Your Toddler's Vocabulary
Ask your toddler to bring you her favorite toy, and she'll cheerily oblige. Tell her you're off to the playground, and she'll dash to the front door. Remind her that it's bedtime, and you may provoke an opposite -- but equally definite -- response, as she runs to hide.
By 16 months, it's abundantly clear that your child understands most of what you say, even if her own conversation still relies on gibberish. This ability to grasp spoken language -- a skill experts dub "receptive language" -- is the first crucial step toward the gift of gab. Your baby has been honing his receptive language skills since he heard the sound of your voice when he was in the womb. Now that he's a toddler, he'll devote the first half of his second year to perfecting this receptive language ability, storing up vocabulary and absorbing slippery rules of grammar without saying many words of his own.
Why Does Language Take So Long to Learn?
It's no small feat to go from a conversational crawl to the linguistic leaps necessary for putting ideas, observations, and emotions into words. Words are symbols not only for objects but also for actions, events, emotions, and relationships. Plus, language acquisition demands sponging up the rules of syntax and grammar and figuring out how to apply them.