Language Development in Early Childhood

When we delve into language development in early childhood, we’re looking at how children start communicating. This is the phase where little ones begin to talk, listen, and make sense of their environment. It’s a period where children start forming their first words, crafting sentences, and engaging in conversations. This language growth helps children express thoughts, explore new concepts, and form social bonds.

In this article, we’ll explore the stages of this fascinating development, from the initial babbling to the more structured language skills they acquire by school age, highlighting its importance in a child’s early years.

What is Language Development in Early Childhood?

Language development in early childhood is a complex process starting at birth, where children learn how to communicate as they grow. At this stage, children pick up two milestone aspects of language: ‘receptive language’, where they grasp what is being said to them, and ‘expressive language’, which is all about expressing their thoughts and feelings.

The journey begins with learning various sounds, then moves on to understanding the meanings of words, and gradually, they learn to string these words together into sentences. They use language for many things, like asking questions, telling stories, or engaging in daily conversation.

In essence, they’re learning all the ways to talk and listen that they need to talk to people and understand them.

3 Crucial Periods of Language Development in Early Childhood

Early childhood language development occurs in three key stages, each marked by distinct milestones and challenges.

Prelingual Period (age 0-1 years)

In the first year of life, babies are already on their path to language development even before they start speaking. This stage is called the Prelingual Period. Here, babies listen and learn from the sounds around them. They begin by making cooing sounds and gradually move to babbling. They also recognise familiar voices and sounds, like their parents or a lullaby. This period is essential for building the foundation for future language skills.

3 Crucial Periods of Language Development in Early Childhood
3 Crucial Periods of Language Development in Early Childhood

Early Lingual Period (1 to 3 years)

As babies turn into toddlers, they enter the Early Lingual Period. This is when the magic of speaking starts. From saying their first words, usually around their first birthday, they quickly combine words into short sentences. When they are around three years old, their vocabulary explodes, and they start using language more purposefully – to ask for things, express feelings, or tell simple stories. This period is marked by significant advancements in both understanding and speaking.

Differentiation Period (3 – 6 years)

Between the ages of three and six, children enter the Differentiation Period. This is a time of rapid growth in language abilities. Children start forming more complex sentences, asking lots of questions, and using language to explore the world around them. They become more skilled storytellers and start understanding more abstract concepts through language. This period is crucial for refining language skills and preparing for school life’s more complex language demands.

Stages in Learning English Language in Early Childhood

Embarking on the adventure of learning English during the early years can be both exhilarating and challenging for young learners. Programs like the “English as an Additional Language” (EAL) at UNIS Hanoi are expertly designed to guide children through this journey.

Let’s look at these stages, which form the backbone of effective language learning for young children.


The first step in learning a new language, especially for young children, is listening. Kids are like sponges during this stage – they absorb English sounds, rhythms, and intonation. It’s all about understanding spoken language, from the simple greetings to the complex sentences. Activities in the EAL program are designed to enhance this auditory learning, making it both fun and educational.

Stages in Learning English Language in Early Childhood
Stages in Learning English Language in Early Childhood


Once children get a good grasp of listening, they start to speak. This is where they experiment with making sounds, forming words, and, eventually, stringing these words into sentences. It’s thrilling as children express their thoughts and needs in English. In an EAL setting, speaking activities are often interactive, involving role-plays, sing-alongs, or simple conversations, encouraging kids to practice and improve their spoken English in a supportive environment.


Reading is the next stage, where children start recognising letters and words, gradually understanding written English. It’s a crucial skill that lays the foundation for academic learning. In an EAL program, reading is introduced through various child-friendly materials like picture books, labels, and simple narratives, all aimed at building vocabulary and comprehension skills in a gradual, enjoyable way.


The final stage in learning English is writing – a skill allowing children to express their thoughts and ideas on paper. It starts with simple scribbling, forms letters, and eventually to writing words and sentences. Writing activities in EAL programs are tailored to be engaging and age-appropriate, often integrating art and creativity to make the learning process enjoyable for young minds.

Each stage plays a significant role in a child’s language learning journey, helping them build a strong foundation in English that will serve them well throughout their academic and personal lives.

Learning Methods for Language Development in Early Childhood

Various engaging and interactive methods can be employed to foster early language skill development in children.

Applying TPR Method (Total Physical Response Method)

The Total Physical Response Method is an immersive experience that integrates physical activity into language learning. This method has been widely recognised for its effectiveness in teaching action words and phrases.

  • Active Learning: Kids learn new words and phrases through physical movements, making the learning process lively and memorable.
  • Engagement: This method is perfect for kids full of energy and love moving around.
  • Long-term Retention: Children are more likely to remember what they learn by associating actions with words.
Learning Methods for Language Development in Early Childhood
Learning Methods for Language Development in Early Childhood

Using Long Term Memory Method

The Long Term Memory Method taps into the brain’s natural processing abilities, making language learning more efficient and sustainable.

  • Repeating is Key: This method is about repeating words so kids remember them.
  • Fun Practice: Through games and activities, kids practice words in different ways, which helps them remember better.
  • Making it Stick: Regular practice helps move words from something kids just heard to something they know.

Teaching Language (English) by Using Song

Songs are a natural and enjoyable way for children to learn language. Children can effortlessly pick up new vocabulary, sentence structures, and pronunciation through catchy tunes and repetitive lyrics.

  • Learning with Music: Songs make learning fun. Kids love music, and it helps them remember words and sentences.
  • Singing Along: Catchy tunes make kids want to sing along, which is a great way to learn.
  • Easy to Remember: Song rhythm and repetition help kids memorise words and phrases.

Teaching Language (English) by Using Games

Games transform language learning into an exciting and enjoyable activity, encouraging kids to engage with language in a playful setting.

  • Learning Through Play: Games make language learning feel like play, which keeps children interested and motivated.
  • Stress-Free Environment: The relaxed nature of games reduces pressure, making language learning more effective.
  • Social Interaction: Many language games involve interaction, which is excellent for practising conversational skills.

Teaching Language (English) by Using Stories

Stories captivate children’s imaginations and provide a rich context for language learning, making new words and phrases more meaningful.

  • Contextual Learning: Stories introduce new words engagingly and contextually.
  • Imagination and Memory: Engaging with stories stimulates children’s imagination, aiding in language retention.
  • Cultural Exploration: Children learn about different cultures through stories, enhancing their language learning experience.

Each of these methods ensures that children learn language effectively and enjoy the process of learning it.

Early Language Development: Strategies and Insights

Language development in early childhood is a continuous journey that shapes a child’s ability to communicate and interact with the world. Understanding its stages and employing effective learning methods can significantly enhance this development.

Early Language Development: Strategies and Insights
Early Language Development: Strategies and Insights

Additional resources and information are readily available for those interested in further exploring this crucial developmental phase or seeking quality language learning programs like the EAL program at UNIS Hanoi. Embracing this journey early in life paves the way for successful communication and academic achievement in the years to come.

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UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Hanoi is ever-evolving, but one thing that remains is our passion to nurture and equip students to be agents of change for a better world.
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