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At what age should I expect my daughter to form words? When should I expect her to be capable of simple sentences?

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It's worth mentioning, and none of the answers below do, that this also depends on how many languages is around the child. Children in multi-lingual environments take longer (but also has easier to learn more languages later). –  Lennart Regebro Mar 30 '11 at 9:50
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Agreed, my two sons are living in an English/Mandarin speaking household and were slow to start talking. –  MichaelF Jul 15 '11 at 11:31
    
And my wife, who learned ASL as her first language, was slow to learn English, but now has a much better time understanding other languages. –  Zibbobz Oct 16 at 20:53

5 Answers 5

up vote 18 down vote accepted

I doubt you'll find anything approaching a firm and accurate answer. This depends so much on the surroundings, particular child, etc.

For a general guideline, Mayo Clinic suggests that a child is likely to

  • Say a few words by 12 months
  • Say 8 to 10 words by 18 months
  • Use simple phrases and know 50 words by 24 months

They also offer some advice for aiding language development, that worked well for us:

Read to your child. Talk to your child. Sing songs together. Teach your child signs or gestures for common items or phrases. Ask your child questions, and acknowledge your child's responses — even if he or she is hard to understand.

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I always get annoyed by those "statistics": every child is different and if they are a bit late on that timeline it doesn't mean anything. If by age 3 your childs still doesn't say anything, THEN there might be a problem. –  inovaovao Mar 30 '11 at 7:28
    
Right, and I would only use those suggestions as very approximate guidelines. I've heard many stories like Andra's of children not speaking at all for years, then jumping right into full sentences. –  Saiboogu Mar 30 '11 at 16:29
    
+1 for the reference –  nGinius Apr 5 '11 at 1:39
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The only problem with waiting until age 3 to decide a child might have a problem is that there is a developmental "window of opportunity" in which children are neurologically "wired" to learn language. Beyond those early years, speech/language learning is more difficult. For every delayed child that learns to communicate suddenly at an older age, I have seen hundreds that never mastered functional speech even as adults. –  Marie Hendrix Jul 30 '11 at 3:17
    
Try and avoid "yes / no" questions, instead make the child use a word. "do you want a bit of chicken, or some avocado?". –  DanBeale Aug 10 '11 at 6:39

It depends on many factors

There are all sorts of things that are going to influence the age that your daughter can understand what language is and the mechanics of being able to talk to you. Listening to her parents and understanding them will come before talking, which is why many people investigate 'baby sign' language as an interim step.

Some of the factors that'll influence your child's speech development include:

  • Genetics: do you or your partner have any flair for language? Bilingual at all?
  • Amount of speech to and around the child. Do you speak to your daughter, in your language (rather than 'baby talk')? I've seen evidence that saying things like 'oos a lickle baybee gooo gooo' isn't helpful as when you talk to another child/adult you never use those words or constructs.
  • Do you have the radio or TV on so that your child can hear other people talking?
  • Does your daughter interact with other children, possibly of different ages? Seeing the benefits of being able to talk (other children can negotiate, get what they ask for rather than what they're given, give feedback, etc) will provide a clear incentive.

However, it doesn't really matter when she talks. If she's not making any noises at all by 18 months, go talk to a paediatrician, but full sentences could take up to 3 years old.

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I completely overlooked the "baby talk" angle, and I'm glad you mentioned it. Making some entertaining sounds at your infant for their amusement is one thing, but when you speak to them, do it as you would an adult - otherwise they have no example of good speech to learn from. –  Saiboogu Mar 29 '11 at 22:33
    
As long as the child hears you speaking to other adults as well, there is little evidence to show whether using "baby talk" or "child-directed speech" when talking to an infant is helpful or not. Some studies have shown that infants pay more attention to this kind of speech and that it might help them learn language better. It is not completely universal across societies to use baby talk or even to speak to young babies directly at all, but this has not been linked to significant language acquisition differences. –  aedia λ Nov 30 '11 at 20:37

This is a difficult question. It depends on the language spoken, but also on the individual. Some children start talking at the age of 1, others need more time. We have two identical-twin daughters and here it is clearly visible. Daughter 1 was early in talking the second in walking. Both caught up on each other in the following months. I have a cousin who did not say a word before 2 and half, but when he started talking it was immediatly in sentences.

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Don't expect anything. Having 5 kids, I'm well on my way towards having my own statistical sample. :-)

15 yo boy - started saying words at 1 year, could speak well before 2.

5 yo boy - pretty much only grunted and pointed at things until over 2 yo then started talking in near perfect sentences. He is now an eloquent speaker in 2 languages.

3.5 yo boy - started saying words at 12 months, made slow but consistent progress until he was speaking fairly well 2 yo. Speaks one language at an average level, the other very little.

18 month twin boy - Says about 15 words now, started at about 16 months. Learning very fast, understands near everything and responds to commands very well in 2 languages.

18 month twin girl - Says about 5-8 words, starting recently. Interacting a bit slower than her twin. Doesn't respond to commands in any language, but that's probably just because she's a girl. :-)

I don't think of speech as a benchmark like crawling and walking. I don't think its any indicator that something is wrong if your child is not talking well into 2-3 yo. I've seen some kids that don't talk until three, but now understand and speak very well at 6-7 years old. The thing is that some kids understand, but just decide that they don't want to speak or interact until they're ready. With our kids, this usually seems to go hand-in-hand with their general tendency to be cautious. For example, our 5yo has a very cautious personality, and only does things when he's analyzed and prepared himself. He probably could have spoken complete sentences at 18 months, but chose to wait another 6-8 months.

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I concur. My 3 kids each learned to speak at different rates, and took different paths to get there. They're doing fine. –  Jay Bazuzi Mar 30 '11 at 6:17
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Mostly good anecdotal info, but I -1 for the "good statistical sample" quip. 5 kids with the same parents raised in the same environment are not a statistically valid sample for much of anything, and implying otherwise because it sounds quippy is one of the reasons so few people understand what science is valid and what isn't. :/ –  HedgeMage Mar 30 '11 at 7:11
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It's also worth noting that while some children will be slow to talk with no real issues, if your child does have a speech disability, getting it correctly diagnosed as young as possible is the key to the best possible treatment. If your child seems to be behind the curve (not making babytalk by 1.5yo, not saying any words intelligibly and consistently by 3yo, get him/her checked out. Not catching some speech disorders early enough can lead to lifelong disability. –  HedgeMage Mar 30 '11 at 7:16
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@Javid_Jamae I know it was, that's why I called it a quip. Unfortunately, most people don't grok that, and it's a really bad habit to get into unless you are talking to a bunch of geeks who will all get it. –  HedgeMage Mar 30 '11 at 7:21
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entirely anecdotal, with some potentially harmful info about late talkers. –  DanBeale Aug 10 '11 at 6:43

The UK National health service suggests that at 12-18 months a child:

"May start to say words and understand them"

The emphasis is mine, with children there is never a standard answer.

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+1 for reference and acceptance of variability. –  DanBeale Aug 10 '11 at 6:49

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