From Pregnancy to Walking: Language Development

Once I heard the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in the secret at the gossip of starlings, and share a conversation with the housefly in my bed.
Once I head and answered all the questions of the crickets, and joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow, once I spoke the language of the flowers.
How did it go? How did it go?
-Shel Silverstein

From the time of conception, the fetus prepares its vocal lungs to one day form words. During pregnancy, each organ takes time to construct and grow. The ears come to allow the child to hear the words in order to form themselves, the mouth, tongue, and facial muscles form to allow the formation of words, the vocal cords produce sounds and the lungs allow for the air to enter the body; this was a trade off during evolution; when humans gave up the ability to breath under water, in order to one day have the ability to speak. Upon reaching the Uterus, a few days after conception, the fetus and mother establish communication.

Dr. Silvana Montanaro says, “The zygote must produce the chorionic villi, (which are tiny protrusions in the placenta allowing the fetus to get close to the maternal blood) which can be considered the telephone lines connecting the mother so they can talk with each other.” Recent studies show that fetuses being hearing as young as 23 weeks of gestation and by the week 35 of pregnancy sound discrimination improves.

Around the 7th month of pregnancy, fetal mouth synchronism occurs when the fetus is mouthing every word the mother is saying. From this time on the child is preparing its vocal cords. During pregnancy, the mother and father speak to the child in the womb, the child will recognize these voices outside the womb and the mother and father become an instant point of reference for the child during the period of external pregnancy (This is considered to be the first 40 days after pregnancy).

Once the child is born, it is important to continue speaking with her all the time. The child will now learn the sounds of her voice by the sounds around them and the sounds of her cry. As the child grows and develops over the next few months, the parents and others around the child must give her ample opportunities for vocabulary growth and language. It is up to the parents to name everything around them, as the child is in the absorbent mind and will log it into themselves, until one day an explosion occurs and after many times of saying milk, milk, milk, the child will repeat what the adults says.

At 2 months the child is auditive, she will turn at the sound of the voice, at 4 months, the child becomes visual, she will look intensely at the speaking mouth and at 4-6 months the child is motor, the 1st syllable and repeats that same syllable, this is the absorption of language and the formation of babbling, at 8 months, the first consonants are form as ma, da, and na, at 10 months the child becomes conscious that language has meaning and by the first year, the intentional word could be spoken.
What can we do to help support the development of language from conception to walking?

  • Remember the child will be able to hear sound through vibration ( like sound waves) during pregnancy; mothers and fathers can always speak to the child while in utero.
  • Once the child is born, continue to speak to them, in order to have language, the child must have certain things,
    1. The physical apparatus Larynx and Pharynx
    2. To be surrounded by spoken language (children do not learn language from the television)
    3. Must have the will to speak- allow the child to use their voice
  • Name everything for the child. For example during bath time, tell the child what you are doing e.g. “Now we are going to bathe you, I am washing your legs, I am putting water on your stomach, these are your fingers etc.”
  • Allowing for the opportunity for the child to speak. When the child is older, naming the object and then allowing them to repeat it. “What would you like?” “Milk” allow the child to repeat
  • Speak with the child intelligently. Refrain from “baby talk” In order for children to have the best opportunity; they must hear language and words clearly. Refrain from the cutesy wootsy talk aka baby talk. This will only confuse the child and not allow for the best opportunity to hear words, sounds and consonants clearly.