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Baby development: Your 11 month old

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

For many 11 month old babies, babbling starts to turn into a proper language.

Baby talk: Learning language

Learning that words mean actions or describe objects is a big step for a baby.

Connection of sounds to objects and people marks the beginning of "symbolic thought", of your baby entering the realm of the mind, not just the senses. It’s as thrilling as it gets. Let’s look into it a bit more closely.

"Receptive" vs. "expressive" language

The process of language development has actually been going on from the beginning, when your newborn preferentially listened to spoken language and began to process its components. A lot of the human brain is dedicated to decoding and generating language and these multiple language centres have been strengthened and reinforced by those language sounds that your baby has been so carefully listening to.

At the same time, your child began to play with sounds and to learn how to articulate the consonants and vowels and musicality of your native tongue. You noticed, for example, how she strung sounds together in a way that sounded eerily like real speech. That was not language, but somewhere around nine months or so, she had her brilliant idea.

After that you wondered if she understood her name or "No!" or bottle, and she likely did. As all of you know who have tried to learn a second language late in life, it’s easier to understand ("receptive language") words than it is to generate the speech ("expressive language") to communicate. Additionally, the oral motor skills involved in talking are incredibly complicated and take a lot of time to master. That’s why a full three months or so go by between the brilliant idea and its manifestation as the much-heralded first word.

Baby’s learning to talk

How will your baby best learn to talk? To make a point, let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose you are a mad scientist parent. You want to see how well your baby will learn to talk by keeping the TV on all day and sitting them in a high chair and making them watch for a few hours a day. No human conversation, just watching TV. How well would your baby learn to talk?

The answer is: not at all. Babies can only learn language in the context of a relationship. There must be a back and forth, questions and answers, immediate responses to things that have just happened, following up on the infant’s utterances with those of your own. In short: human interactions. TV’s disembodied flashes of images have none of this and, of course, lack the benefit of the communicator having a close emotional bond.

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