Updated: Mar 21, 2021
In 2018, researchers (Sharynne McLeod and Kathryn Crow) looked at 64 studies of consonant acquisition. This included 26, 007 children from 31 countries in 27 languages! They learned that most children acquired all of their consonant sounds by 5 years 0 months old.
So what about does this tell us about English? Although some research articles vary slighty, most follow the same pattern of sound acquisition. After looking at 15 English studies, Sharynne McLeod and Kathryn Crow determined that each consonant should be acquired by the following ages:
· 2-3 years old: p, b, m, d, n, h, t, k, g, w, ng, f, y
· 4 years old: l, j, ch, s, v, sh, z
· 5 years old: r, zh (like “je” in French), th (voiced)
· 6 years old: th (voiceless)
Once my child learns a new speech sound, will she/he be able to use it in conversation?
· Probably not yet! It take’s a lot of practice to use a new sound. Can you imagine if someone told you to change all your “b” to “k” sounds when you talk? That could be really difficult! We take a specific approach with the end goal being using the sound in spontaneous conversation.
· For example, let’s say the child is working on the sound “g”:
· ISOLATION: We begin by working on the “g” sound on its own.
· SYLLABLES: We practice syllables such as “ga, go, gee” etc.
· WORDS: We typically start with words that begin with “g” (“gap”), followed by words that end with “g” (bag), and then words with “g” in the middle (“wagon”). Be mindful of some words that begin with the letter “g” but not the sound, such as the word “giraffe”, which is made with the “j” sound.
· PHRASES: These are typically shorter than a sentence and again may follow the order with “g” at the beginning, at the end, and then in the middle of the word (“pet goat”, “my Lego”, “his bug”).
· SENTENCES: Once the child can accurately produce the sounds in phrases, we will practice the sound in sentences (“I have a pet goat”, “I play with my Lego”, “It is his bug”).
· STORIES: We may choose a story to read and discuss that has the child’s target sound. (i.e. For “g” we may read the book “Three Billy Goats Gruff” by Paul Gladone)
· CONVERSATION: This is the final step. We practice open-ended questions and try to simulate real-life conversations! (i.e. “How was your day today? What did you do at school?”)
At Empower Communication Services, we are passionate about helping children acquire all of their speech sounds in a fun, interactive way that is unique to each child.
Contact us if you have any questions!
Article Written by: Victoria Mannella Gupta
McLeod, S & Crow, K. (2018). Children’s consonant acquisition in 27 languages: A cross-linguistic review. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology, 27, 1546–1571.