Handbook of Language and Literacy Development - a Roadmap from 0 to 60 Months

children image

parent narrative

Listening (10 – 12 Months) - Expanding Understandingclick to print Print
Research Review / Parent

Written by: Carrie Gotzke and Heather Sample Gosse, University of Alberta

Listening provides babies with their gateway to spoken language. Ten- to twelve-month-old babies demonstrate increased understanding of speech by responding more appropriately to what their caregivers say. Keep in mind that, as always, your baby’s listening skills develop within the framework of his or her emerging interaction skills. For more information, please refer to Interacting 10 – 12 Months. If you have concerns about your child’s hearing, please refer to the Auditory section of this website for more information on how hearing develops and how to get help.

Understanding Language

Between ten and twelve months of age, babies begin responding to a wider variety of words. By eleven-months-old, babies may respond to about fifty words. These words may refer to people (e.g., mommy) or names of objects (e.g., ball). Babies may also respond to words from games and routines (e.g., peek-a-boo). When Max hears his nan say the word “peek-a-boo,” he begins to smile and laugh.

Ten-month-old babies are often able to obey some commands such as “wave bye-bye.” By eleven-months-old, babies respond to what their parents ask about half the time. Babies this age follow requests for actions more frequently than requests for vocalizations. For example, Avery is more likely to respond to a request to “wave bye-bye” than she is to respond to a request to “say ma-ma-ma.” Even at twelve months of age, babies follow simple directions best when the caregiver acts out the desired response. For example, when Avery’s mom says “wave bye-bye,” she also waves her own hand. She has noticed that Avery is more likely to wave when she waves too. 

Have you wondered when your baby will react to his or her name? This ability typically develops at around twelve months of age. Twelve-month-old babies also usually react to a “no” voice. Avery’s dad has found that he gets better results when warning her away from something when he says “No Avery” in a stern voice.

Sound and Language Discrimination

By ten to twelve months of age, babies can no longer discriminate sound categories that are not meaningful in their home language(s). Both Max and Avery have been exposed only to English. By around one year old, their discrimination abilities will be similar to those of their English-speaking caregivers. 

Sample Gosse, H., & Gotzke, C. (2007). Parent/Caregiver Narrative: Listening 10 - 12 Months. In L.M. Phillips (Ed.), Handbook of language and literacy development: A Roadmap from 0 - 60 Months. [online], pp. 1 - 2. London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. Available at: Handbook of language and literacy development