Listening & Comprehending

We talk long before we read & write… so early that you probably don’t remember your own process of learning to speak. We watch the process unfold in our kids & we are reminded that learning to talk begins with listening.

Slowly, young minds immersed in sounds, sort & organize what they hear. They are learning to comprehend.

Listening & comprehending are necessary ingredients in communication & the first steps in learning to speak. Oral language acquisition is where early literacy begins.

Imitating & Creating

As they listen, children begin to mimic sounds, sometimes repeating those they have heard exactly as they heard them & sometimes creating their own combinations.

The ability of humans to invent speech is one of our species most unique & creative capabilities, unlike any other species on the planet. For example, you & I have no idea what words we will string together tomorrow, but we expect to speak easily & intelligibly in sentences that we may never have spoken before – now that’s exciting!


The content of this post is from two sources: the 7th edition of  An Introduction to Language & the 3rd edition of Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children’s Literature.

 Ages & Stages of Oral Language Acquisition

Around their 1st* birthday, children’s sounds become words; give them another six months & two-word combinations (referred to as telegraphic speech) begin to emerge. Speech at this stage is made up of nouns, verbs & adjectives, so you may hear comments from them, such as “icky bug” or “car go.”

By age 2, a toddler often has increased their vocabulary significantly, & by 3, more complex speech (adverbs, prepositions, etc.) makes an appearance. Often, there is a large amount of diversity in both the number of vocabulary words & complexity of speech from one child to the next as many factors influence a child’s language development. Each child has a unique process.

One of the best ways to help your child develop language skills is to practice conversational turns. In other words, it is not simply allowing children to hear language (such as from your reading of a storybook) that is important, but more so, your ability to engage with them in a back-and-forth process where you both have opportunities to listen & to speak.


*Note: As with all types of development, each child has a unique process so ages listed are approximations as opposed to standards.