Language development starts long before first words are spoken by a child. A newborn infant communicates his needs by crying and moves on to making eye contact and smiling in the first few months of life.
In this article, the process of how language develops in the preschool child will be outlined.
The three pre-requisites for normal language development in children are adequate intelligence, functional hearing and good social skills, all in the context of a stimulating environment.
At about 8 months of age, many children begin babbling, which is a precursor to the development of a single-word vocabulary between the ages of 12 to 18 months.
As the child’s repertoire of single words increases, the ability to use two or more words together develops often at approximately two years of age.
At a single-word level, the child typically uses nouns or naming words. Using verbs or action words is essential to the development of two or more words together. For example “eat dinner”, “kick ball”.
At the three-word stage the child uses a basic sentence. For example “Boy eat dinner”, “Girl Kick ball”
At this stage, the utterance is not grammatically correct but consists of information-carrying words.
This basic three-word sentence can be expanded in one of two ways, i.e. by increasing the length-“Boy eat dinner in kitchen” or by the inclusion of grammar-“The boy is eating dinner”.
It is common for young children to increase the length of their utterances before including grammar.
Alongside this expressive language development, the child’s articulation skills are also developing, which results in their speech becoming more intelligible as the length of their utterances increases at the same time.
It is worth pointing out that there is a wide variation in the ages at which children reach the different milestones in expressive language development. Many children with normal hearing and intelligence can have delayed expressive language development for one otr more of the following reasons:
Perhaps their needs are being met without the need for them to talk; an older sibling may be talking for them; they may have efficient nonverbal communication skills which they use instead of talking.
A child needs to hear language and be motivated to communicate for language skills to develop and usually learns the usefulness of language very quickly.Even at single word level,saying “Out”, for example, may result in getting outside or being taken out of a car seat.As the child learns that using language modifies his environment, the process of developing language occurs spontaneously and naturally. This is an integral part of their overall development in these formative preschool years.
In conclusion, language development is a dynamic process which varies greatly from child to child. It is also influenced to a large extent by how stimulating the child’s environment is.