What Is Toddler Jabbering?

by Laura Agadoni

    When you hear strange, undecipherable, chantinglike sounds coming from your toddler, chances are she’s not speaking in tongues — she’s jabbering. Jabbering can be quite entertaining for more than just Mom and Dad. A 2011 video of two jabbering toddler boys went viral. You've probably seen it. When you listen to this seeming nonsense, you have to wonder just what all the noise is about.

    Pre-Talking

    Jabbering is a toddler’s way of learning to speak. Listen closely to your toddler’s jabbering. Notice the way it probably mimics your speech patterns. Every language has a certain rhythm and flow, and jabbering is a toddler’s attempt to nail this down. Sometimes hand and arm gestures accompany the jabbering, especially if you or your honey are expressive in that way.

    A Good Jabber

    The twin jabbering video holds some significance for speech experts. What’s interesting about it is how closely the toddlers’ jabbering sounds like real speech. The toddlers aren’t saying any words, and they’re not having a real conversation, but they are using the same speech patterns as if they were. Their jabbering consists of vowels, consonants and syllables, notes Stephen Camarata, professor of hearing and speech sciences at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in “The New York Times.” Most healthy toddlers jabber in a similar way.

    Language Burst

    Around the time toddlers turn 1 year, they experience a language burst. Toddlers who’ve discovered the marvel of language don’t want to stop. This exploration, characterized by jabbering, lasts until about age 2. At 12 months, a toddler might know only a few words, but wait about four more months. Toddlers can learn hundreds of words in that short time. Toddlers usually understand more words than they can say, so they jabber until they can say the words correctly.

    No Jabbering

    If your toddler doesn’t jabber at all, she might have hearing loss or autism. Your child should say some words by the time she’s 18 months. If she hasn’t, tell your doctor that you believe your toddler has delayed speech. Many speech problems can be overcome with proper treatment. The earlier you catch a problem and start treatment, the better.

    Talk with Your Toddler

    The more you read to, talk or sing with your toddler, the faster she’ll pick up language skills. Game playing typically works well, too. Ask your little one where her nose is, her tummy, her leg and so on. She’ll have fun and will be learning language at the same time. But don’t be a downer by constantly correcting your toddler’s pronunciation. No one wants to be around an incessant critic. Just keep saying words the correct way, and your toddler should soon follow suit.

    About the Author

    Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.

    Photo Credits

    • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images