From coos to first words and syllables, baby’s language becomes richer over the months. How is this evolution going? How does baby communicate at 3, 6 or 12 months? When should you worry? Dr Fabienne Kochert, pediatrician and former president of the AFPA (French Association of Outpatient Pediatrics) sheds light on these questions.
How does language development take place in babies?
It is important, first of all, to clarify that language development varies from one baby to another. It is a process (except if there is a communication disorder such as autism) where understanding precedes verbalization and expression. “ It’s not because a child doesn’t say a lot of words that he won’t understand things. » specifies Dr Fabienne Kochert. “ The human brain is made for language acquisition », she adds.
The baby’s brain, in fact, is capable of decoding sounds. A faculty which, according to the expert, allows the child to be an intelligent grammarian, capable at the age of 2 of associating words and at 3 of making a short sentence.
The evolution of language: what will be baby’s first sounds and words?
Language development in babies involves several stages. Pediatrician Fabienne Kochert details the different stages of progression:
- Around 2/3 months: baby emits his first smiles-response, chirps, as well as canonical babbles like “areuh”.
- Between 6 and 9 months: baby’s language is enriched through the pronunciation of syllables. “ In all languages, the first syllables pronounced by babies contain the sound “a”, such as “papa”, “mama”, “tata”, etc.», Explains the specialist.
- Between 9 and 12 months: baby generally pronounces his first words. Very often, the latter have an easy sound. It is during this period that parents can hope to hear the first “dad” and “mum”, followed by the first expressions that he hears in his close circle, such as “you give”.
These are of course benchmarks! Remember that each child has their own pace for learning.
How is learning new words going?
The first thing to take into account is that children model themselves on their external environment. “ This is the predominant factor », insists Dr Kochert. This is why it is important to have interactions with your little one from birth, in order to develop their communication skills, as well as their vocabulary. Especially since the baby is in tune with his main attachment figures, who are his parents, and his nanny from a more secondary point of view. For the pediatrician, “ babies are interacting and learning machines ».
How to talk to your baby and stimulate their language development?
From birth, it is important that parents have time to talk with the child:
- Watch picture books together;
- Tell stories ;
- Sing nursery rhymes;
- Take a walk ;
- Verbalize what you do;
- Play educational games.
« Simple advice to apply in short, but which is effective in enriching the child’s vocabulary », Explains the specialist. And if there is one thing to avoid, according to the expert, it is screens. Apart from the harmful effects of blue light which can disrupt babies’ rhythm, we must understand that babies are not made to be in front of screens. “ For their learning, lBabies need to interact, particularly through educational games that they can touch and manipulate », insists the pediatrician. “ Virtual learning games are not suitable “, she says.
Tips for talking well to your baby
While it is advisable to speak to babies using the correct syntax and grammar, it is completely natural, however, not to have the same prosody as with an adult. “ A mother who talks to her baby will have a higher voice and a softer rhythm. », underlines the pediatrician. “ It is also normal to be amused by the child’s first lexicon errors and failures. However, it is important to correct him and explain his mistake to facilitate his learning. », Recommends Dr Fabienne Kochert.
What will be the specific language characteristics at the age of 2?
At the age of two, children are generally capable of saying around twenty words and associating two: “mama sleep”, “daddy house”, etc. “ Children actually know a lot more » reveals the pediatrician. “THowever, they are not able to verbalize them all, because this requires maturation of linguistic production: positioning their language well, knowing how to emit certain sounds, etc. », adds the specialist. It’s a learning process that happens step by step.
The development of language in children can, in fact, mature until the age of five.
« If there is lisping or poor pronunciation of the “r”, it is not necessary to see a speech therapist right away, this can be corrected by the time you learn to read in first grade », reassures Dr Fabienne Kochert.
And at 3 years old?
A child’s language improves remarkably between the ages of two and three. At this age, your little one begins to say his first sentences with a subject, a verb in the present tense and a complement. Some children even manage to make sentences using the past and future. The other important indicator is that the child can be intelligible to a person outside his family. “ For this reasoncIt is often at the age of 3 that language delay is detected, when the child enters school », specifies the pediatrician.
When do we talk about language delay?
There are two modalities of communication: verbal and non-verbal. Long before he says his first words, baby expresses himself through sounds, cries or smiles. It is then possible to detect a communication disorder through one’s behavior. “ A baby who is not interested in something you show him is not normal », Explains the expert. “ In the same way, a lack of joint attention at 9 months or the absence of verbal production at two years of age are signs that should alert parents. » she adds.
If in doubt, Dr. Fabienne Kochert advises parents to contact their pediatrician or a doctor who is familiar with the child’s development, and insists that the first thing to do is to check the hearing. “ Subsequently, the medical profession checks, through clinical examinations, whether there is a discrepancy only in language development, or also in other areas of development. », specifies the specialist. “ Often a language delay is not isolated », she adds.
Even if a delay is diagnosed, the pediatrician insists: “ it is necessary, at home, to stimulate the child’s language “. During the consultation, the health professional must, moreover, check that everything is in place at home so that the child can enrich his language, and give advice to families if this is not the case.