Q:

When do babies start to talk?

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Quick Answer

Babies usually speak their first real words between the ages of nine and 12 months. Prior to that, they will babble and utter noises. Babies generally understand words at the one-year age mark.

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Full Answer

Although babies may not officially begin speaking in a formal language for a year, they develop vocal skills and listening skills throughout the first months of their development. Babies' vocal journeys begin with cooing, which is a sing-song type sound. They will then progress to simple babbling and repetitive sounds, and eventually progress to learning and using real, full words.

Early Vocal Development
At the three-month period, babies typically communicate by cooing. Cooing is a song-like sound that indicates happiness. In addition to developing their own vocal cords, babies at this stage learn to recognize other speakers. They generally enjoy listening to music at this stage of life, and they prefer to hear a woman's voice over a man's voice, according to WebMD. At the half-year mark, babies may talk in simple, repetitive syllables like "da-da." They also continue developing a holistic comprehension of language and vocabulary. By the time babies are six or seven months old, they respond to their names and start using tone of voice to convey emotions. At this point, babies can also recognize their native language. At around nine months of age, babies can understand simple words and commands like "please," "yes," and "no." They will have a wider range of consonants and syllables at this point, and they will use more tones when speaking.

First Words and Comprehension
Babies' first recognizable words generally emerge somewhere between nine and 12 months of age. By the time they are a year old, babies can correctly form simple words and understand what they mean. They can also follow simple commands like "don't touch that" or "put that down." Between 12 and 18 months of age, babies start expanding their vocabulary and their understanding of words. At this point, they can identify body parts, people and other objects like pets. They will repeat words that others say but they often omit parts of the words, primarily the beginnings and endings. When they reach two years of age, babies will start speaking in short phrases, such as "dada bye-bye." They also develop a sense of self at this point, and they can identify items that are theirs.

Language Development Problems
While some babies' language skills might progress a little slower or faster than average, a child who makes very slow progress may have a language development problem. Children who say very few words by age two, for instance, might benefit from a professional evaluation.

Developmental problems are categorized by two types, which are speech delays and language delays. Children with speech delays can use words and phrases to communicate, but they are hard to understand. Children with language delays have clear pronunciation but they can only put two or three basic words together. Language problems can also be a result of another problem, such as hearing loss. Children should be able to use their voices to respond to their environment by the one-year mark, according to Kidshealth.org. If a child watches others but does not communicate vocally, he or she may be hearing impaired. Getting regular checkups at the doctor's office can help parents understand if their child is progressing at a normal rate.

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