Language refers to the ability to understand and express thoughts and ideas using sounds, gestures, spoken words and/or written language. Language is different from speech, as speech refers to the ability to articulate and produce individual sounds using your lips, tongue, teeth and voice box.
Learning to communicate is a gradual, step-by-step process for all children. An infant communicates by crying; a six month old begins to experiment with sounds; a 12 month old is beginning to use their first words; a two year old begins to combine two word phrases; and by the age of five most children will be using sentences and be understood by almost everyone.
There are multiple aspects of language including:
- Expressive language: This is the ability to express needs, intentions, opinions and wants. This may include talking, gestures, signing and facial expression. If children have difficulty talking, they may express themselves through other means such as picture exchange or signs (for more info see….).
- Receptive language: This is the ability is the ability to comprehend vocabulary, directions, concepts and questions. Receptive language also involves executive skills such as attention, memory and sustained concentration.
- Pragmatic language: Pragmatics refers to the manner in which we deal with language and the contexts in which language is used. Some aspects of pragmatics include: using language for different purposes; changing language according to the needs of the listener and the social situation; and following rules for social conversation and storytelling (for more info see….).
Children begin to learn language from birth. Language develops and changes across the lifespan from childhood through to adulthood. As with most skills, children develop language at different rates. A variety of causes may lead to difficulties with language development. This can affect receptive, expressive and/or pragmatic language skills. A Speech Pathologist is trained to assess, support and provide intervention for children with language difficulties. If you have concerns about your child’s language development, we recommend that you seek the advice of a Speech Pathologist. Remember that early intervention is best!