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My 11 month old son has started to talk. He currently has a two-word vocabulary: "uh-oh", and "balloon".

He clearly understands the meaning of the word balloon, and uses it appropriately (his use of "uh-oh" is a little less consistent, but it is improving).

However, his pronunciation of balloon is, well, bad. Usually it sounds more like "boon", although sometimes there is a buzzing "raspberry" sound to it ("bzzoon"), and sometimes it does sound like he's trying to extend "boon" to two syllables (it is hard to tell if there's an "l" sound in there or not, but it is the version that most clearly sounds like "balloon").

Given that he is only 11 months, and he just started talking, I am not particularly worried that the mispronunciation indicates any problems. It is my understanding that many, many toddlers come up with their own unique pronunciations of words they have difficulty with (and it is also how many people I know got their nicknames: younger siblings were unable to pronounce their names, and instead came up with unusual nicknames).

My question is: should I put effort into trying to correct his pronunciation, or is it okay to simply accept that balloon=="boon" (or any of the other variations)? Should I continue to use "balloon" myself, rather than mimic his mispronunciation?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 16 down vote accepted

"Boon" is very acceptable for balloon at 11 months.

Besides the medial /l/sound being one of the later developing sounds (until around age 7 is acceptable) a child with a 2 word vocabulary has not yet mastered the concept of syllables. Reduplicated syllables such as mama, dada, bye-bye, night-night are often their first successful 2 syllable words. Their next step usually varies the second syllable a bit more (bubbles, baby) before mastering more difficult syllable combinations.

DO NOT adopt his speech patterns. Use the correct pronunciation to develop his auditory discrimination skills even when his oral motor skills cannot match yours. So, accept his approximation, model the words correctly and continue to celebrate those exciting first words!

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+1 for in-depth detailed answer (backed by expertise) –  DanBeale Aug 19 '11 at 5:11

You should repeat his sentence but with the correct form of the word. When he says "A boon!" you could say "Yes, a balloon!".

Children learn by copying, and this way you're not criticising you're just joining in a conversation and having fun.

http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/birthtofive/Pages/Yourchildsspeech.aspx

If your child is trying to make a word but gets it wrong, say the word properly. For example, if your baby points to a cat and says ‘Ca!’ say, ‘Yes, it’s a cat.’ Don’t criticise or tell them off for getting the word wrong.

There are somethings that may make speech harder for a child. These can include long term dummy / pacifier use; late weaning; use of sippy cups; use of bottles when lying down (these last two can cause ear problems); as well as all the other stuff like tongue-tie (which should be treated early when it's a really minor procedure) or deafness or other developmental problems.

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