The Role of Parents in the Language Development of Their Children

Children learn language by listening to speech in the world around them. Every time you speak to your child, you are modeling language and the rule system that makes up your language. Spending time with your child, playing and talking with him will help encourage and facilitate his language development.

How Children Learn Language

Children's brains are wired to study the patterns of speech that they hear and discern the rules that are used by the people who are speaking. Children learn these rules and learn to apply them as they create their own speech. The process of learning language involves repetitive and complex learning that occurs through regular interaction, according to physician Bruce D. Perry, writing for the Scholastic website.

Language Progression

As your child's language progresses, she will work through several stages of speech. From birth to about one year, children are in the pre-language stage. At about three months of age, cooing and babble begins official language development. Children are also practicing their receptive language during this time. After pre-language your child will begin speaking in holophrases, or one-word phrases. Telegraphic speech, at around 18-22 months, is the development of two-word phrases. As your child moves from one- to two-word sentences, you can help encourage language growth by repeating back their words in a longer sentence. For example, if your child says "Book mama," you would interpret back to him, "You would like mama to read you a book?"

Building Conversation Skills

Interaction with others is the most important way that children learn language. Talk to your child about what you are seeing, what you are doing, and how things feel. By talking with your child and interacting with your child, you are building language and social skills, according to the PBS website. You also strengthen the bond between you and your youngster with regular conversations.

Reading and Language

Reading aloud to a child helps build language skills. While reading, children listen and match words with objects and ideas, which can enhance play or interaction. As you read with your child, point to pictures and name what you see. As your child gets older, ask her to point to objects in the pictures.


Children learn best from live speakers rather than recorded voices. Television and computers have their place, when combined with parental interaction. However, it is the interaction that is the key to language acquisition. Word drills and flash cards do not hold children's attention; the best way to teach your child about language is by interacting with her. Talk about things she is interested in. Play games and elaborate on your child's attempts at language. Make language and words a natural part of her life.