Speech and Language Development in Children: Understanding First Words

Speech and Language Development in Children: Understanding First Words Early comprehension of words begins at around 7 months for most babies. Many of the words a child first understands will be context-bound, meaning they are only able to understand it in one specific situation. A typical example of this will be the child who happily waves bye-bye to a person at the front door of their house, but not if they're out and about in the buggy, not when leaving someone else's house, and not if the person leaving their house says goodbye at the living room door.

It's difficult to measure how much children actually understand at this age. Most of the studies available rely on parental reporting, and in this sort of situation, parents can often unwittingly over-report. It has been found that many children are responding to things like pointing, gaze, intonation or other cues rather than the actual word being said. Also, at this age babies only really experience language in reference to their immediate surroundings. So you talk to your child about what's in front of them, what they're looking at right now; but if you were in the bedroom talking about cows in the field, they wouldn't understand it.

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