When do babies start talking? It’s a question many parents ask — especially after months of the child crying and parents being unable to figure out exactly what’s going on.
However, just like many milestones, the age when babies start talking varies, just as it does with crawling, walking, and sleeping through the night. And just as your little one will most likely crawl before they walk, most of the words they say at first (those cute, incoherent babbles) will come before the words. But a baby’s understanding of language and processing the words and experiences around them start even before birth.
Language Development in a Nutshell
“Your baby can hear your voice and other environmental sounds in utero. He will not be able to see well at birth, but he will be able to hear everything, and even to discriminate one sound from another,” Tara Tuck, a speech-language pathologist who specializes in early language development with the Joy of Language, tells Parentology. “Babies’ brains are truly incredible; we can see newborns tuning in to human communication.”
According to Tuck, most babies’ brains contain more neurons than they need, so that’s when a pruning process takes place from newborn to six months.
“Because of baby’s experiences during this time, including the language she hears, the neurons needed to remember and use these bits of information are retained,” Tuck says. “Your baby’s experiences will actually shape her brain.”
How Babies Learn Language
Babies learn about language the way they learn about everything — through observing you, other children, family, friends, and so on. Not only do they learn the concept of language, but they also start to understand the actual process of communication, including verbal and nonverbal cues.
And those unintelligible babbles are one of the most important milestones when it comes to talking.
“Most babies start babbling—making sounds or syllables without meaning attached—around 4 to 6 months,” says Katie Lear, LPC, RPT, RDT, and licensed children’s psychotherapist. She tells Parentology, “Babbling is incredibly important for babies because it’s the foundation of speech. When a baby babbles, he is learning how to coordinate his mouth and muscles to make sounds that other people can recognize.
Tuck says that by the six-month mark, you’ll notice that your baby is beginning to recognize and tune into the languages spoken and heard in their environment. When they hear people talking around them or talking to them, they can start to correlate the facial expressions and the exaggerating gestures and nonverbal cues in ways we don’t realize.
What are the baby milestones and at what ages do they hit them? Continue reading to find out…