How speech and language develop

This information is presented to be as simple an explanation of brain development as possible. Please contact ESLS if you require more specific or detailed resources, or see our Resources section for helpful links.

We are all born with an excess of connections between our brain cells. As we grow, our experiences shape which connections continue to communicate and which become obsolete. We strengthen the connections we use and “prune” those we don’t use. The more we experience through our senses and the more interactions we have with others, the more brain cells stay connected permanently. If we limit our experiences with something, we may lose the connections involved with that experience. The younger we are, the easier it is not only to keep our neurons connected, but the easier and faster it is to grow new connections if we’ve lost them.

When it comes to language learning, then, the more we are exposed to and experience communication around us, the faster we learn to communicate. The more a baby hears and sees other people interacting with her, the more permanent her neural connections for language become, and the sooner she will begin to express herself. As she expresses herself, her caregivers will communicate with her even more, and this wonderful exchange just keeps going around and around. This isn’t made up stuff, folks. This has been well documented in scientific literature for decades!

Watch this cool video about early brain development. Fascinating!