Day after day, you watch the little angel who has been your life since their first cry and you wonder: when will they say their first word?
How can you build up your child’s skills when it comes to speech?
Here are a few answers to these questions:
- Children learn their mother language before they can speak a single letter, while they are still in the womb. Beginning at week 24, they are able to hear your speech because their sense of hearing has finished developing, but the words reach them as “tones” because they are surrounded by amniotic fluid.
- Mothers, it is obvious that the sound closest to your child at birth is your voice, so every voice will sound like yours and every language will be close to the one you speak. If you read to your child in your last month of pregnancy, they will even react more, after birth, to the stories they heard while still in the womb!
- Your child is able to repeat sounds from other languages in the first months of their life, but in month four, they will begin to focus on their mother tongue; their brain is getting rid of all the other sounds to limit their interest to your language.
- Your child’s brain, however, will retain enough flexibility to allow them to learn a second language beginning at age four. If you moved to a foreign country, they will learn its language with astonishing ease.
- Of course, conversation is what most speeds up your child’s speech process, which does not really start before they turn one. Keep up this conversation, even though it’s unnecessary for them to say anything; ask them, for example, “Do you want milk?” “Do you like this game?” “Are you sleepy?” These are words that will help them define their surroundings, and you will see them gradually start using them when their brain is ready.
- Finally, allow your child complete freedom of expression and listen to them intently, always smiling, even when you don’t understand a single word they are saying. This will make them feel that you are interested in the sounds they’re producing and will encourage more words and sounds.