From gurgling to the first few words: early language
At birth, your baby is not yet able to speak, but he can already communicate: through his gazes, his postures, his facial expressions and by crying – he uses all of these to express his feelings and interact with you. At this stage, there are no limits to his potential: he is naturally conditioned to acquire human language... and is able to pick up any one of the world's languages and learn how to pronounce every human sound. even more incredible is the fact that he can already distinguish between different languages on the basis of their melodies. Gradually, his language acquisition ability will become more specific and he will focus more on learning his mother tongue.
From his very first gaze to the first sentence he utters, the way you interact with your baby is of vital importance for developing his language faculties: you are the one who will give meaning to the sounds he produces, and you are the one who will make him want to repeat those sounds just for the pleasure of watching you react and respond to his requests. So it is very important that you talk to your baby as much as possible right from the start, and babble away with him: by providing him with the right kind of environment, you'll be giving him everything he needs to develop quickly and harmoniously.
Babies all learn how to talk at different ages. Some will already be saying several words after 12 months, whereas others still babble incomprehensibly at 2 years old. Go at your own child's rate of development! Stimulate and encourage him, but don't put any pressure on him: the higher your expectations, the greater the risk of your child withdrawing completely.
Between 0 and 1 month: the birth of communication
• When your baby comes into the world, his first method of communication is crying : he uses it for letting you know he is hungry, he needs to be changed, he needs your contact, he is suffering, he is tired, etc. It's up to you to gradually learn to decipher his messages!
Between 2 to 6 months: a cascade of babbling
• At around two months, your baby begins to play with the capacities of his voice box. Gurgling, cooing, noises in the back of the throat… He babbles away to the greatest delight of those around him! This first babbling is common to all babies across the globe.
• At around four months, the vowels make an appearance, beginning with "a" and "e". One month later baby is able to pronounce his first consonants : it's the age of the famous "goo goo ga ga". At this stage your baby has already adopted his mother tongue : a Chinese or Egyptian baby does not produce exactly the same babble as an English mother tongue baby! To stimulate him, talk to him and repeat his own babble : your enthusiasm will encourage him to persevere.
Between 6 to 9 months: repeated syllables
• Towards the age of 6 months, your baby enjoys repeating syllables ending in "a": "dadadada", "papapapa", "mamamama", etc. These sounds do not have a precise meaning in his mind: you are the one who will gradually give them a meaning by responding. How wonderful for him to see you arrive saying "Mummy" and that is when he will start babbling "mamamama"! He thus discovers the symbolic dimension of language: a sound corresponds to an object.
Between 9 to 12 months: his first words!
• At around ten months your baby begins to pronounce chains of syllables without repetition. He will thus gradually compose baby talk that is often incomprehensible as if he were speaking a foreign language!
• Progressively his language will become understandable: the first words generally appear at around 1 year. If it's not "daddy" or "mummy", do not be disappointed… Your baby first of all needs to designate what he wants that is not within his reach: if he does not name you, it is no doubt because you are very available for him. Often he makes a very broad usage of his first words : for example, by saying "lolo" your baby may mean both his bottle or your breast, hunger, thirst or a desire to be cuddled…
• His comprehension progresses faster than his ability to express himself: at one year, he already understands a wide range of simple phrases such as "Come", "Give to mummy", "Are you hungry"?, "Get your toy", etc.
Between 15 and 18 months: a thirst for learning
• Delighted by his new ability to talk your baby has a thirst for learning new words: he points to objects in his surroundings to ask their name. Respond to his questions and remember to name things you talk to him about to help him increase his vocabulary.
• At 18 months he can master between 10 and 20 words that he begins to combine with one another: for example, "more milk" or "daddy gone". If he pronounces badly do not systematically correct him: you risk spoiling his wonderful enthusiasm and his spontaneity. But rather, say another phrase after his in which you pronounce the problem word correctly.
Between 18 and 24 months: his vocabulary explodes
• Between one and a half and two years your child's vocabulary progresses exponentially: at 24 months he has a vocabulary of up to 300 words. Your little one loves to talk and sometimes it's hard to get him to stop! He is now able to form simple phrases, first of all with a verb in the infinitive ("Jules eat cake"). He also knows how to use the pronouns "me", "I" and "you".
Towards 3 years: I can talk like a grown-up
• The essentials of the language have been acquired, even if his pronunciation may still not be perfect: your child can make up complex phrases, conjugate verbs and correctly use the present, past and future tenses. He may surprise you with expressions that seem to have come straight out of the mouth of an adult, that he repeats exactly as he has heard them! It is also the age of "why?" asked constantly: his curiosity towards his surroundings and his desire to learn new words are insatiable. Try to respond as best you can to stimulate his intellectual development.
• Quite often going to school is also an opportunity for making spectacular progress, thanks to the huge amount of stimulation received via the teachers and various members of supervisory personnel and also via the other children.
• If your child seems a little behind with his language skills, do not hesitate to consult a paediatrician. Many factors may be hindering his progress: a hearing or neurological problem, a defect in his organs of speech, psychological-affective inhibition, etc. Only a professional can help to determine if your child is actually a little behind and, if so, what it is caused by.