Not all studies concur, but there is some evidence that early talking in babies relates to intelligence. The Davidson Institute states that among gifted children, 91 percent showed early language development. Among the 241 “profoundly gifted” children who participated in a 2000 Davidson Institute for Talent Development study, the mean age at which their first word was spoken was 9 months. However, early talking doesn’t necessarily equate with higher intelligence levels and parents should not panic if their child is not talking at 9 months. Parents can actively foster vocabulary acquisition and talking practice by speaking often with their children so that they develop a love of language and experience talking in engaging, playful ways.
Babies develop through a series of talking-related activities on their way to speaking, according to Mayo Clinic. By the end of 3 months, a baby will make cooing sounds and startle when she hears a loud noise. She also recognizes the sound of a parent’s voice. At 6 months, a baby gurgles and makes a variety of sounds; she can also use her voice to express pleasure and displeasure. At 12 months, a baby can try to imitate words, and might also say words such as “mama” and “dada” and “uh-oh.” She also recognizes the word “no” and other simple words, such as “shoe.” Since language is a measure of intelligence, delays in language development could indicate potential problems, according to the University of Michigan article, "Speech and Language Delay and Disorder."
It’s not uncommon for parents to worry about their babies’ talking ability, including whether they are beginning to talk “early” or “late” compared with other babies. And in fact, the University of Michigan states that intellectual disabilities are common causes for speech and language delays. Yet some myths about early talking in babies aren’t true, and can cause undue stress for parents. Speech-language pathologist Lauren Lowry, writing for The Hanen Centre, states that parents can speak baby talk to their infant without fear of hindering normal language development. However, using incorrect grammar can be confusing to a baby as her language skills develop. Another myth is that educational word-building programs will help foster early talking in babies; this is not true, Lowry states. Using a pacifier can discourage early talking because the baby does not have as much time to practice making sounds.
3. Moving Forward
Parents can help babies develop talking skills and a love of language by engaging with them verbally, according to the PBS.org article, “Baby Language Development Milestones.” Talk about things that your baby seems interested in, or share nursery rhymes together. Parents can also read to parents to help build vocabulary and increase exposure to the spoken word. When your baby talks to you, respond. When reading to your child, encourage talking by asking her to point to the pictures and practice saying words. Keep in mind that not all researchers are convinced of the link between highly developed language and intelligence. In the 2009 Liberty University article, "Divorcing Speech Ability and Intelligence," Savannah Sims states that high intelligence does not always correlate with high verbal abilities.
In 2013, The New York Times reported that babies who are exposed to talking early on might perform better in school. Children who hear more words learn earlier and better; IQ scores were higher among children who listened to the highest number of words. In 2010, an Oxford Journals article, “Early and Late Talkers: School-Age Language, Literacy and Neurolinguistic differences,” states that children who were “late-talkers” had lower performance levels at school compared to students who were “early” or “on-time” talkers.
- Mayo Clinic: Language Development: Speech Milestones for Babies
- PBS.org: Baby Language Development Milestones
- The Hanen Centre: Fact or Fiction? The Top 10 Assumptions about Early Speech and Language Development
- The New York Times: The Power of Talking to Your Baby
- Davidson Institute for Talented Development: Frequently Asked Questions About Extreme Intelligence in Very Young Children
- The Oxford Journals: Early and Late Talkers: School-Age Language, Literacy and Neurolinguistic Differences
- University of Michigan: Speech and Language Delay and Disorder
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images