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From Talking to Reading

Language is a basic human skill. Except when there are hearing problems or other obstacles to normal language development, children are born with the drive and ability to learn to speak.

The Importance Of Listening

The first step in learning a language is listening. Your baby will be interested in the sounds you make. The words themselves will not be understood. Instead, she will react to their tone. Soft, soothing sounds will calm her; harsh, loud, angry sounds will upset her.

Your baby will be attracted to your responsive conversation; a television or radio won't engage her in the same way. When you speak to her, you look at her. You smile, and your voice goes up and down with excitement or surprise. Your baby is drawn into this type of communication. It attracts her and it instructs her in the sounds and cadences of speech.

Experimenting With Sounds

In addition to listening, your baby will try out her own sounds. During the first month, her main method of communicating will be crying. You may learn to distinguish a language within the crying--one type for hunger, one for fatigue, one for pain.

Soon she'll add cooing and squealing to her list of sounds. Then she'll start babbling. Some experts believe that babies find babbling sounds so satisfying because they resemble the happy sounds parents make when taking care of their babies. They continue making the sounds to hear their own voices. As the weeks pass, your baby will try out more elaborate babbling sounds, which develop into sound combinations that lead to actual words.

Most babies pronounce their first real word some time around the tenth or eleventh month. Your baby's experimenting with sounds is part of her beginning to talk; the process of acquiring language will continue for many years.