Babies start to learn about language even before they begin to speak. When they cry or babble, and receive a caring response from an adult in return, they are forming and strengthening neural connections related to communication and social skills. These interactions are known as “serve and return” interactions, and are critical for development. Interactive relationships between parents and their babies are not only expected, but are also essential to avoid developmental delays or a negative impact on future well-being. The quality of the baby’s environment and the availability of enriching experiences early on will be critical in determining the strength of his or her future brain architecture.
Your baby’s language is developing way before he utters his first word. He’ll be tuning in to the outside world from the womb – listening to your voice and change of tones. He’ll continue doing this during the first months – figuring out what the rules of language are, and observing how grown-ups around him use it to communicate.
His first attempts at language will be no more than cries, coos, and gurgles that will turn into babbling vowel and consonant combinations in the third or fourth month. You’ll learn that language is more than words – smiles, and different cries will communicate pleasure or displeasure. Wait for the big breakthrough – his first word might come as early as six months! However, that connection between ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ and you might not be present yet. You’ll have to wait another six months for that! However, your baby probably understands way more than he can say at most points. So, avoid swearing unless you don’t want to be flattered by his imitation later on!