MyHealth.Alberta.ca Network

Learning to communicate

Speech, language, reading and writing skills develop in stages starting at birth:

  • Even before your baby uses words, she gives you cues to tell you what she needs.
  • Early coos and goos become babbles, then words. Words grow into sentences and then detailed stories.
  • At first she will just understand the tone of your voice. Soon she’ll know what a few words mean. With time she’ll understand directions and conversations.
  • As her muscles and co-ordination develop, your child’s scribbles turn into drawings, and then letters and words.
  • First she understands that pictures stand for objects, people and places, and later realizes printed words do too.

Your child learns language from the words you use during everyday activities (e.g., eating together). She learns to read by sharing books and stories with you.

Your child also learns through her experiences. She needs to:

  • have people talk, play and read with her
  • be given lots of chances to scribble and draw
  • be able to hear and practice the language or languages around her

Learning more than one language

Many adults speak and understand more than one language. Use the languages you are most comfortable with when you speak to your child. It isn’t important to speak English if it isn’t your strongest language. You will likely speak and read more to your child when you use a language that you know well. This will give her the strong foundation she needs to learn and use language.

It’s okay for others to speak different languages with your child. She can learn more than one language at a time. When she is learning more than one language:

  • it’s normal for her to use words from all the languages she is learning, even in the same sentence
  • it doesn’t slow down her language development
  • Hearing can affect speech

    If you have concerns about your child’s speech or hearing at any age, talk to your health care provider or public health nurse or call Health Link toll-free in Alberta at 811.
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