • Hearing problem. Children with hearing problem may have difficulty to imitate and produce speech sounds. Thus, parents should bring their child to make an appointment with Audiologist at the nearest hospital for hearing assessment.
  • Less or inaccurate model or language stimulation from parents. Language stimulation is essential when your children are growing. Parents should spend more time, play and talk to their children.

Early intervention at the early age can improve children’s speech and language development. Other than that, providing more language stimulation can encourage children’s speech and language acquisition.

Observe your child’s speech and language development. Compare your child’s speech and language development with their peers. (refer to Table).

If your child cannot speak at the appropriate age, get the appointment with the Speech Therapist for speech and language evaluation and therapy sessions.



  1. Peters, J. A. 2007. Making Chatter Matter. Nurture Books.
  2. Perkembangan Bahasa Kanak-Kanak Normal. Poster Terapi Pertuturan KKM.
  3. Delayed Speech and Language. Diperolehi 5 September 2012 dari http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/not_talk.html
Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer / Translator : Nurbaiti bt. Mohamad Adli
Accreditor : Nurshahira bt. Razali
Reviewer : Nadwah bt. Onwi