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Articulation and Enunciation: The mysteries behind your child's language development

Articulation and Enunciation: The mysteries behind your child’s language development

Other parts in our Language
Development Series:

  • Speech versus Language
  • Signs and symptoms of receptive
    versus expressive language
  • Articulation and Enunciation
  • Late bloomer or language delay?
  • Early language intervention

Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

As a review, speech is about how we form words, how we say words, and how well people around us understand the words we speak. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association describes speech as “verbal means of communicating” involving “articulation, voice, and fluency.”

Articulation and Enunciation: The mysteries behind your child's language development.

Articulation and enunciation go hand in hand. It is about the sound of the individual letters and letter combinations in the words we speak. Pronunciation is different from enunciation. Pronunciation is the way the word sounds based on our region, upbringing, etc. For example, people say “tomato” two different ways: “tomAEto” or “tomAHto.” It is the same word, but pronounced differently. Enunciation, however, is how clearly a person says the word and how clearly each sound is made. Articulation is the physical act of using your tongue, jaw, teeth, lips, and palate (roof of your mouth), and breath to create the sounds. Anyone who can articulate can learn to enunciate. Pronunciation depends on your language (e.g. English, Spanish, Japanese), your region, and your background.


Challenges with articulation can create speech problems. So, how do you know if your child articulates well? It turns out that boys and girls learn their sounds at roughly the same rate. You can help determine if your child has speech problems by knowing which sounds he or she can expect to make well at what age.

Articulation and Enunciation: The mysteries behind your child's language development

By the time a child is 3 years old, that child should be able to make consonant sounds for “p,” m,” “h,” “w,” and “b.” Most boys and many girls also will have mastered “n” by 3 years old. Girls, on average, may take up to 3 ½ years old to get “n” just right.


Between 2 ½ and 3 ½ the consonant sounds grow dramatically. By the time a child is 4, that child should have the sounds of “k,” “g,” “d,” “t,” “f,” and “y” (boys may take up to 5 years old for “y”). Notice that “d” and “t” both become definitely different from each other while a child without articulation problems is 4 years old. Remember, this is the sound of the letter, not the sound of the word. In some regions and cultures the sound of “d” replaces other sounds such as “th” at the beginning of a word. Instead of “this one,” someone might say, “dis one.” This does not necessarily mean the person does not articulate well. That person might simply use the dialect of the region. Listen to other words your child uses. Listen to words that end in the “d” sound or the “t” sound and decide if your child creates the sound correctly.

Articulation and Enunciation: The mysteries behind your child's language development

The sound of “ing,” some letter blends, “r,” “l,” “s,” “z,” and the “sh” and “ch” digraphs start to come into good effect beginning around 3 ½ years old. Some of these sounds may take up until your child is 8 years old, but if they are progressing, they have less chance of articulation and speech challenges.

By the time your child is 8 years old, you should be able to understand everything he or she says. If at 4 years old, however, your child cannot articulate the sounds of “h,” “w,” “b,” “k,” “d,” “t,” or “f,” for example, your child might be having trouble actually forming the sounds. Please have your child evaluated by a speech professional.

Remember, a child mimics the sounds the child hears. As a result, if a child hears differently from what you say, that child will mimic what he or she hears. The problem may be articulation. The problem may lie elsewhere. There are many ways to help our children succeed. Knowing what they do well is a great beginning. Knowing where they struggle and finding them help to overcome their struggles also gives them strength, courage, and personal power.

Articulation and Enunciation: The mysteries behind your child's language development

Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

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