How to Spark It

Wed, 07 Jul, 2021

Stages of Language Development: Language Learning Milestones in Kids (Ages 6 Months to 8 Years)

Language Learning Stages

Language development is a magical process. It's so natural, so innate that babies are born knowing how to do it. Interestingly, regardless of their parents' language, all children learn a language in the same way. The language development in kids takes place in six stages:

Stage 1: The Pre-Linguistic Stage

The pre-linguistic stage is the first year of life, where the child makes pre-speech sounds. During this stage, language developmental aspects include gesture development, adequate eye contact, babbling, crying, cooing sound repartee between infant and caregiver, cooing, babbling, and crying. Examples of pre-speech sounds are "waaaaah," "dadadada," and "mamamama.

Stage 2: One-Word Sentence (The Holophrase)

When the child is between age 10 and 13 months, they are usually in the holophrase stage. The child may speak a single word at a time. The meaning of the work is supplemented by the context in which it takes place and the child's nonverbal clues. An example of such a one-word sentence is "Dada," which could mean, "Daddy, please hold me."

Stage 3: The Two-Word Sentence

The child reaches this stage by 18 months. Their "sentences" in this stage comprise a verb or a noun plus a modifier, enabling the child to be negative, declarative, interrogative, or imperative. Some examples of two-word sentences are:

"Not ball" (negative)

"doggy cute" ( declarative)

"Where dada" (interrogative)

"More cake!" (imperative)

To interpret its meaning, this two-word sentence has to be supplemented by the situation and nonverbal communication.

Stage 4: Multiple-Word Sentences

At this stage, the child is between age two to two and a half years. They use prefixes or suffices to change the meanings or tenses of the words. They are able to form sentences with a subject and a predicate. Using the examples listed above, we'll see how language develops in this stage:

"That is not ball."

"Doggy is cute."

 "Where is dada?"

"I want more cake." 

Although there are grammatical errors in two of the above four sentences, the underlying grammatical principle is understood.

Stage 5: Complex Grammatical Structures 

At this stage, children are between two and a half and three years of age. They use complex grammatical structures, add conjunction, permutation, embedding and prepositions within the sentences. Some examples are:

"Take me to the park" (uses preposition of place)

"Where is mom?" (embedding)

 "Play it, my toy" (conjunction)

"I can't read" (permutation)

Stage 6: Adult-Like Language Structures

Usually, children age five to six are in this language developmental stage. Complex sentence structures are made using the concepts "ask/tell" and "promise," which includes changing the word order in the sentence accordingly. Examples are:

"She promised to help him."

"Ask him what time it is."

Language Learning Milestones in Kids

As children learn to speak, understand, and communicate, they begin to follow an expected series of milestones. The following language and vocabulary development milestones are presented to help you know what to expect from your child when they reach a certain age. That said, it's important to note that each child is different and will progress at their own pace to reach their milestones.  

We'll broadly classify children of ages six months to 8 years into two categories: Pre-linguistic stage and Linguistic Stage.

  1. Pre-Linguistic Stage

    In this stage, most babies understand what is said to them and communicate their needs by pointing to objects.

    Age 6-12 Months

    • Recognises names of a few objects

    • Babbles (e.g. pa-pa, ma-ma)

    • Attends to voices and sounds

    • Takes turns vocalising with others

    • Recognises tones of voice and facial expressions

  2. Linguistic Stage

    Children start to use words when they are one year old. As they grow, they begin to develop their own words for things and people. They communicate using holophrases and then gradually begin to put words together to form sentences.

    Age 1-2 years

    • Understands the keyword in a sentence (e.g. Where's your mama?)

    • Understands gestures like a head nod from left to right means' no,' a hand wave means 'bye', etc.

    • Responds to their own name and familiar requests like sit down, come here, etc.

    Age 2-3 years

    • Vocabulary is 250-300 words by age 2, and 1000 words by age 3  

    • Uses a minimum of 2-3 words in a sentence

    • Points to main body parts, clothing items, food and toys when asked

    • Talks to self in long monologues

    • Follows two-part instructions (e.g. get your shoes)

    • Understands and asks 'Where' and 'What'questions

    Age 3-4 years

    • Understands complex, much longer sentences

    • Follows three-part instructions (e.g. point to the TV)

    • Can tell you the function or use of an object

    • Uses a minimum of 3-4 words

    • Can tell you what they are doing

    Age 4-5 years

    • Understands colour and shape words (e.g. green, round)

    • Follows the meaning of others' conversations

    • Sorts objects into simple categories (e.g. food, animals)

     Age 5-6 years

    • Follows multi-step instructions

    • Follows the meaning of others' conversations

    • Uses more complex sentences

    • Vocabulary comprehension increases

    • Tells several characteristics and attributes about an object

    • Uses imaginative language in play

     Age 6-7 years

    • Shares ideas

    • Gives short oral reports

    • Uses pronouns correctly

    • Follows multi-step instructions

    • Uses higher language skills to argue, joke, tease, engage in sarcasm, talk about movies, etc.

    • Classifies objects according to more specific traits (e.g. colour, form, use, composition)

    • Develops written language skills with the ability to write stories and paragraphs

    • Gives explanations, makes predictions, provides solutions and justifies decisions

     Age 7-8 years

    • Can listen for a long period of time

    • Can retell both real and imaginary events

    • Can express their opinion

    • Can do problem-solving

    • Able to read age-appropriate texts with ease

    • Begins to demonstrate language competence with writing simple compositions

    • Uses appropriate grammar in their speech and written work

    • Understands seasons of the year and time intervals

    • Asks questions to clarify information

    • Notices mistakes in other people's speech.

There are several opportunities in your everyday life that can help your child reach their language development milestones. Communicate with your child often. Expose them to books. These activities will not only boost their vocabulary but help create memorable bonding experiences.