Something to Say: Speech & Language Development Part 1

by | Jul 1, 2022

By Cecile Watkins, Speech-Language Therapist

In this two-part series, Speech-Language Therapist, Cecile Watkins,  takes us through Speech and Language Development. In this first bit, we discuss what speech is and what the “normal” speech and language spectrum looks like from birth till around two years old.

What Is Speech?

We love when babies start babbling and talking. Let’s lay the foundation for what speech and language are. Speech is talking, which is one way to express language. It involves the precisely coordinated muscle actions of the tongue, lips, jaw, and vocal tract to produce the recognisable sounds that make up language. Essentially, it is how we say words and sounds. This includes:


How we make speech sounds using the mouth, lips, and tongue. For example, we need to be able to say the “r” sound to say “rabbit” instead of “wabbit.”


How we use our vocal folds and breath to make sounds. Our voice can be loud or soft or high- or low-pitched. We can hurt our voice by talking too much, yelling, or coughing a lot.


This is the rhythm of our speech. We sometimes repeat sounds or pause while talking. People who do this a lot may stutter

What Is Language?

Language is a set of shared rules that allow people to express their ideas in a meaningful way. Language may be expressed verbally or by writing, signing, or making other gestures, such as eye blinking or mouth movements. Language includes:

The meaning of words. Some words have more than one meaning. For example, a “star” can be a bright object in the sky or someone famous.

The formation of new words. For example, we can say “friend,” “friendly,” or “unfriendly” and mean something different.

How to put words together. For example, in English, we say, “Peg walked to the new store” instead of “Peg walk store new.”

Using language to express thoughts and feelings. For example, we might be polite and say, “Would you mind moving your foot?” But, if the person does not move, we may say, “Get off my foot!”

So, what can you expect from how your little one learns to talk? You may be surprised to know that language learning actually starts at birth. We have receptive language and expressive language when it comes to learning languages.

Have a read through the table below then check back in with our next issue as we continue our conversation.

speech therapy table