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Language is an item of human culture which is an inseparable part of human life. Language and communicative competence are critical for learning, engaging in social relationships, and succeeding in school and beyond.

A person’s language ability starts even before birth and permeates into every field of his or her activity. Nature provides a high degree of sensitivity towards human sounds but not other sounds, which drives a child towards the language that is spoken in the child’s environment. Therefore, the child absorbs the language that is spoken in the environment totally with the tonal quality, the syntax, the usages, and the emphases etc. It has been observed how a child can learn languages which parent speaks. The child absorbs the language that is alive in the environment he or she lives, which is a notable, noticeable phenomenon in human life. However, it is done in a very short time. This language sensitivity is provided by nature from even before birth, and ends around the time the child is four and a half years of age. Especially, during the first two and a half years the child has an extraordinary capacity to learn languages with grammatical expression.

Early Childhood Language development in the first five years of life is the key for children’s development of communication and language. In the first five years of life, the evolution of communication can be divided into three periods. The first period begins at birth when infants communicate through their cries and gazes. Although these early communicative behaviors are not intentional, they set the stage for later intentional communication. In the second period, from six to 18 months, infants’ communicative engagement with adults becomes intentional. Infants in this period can coordinate their visual attention with another person regarding objects and events. In the third period, from 18 months onward, language becomes children’s primary means of learning and communication. For instance, preschoolers can engage in conversations, can use language for self-control and have the capacity to negotiate verbally.

Language Development Milestone

For parents’ reference, below children’s typical language development is presented. There is a wide range of normal development, if your child seems significantly behind in language development, you should talk with your child’s physician regarding your questions and concerns.

6 Months
Responds to his or her name
Responds to human voices by turning his or her head and eyes
Responds appropriately to friendly and angry tones

12 Months
Uses one or more words with meaning intentionally
Understands simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given

18 Months
Has vocabulary of approximately 5-20 words
Uses nouns most of time
Repeats a word or phrase over and over again
Follows simple commands

2 Years
Has vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words
Can name a number of objects common to his or her surroundings
Can use at least two prepositions, such as in, on, under
Combines words into a short sentence, largely noun-verb combinations
Can use two pronouns correctly such as I, me, and you
Responds to some commands, for example “where are your eyes?”

3 Years
Has vocabulary of approximately 900-1000 words
Use pronouns I, me, you correctly
Use verbs often
Use some plurals and past tenses
Knows at least three prepositions, usually in, on, under
Knows and name main parts of body
Uses three word sentences easily
About 90% of what child says should be intelligible
Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities
Relates his or her experiences and can be followed with reason
Can answer such questions as “what must you do when you are hungry, sleepy, thirsty, cool, or hot?”
Be able to give his or her name, age, sex

4 Years
Knows names of familiar animals
Can use at least four prepositions
Names common objects in picture books or magazines
Knows one or more colors
Can usually repeat words of four syllables
Use verbalization as he or she carries out activities
Understands such concepts as bigger, larger, when a contrast is presented
Follows simple commands even thought the stimulus objects are not in sight
Makes much repetition of words, phrases, syllables, and even sounds

5 Years
Can use many descriptive words both adjectives and adverbs
Knows common opposites such as big, little; heave, light; long, short; etc
Repeats sentences as long as nine words
Follows three commands given without interruptions
Has simple time concepts, such as morning, afternoon, night, day, later, after, today, tomorrow, yesterday
Uses fairly long sentences and should use some compound and some complex sentences
Most of time uses correct grammar

Early Childhood Language Skills are crucial for children’s development. Parents should not only pay close attention to you child’s healthy physical growth but also mental growth. Observe and check your child’s language skills often in order to assure that he or she is developing strong language skills from early childhood, which is necessary for him or her to succeed in school and future work in life.

To help your child start early and learn Chinese at KidsChinesePodcast.com.

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