As soon as you recognize the different language stages you will be in awe watching how your child learns the wonders of language. The more you know, the more able you’ll be to guide your child on this journey, no matter how many languages you choose. You will also appreciate just how complex the process of language
acquisition really is for a baby!
As soon as you recognize the different language stages, you will be awestruck at how your child learns the wonders of language. The more you know, the more able you’ll be to guide your child on this journey, no matter how many languages you choose. Finally, you’ll appreciate the amazing complexities of baby’s language acquisition and why it takes years to develop!
Thanks to Noam Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics, we know that language is not acquired through imitation. A parrot can copy human noises, but it can’t hold a conversation. The human brain, on the other hand, is pre-wired for language.
During the last months of pregnancy, the fetus begins to distinguish sounds. After birth, the baby starts to separate pertinent sounds from the overall language stream. In subsequent development, the baby extracts and categorizes the sounds and begins babbling; the connection between sound and meaning soon follows.
So what exactly happens during this fascinating first few years of a child’s linguistic development? Although all babies are born with the innate ability to learn language, they must hear millions of words to actually develop this trait. Surprisingly enough, this long road follows a similar path regardless of what language, or even the number of languages, with which the baby is raised. Another interesting fact is that the interval between understanding a word and then producing one seems to be universal at about five months.
The typical language milestones are laid out below. Parents seem to agree that processing two or more languages simultaneously take three to six months longer (something that is taken into account here). It’s worth remembering that any such delay disappears at around 4 years of age. As always in the ‘Development Derby’ (as some pediatricians call it) language acquisition is highly individual and among multilinguals the variances are even greater.
Take a look at the separate articles for what baby understands and can say at these stages:
- 0-12 months: The first year starts small, and is all about sounds. The early language milestones are virtually identical for all babies, regardless of the language or number of languages learned.
- 12-24 months: The second year is all about words and linking words to objects. Just as with monolinguals, this is a highly individual phase. Be patient, and you will be richly rewarded with the first words — in one or several languages.
- 24-36 months: Now your child is sorting out the grammar and increasing the vocabulary by leaps and bounds. Your child may be slightly delayed compared to monolingual peers going into the third year, but you’ll notice the gap closing quickly at the tail end.