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How Language Acquisition Affects a Child's Development

by Erica Loop

People use language for many purposes, chiefly to communicate, give instructions, express emotions, understand others, and to create new words, expressions, and forms of language. Areas of development such as social and emotional growth are often dependent on a child’s ability to express himself verbally, when it comes to the child being able to refine her abilities and master new skills.

Infant Development

While you might not think that language acquisition and infancy go hand in hand, but your baby is building basic language skills. Although she might not have the skills to talk, your infant is developing basic communication skills. According to the Mayo Clinic, by 6 months, infants respond to changes in voice tones and use vocal noises to express pleasure. By 12 months, your baby will understand basic words such as "no,” and she'll say a few words and she'll try to imitate adult's speech. Your baby's developing ability to understand what you are saying can help her develop more interactive types of social skills. When you smile and say a soft, "I love you," she will respond with her own smile and maybe even coo or gurgle for you. Additionally, as she is more able to absorb and respond to what the people around her are saying, your infant can master new tasks by listening and reacting to your requests. For example, as your little one begins to crawl, she will need language abilities to understand your verbal coaxing to move in new directions.

Toddler Development

According to the child development experts at PBS Parents, by 18 months, your toddler can understand roughly 200 words, and will recognize 900 words by 30 months. Being able to say new words at about 24 months will give your toddler a vocabulary of more than 550 words. Coupled with cognitive development, your toddler is building new social and emotional skills, along with his language acquisition. For example, an increase in vocabulary means that your toddler gains the ability to express his emotions verbally, instead of crying or hitting. Additionally, your toddler's language skills now enable him to understand up to two-step directions. This makes it easier for him to interact socially and to explore his environment, with your guidance.

Preschool Development

For preschoolers, the verbal explosion that comes with the toddler years is nearly over, but your child is still gaining new language skills regularly. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ healthy Children website, 3- and 4-year olds can speak in full sentences, tell stories and understand the basic rules of grammar. By 5, most preschoolers can tell longer length stories and can use the future tense in language. These communicative milestones can help the young child to engage in new activities such as group dramatic play, as well as early literacy practices, such as reading. With a more refined sense of emotional regulation, compared to that of a toddler, your preschooler's language acquisition skills will help end the tantrum phase to enable her to use her words when she is frustrated or angry.

Older Children

As your child reaches his grade school years and beyond, he is refining his language skills and acquiring a more sophisticated way to communicate. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association notes that by the middle grades, most children can listen attentively in a group, participate in group discussions, summarize stories, use subject-themed vocabulary correctly, and have a mastery of basic phonics. The older child's language development enables him to build increasingly more complex academic skills such as reading and writing, and in researching material in subjects that range from science to social studies -- and everything in between.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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