The language skills of five-year-olds are well developed. They pronounce words clearly, speak in complex and compound sentences, use correct grammar for the most part, and have good-sized vocabularies that continue to grow rapidly. Children this age enjoy initiating conversations, can wait their turn to speak during group conversations, and are typically able to include appropriate details when sharing personal experiences.
At 60 months, knows 4000-5000 words. Acquires 3000 additional words during this year. Some children acquire 4000 or more.
The average child has the capacity to acquire six to nine words per day, given access to new words in his or her daily experiences.
Continues to learn words when adults name objects, and increases ability to infer word meanings from context. Many new words are also learned through new experiences and from hearing picture books read aloud. Informational books become increasingly important.
Learns specialized words for particular areas of interest (e.g., dinosaurs, snakes, birds, plants, dolls, sea animals, etc.). Also, increases the number of category name words (e.g., cooking utensils, construction tools, sports equipment, things that produce light, medicines, flowers, jewelry, tools for keeping track of time, computer related items, planets, insects, rodents, shellfish, reptiles, weather-related words, etc.).
Expands understanding of figures of speech and begins to understand some idioms (e.g.," a change of heart", "in the ballpark").
Learns to follow multi-step directions in instructional situations.
Increases ability to understand verbal explanations of phenomena that are not directly experienced, as long as the child has had similar experiences.
Perception of speech sounds that aren't used in native language continues to decrease. Exposure to a second or a third language helps children to continue to perceive a wider range of speech sounds, making learning a second language easier.
Shows skill at using different voice level, phrasing and rate of speech appropriate to the audience, purpose and occasion.
From age three on, it is difficult to measure actual productive vocabulary, but the number of words that children understand is always larger than the number of words they actually use. As children understand more words, there will be changes in the nature of the words children use for speaking and writing.
Continues to fill in gaps in vocabulary with known words that are more general or are descriptions of contexts. Sometimes, the absence of a detailed vocabulary results in children using words that sound like another, so that usage is a bit peculiar. For example, when referring to the floor the child lives on in an apartment building, the child says, "I live on the 4th layer.", not on the 4th level or floor. When referring to magnets with which she is playing, a child says, "These are magics."
No pronunciation errors in the average child.
Speaks mostly in complex and compound sentences, and uses "If" statements to express conditional relations ("If you play with me, I'll be your friend." or "If you eat that, you're gonna get sick.").
Makes occasional mistakes with irregular words in the past tense and in plural form. May continue to make errors with words heard infrequently.
Is more skillful at sharing personal experiences. Stories include essential events with appropriate details in the first telling. (The skill of sharing personal experiences is highly dependent on practice, and on how well adults provide guidance in current and previous years.)
Initiates conversations frequently.
Finds it easier now than in previous year to wait for his/her turn in a group conversation.
Topic maintenance has improved considerably, and continues to improve. Children sometimes ask questions when taking a turn, and understand that conversations need not depend on already knowing something about the topic.
Is able to converse much better on the telephone due to an increased ability to talk about events in the recent past, as opposed to things in the "here and now."