Receptive Language

What is receptive language?


Receptive language refers to our ability to understand the words, sentences, and overall language of others. We use receptive language skills to understand the thoughts and ideas of other people in our daily interactions with others. Understanding vocabulary, grammar, and complex sentences are all aspects of receptive language, as is our ability to interpret non-verbal communication correctly. Receptive language also includes reading comprehension.

What does a receptive language disorder/delay look like?


  • By four months of age, babies appear alert and will look for sounds that occur in the environment. They respond to the sound of your voice. Between 7-12 months, babies will look at your face when hearing their name, and will also play games like peek-a-boo. Lack of awareness to environmental sounds and parents’ voices might be an indication that your child’s language is not developing in a typical manner.

  • By twelve months babies understand common words like Daddy or bottle. About this same time, toddlers can understand simple one-step directions. 

  • By 18 months, children can answer easy questions (“Where is puppy?”) and enjoy simple stories. By 24 months, children can follow two-step directions. You can tell that your child is learning new words every week.

  • A child with a receptive language delay may have a limited vocabulary and may not learn new words as quickly as peers. Children between the ages of 2 and 3 have an explosion in their vocabulary development which is obvious to caregivers.

  • As children develop past three years of age, you may notice that you need to repeat yourself often so that your child understands. Your child may struggle to follow directions or understand simple lessons that you or others try to teach. It may seem like your child doesn’t pay attention to what you say even when you are both looking at the same thing. A child a receptive language delay will have difficulty answering questions about stories.

  • Individuals who do not use language to interact with others (for example, children who do not respond to what their peers say to them when playing) are likely experiencing receptive language difficulties.

Do you have a question about your child’s receptive language development? TalkKing can help you with your concerns.