Normal speech and language development

By Dr Tommy TranGeneral02 Sep 2015


Speech and language delay is the most common development delay seen in young children. An important concept to understand is the difference between speech and language. Language is what your child wants to say or what they understand, while speech involves how he/she puts sounds together to make words.

Speech development (learning to make sounds) occurs over the first 6-7 years of your child’s life. A rule of thumb regarding the amount of speech that can be understood, is equal to your child’s age divided by 4. For example, a 1-year old 25% of the time, a 2-year old  years old 50% of the time, 3-year old 75% of the time and a 4-year old 100% of the time. The table below shows how different sounds develop over time. Note that the “th” and “r” sound aren’t completely developed until children are almost 7!


Table 1: typical development of speech sounds


Language consist of several components. Expressive language relates to the words that your child says, while receptive language is how they understand what they are told. Sometimes parents feel their child doesn’t listen, and it is important to make sure they actually understand what they are being told. The table below has shows the typical language milestones in children.


Table 2: language milestones



If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, speak to your GP, speech pathologist or Paediatrician. Often the first step is to have a hearing test performed.


O’Hare A and Bremner L (2015) Management of developmental speech and language disorders: Part 1. Archives of disease in childhood 0:1-6 doi:10.1136




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