Two kids playing

Speech and Language Development Resources

ASHA Speech Development

Language Acquisition for Children:

The Optimal Language Learning Environment

Mother and child interaction in the early years of a child’s life plays a very strong role in language acquisition. Studies (Tough, 1972; Schacter, 1979; Snow, Dubber, & De Blauw 1982) revealed how participation in dialogue is crucial to attainment of sophisticated language forms or higher functions of language.

Research suggests that best thing a mother can do is to respond to her child in a manner that is contingent to the child’s responses. In other words, language will develop when interaction is more or less at the same level. This type of responsive style is contrasted with a parenting style which relies on much more directives, teaching by imitation, and not allowing the child to be understood and participate.

Different speaking patterns in the homes of children (such as talking with the child versus talking to the child) affect language development. These speaking patterns are very distinct as one engages the child to understand forms of language and give responses, while the other is very passive on the part of the child.

Therefore, it is crucial to provide children with an optimal, language enriched environment, in which they can flourish. If this does not occur, then the child may be at risk for a language delay.

For example, did you know?

  • By the time a toddler reaches age three s/he will probably be using over 1,000 words.
  • Toddlers often use a different pitch when speaking to babies or animals.
  • The speech of most three year olds can be understood 75% of the time. By age four, most children can be understood 95% of the time (Apel & Masterson, 2001).