Language Development

Landing-LDThe development of children’s early language skills is critically important for their future academic success.

Language development indicators reflect a child’s ability to understand increasingly complex language (receptive language skills), a child’s increasing proficiency when expressing ideas (expressive language skills), and a child’s growing understanding of and ability to follow appropriate social and conversational rules. The components within this domain address receptive and expressive language, pragmatics,17 and English language development specific to dual language learners.

As a growing number of children live in households where the primary spoken language is not English, this domain also addresses the language development of dual language learners. Unlike most of the other progressions in this document, however, specific age thresholds do not define the indicators for English language development (or for development in any other language). Children who become dual language learners are exposed to their second language for the first time at different ages. As a result, one child may start the process of developing second-language skills at birth and another child may start at four, making the age thresholds inappropriate. So instead of using age, The Standards use research-based stages to outline a child’s progress in English language development. It is important to note that there is no set time for how long it will take a given child to progress through these stages. Progress depends upon the unique characteristics of the child, his or her exposure to English in the home and other environments, the child’s motivation to learn English, and other factors.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the goals of language development. If a child is deaf or hard of hearing, for example, that child may demonstrate progress through gestures, symbols, pictures, augmentative and alternative communication devices, and/or signs as well as through spoken words. Children with cognitive disabilities may also demonstrate alternate ways of meeting the same goals, often meeting them at a different pace, with a different degree of accomplishment, and in a different order than typically developing children. When observing how children demonstrate what they know and can do, the full spectrum of communication options—including the use of American Sign Language and other low- and high-technology augmentative/assistive communication systems—should be considered. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the language development of all children.


While this domain represents general expectations for language development, each child will reach the individual learning goals at his or her own pace and in his or her own way.