How can I help my toddler speak

Basics of language development

Language acquisition by children follows "its own rules"

Children learn language and speaking according to their own rules and differently from adults. They gradually acquire the language they hear in their immediate surroundings, their mother tongue or first language. And they do this from their daily experiences, from what they hear, see, feel and do.

Experts speak of "uncontrolled language acquisition", or of "natural conditions", as they are presumably only given in the first years of life:

  • In the first few months of life, children develop a better and better ear for speech and sentence melodies, the sounds of their mother tongue and the accentuation of words.
  • At the same time they try out their own voice in a playful way. When they can control the more and more random muscle movements better and better, they make their first sounds in a targeted manner.
  • Eventually, children begin to name what they see, hear, or do. At first they usually mean more than the mere word implies: Depending on the situation, the word "ball" can mean that your child wants to have the ball or play with it. But it can just as well mean that the ball is gone.
  • From the language they hear in their environment, children independently develop the internal logic and structure of the language: little by little they derive the rules about the use of words and about the structure of sentences and initially apply them consistently. In doing so, they often create unusual words and sentence constructions for us adults, such as "Mama has left".

Through such completely normal phases in linguistic development, children gradually learn, independently and in their own way, the various rules of word formation and sentence structure, including their exceptions - and that without ever being aware of the rules!