Fact File on Language Development
Below is a list of facts regarding language development from infancy to three years old, including research on word acquisition, bilingual babies, and infants learning American Sign Language.
- Research on the brain's functioning suggests that brain development is rapid and extensive during the first year of life, affected by the environment, and adversely influenced by stress (Carnegie Corporation, 1994).
- A few thousand words account for 90 percent of the spoken vocabulary anyone uses or hears on a regular basis (Hayes & Ahrens, 1988).
- A highly educated adult has a listening/speaking vocabulary of about 10,000 words but likely knows nearly 10 times as many words in reading and writing, or about 100,000 words (Hayes & Ahrens, 1988).
- In a longitudinal study of 42 infants and toddlers, the average age of saying the first word was 11 months, with a range of 8 to 14 months. The average age at which half of the children's utterances contained recognizable words was 19 months, with a range of 15 to 30 months. By age 2, children produced an average of 338 comprehensible utterances per hour, but the range was enormous: from 42 to 672. The 22year-olds used approximately 134 different words per hour, with a range of 18 to 286 (Hart & Risley, 1999).
- Beginning at about age 3, young children learn an estimated 6 to 10 new words per day (Spodek & Saracho, 1993b).
- Experts report that approximately 70 percent of a spoken message is actually conveyed through nonverbal means, such as voice, intonation, gesture, and facial expression.
- Babies' early speech sounds during the first 6 months of life typically include many sounds that are not used in their native language. During the second half of the first year, their babbling begins to sound more like the language or languages spoken in their homes (Trawick-Smith, 2002).
- When a young toddler is learning to speak two or more languages, he or she commonly chooses one or the other to name or describe objects or concepts. If two languages are spoken in the home, it is common for a toddler 18 months or older to use both languages and to know which family member uses which language. At times, words from both languages (e.g., "please" in English, "bitte" in German) are combined and used simultaneously (e.g., "bitteplease") (Trawick-Smith, 2002).
- Infants who are taught American Sign Language actually go through a babbling stage of experimenting with language, using hand signs rather than oral language (Pettito & Marentette, 1991).
- Increasingly, experts on language are arguing that literacy is more than familiarity with letters of the alphabet because we live in a world where we are immersed in all types of symbols-photographs, icons, signs, letters, logos, information on paper, diagrams, drawings, information on screen, charts, maps, and combinations of all of these (Berghoff, 1997 ; New London Group, 1996).
- Language affects not only cognitive growth but also social competence (McCabe & Meller, 2004). Children who learn to speak and interact successfully with others tend to develop more effective learning strategies and literacy skills. Children who fail to develop age-appropriate language skills are at risk for social isolation, reading· problems, and other academic difficulties in school (Howard, Shaughnessy, Sanger, & Hux, 1998).
- Most experts agree that knowledge of any language can serve as a jumping-off point for subsequent language learning, since most children apply what they know about their first language (Ll) to their second language (L2) (Parke & Drury, 2001).
- Approximately 15 percent of the total U.S. population is dyslexic, meaning that they experience severe difficulties in learning to read (Hurford, 1998). The fact that a child is dyslexic, however, does not necessarily mean that he or she cannot use oral language capably (Cruger, 2005). Dyslexia is a problem with mentally processing print, not with verbal communication or intelligence.
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