The importance of spoken language and the impact of poor language

"Children and young people themselves recognise the importance of having good communication skills: for living; for growing; for achieving; for socialising"
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Good language at aged five correlates with academic attainment, mental health in later years, social interaction and relationship building and employment outcomes




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Consider the role language plays across the curriculum. What fundamental skills are needed to ensure successful learning?

Have a read of this I CAN Talk paper to find out more about the impact of speech, language and communication needs in primary-aged children, and to think about what fundamental skills in this area are needed to support primary-aged children’s learning. You can also read the corresponding paper for secondary-aged students if you’re interested.

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Do children rate communication skills as important?

Children and young people have impressive insight into the importance of communication skills on all aspects of their life. In a report by the Communication Trust, ‘Children and Young People’s Views What do children and young people think about speech, language and communication skills?’, communication skills were identified as important across a range of different areas. Young people said:

“Good communication is one of the most important skills anyone could have.”

“We need communication skills to get jobs, interviews, for later life.”

“If you have good communication skills, socially it gives you more confidence.”

“We need communication skills to control things and get things done.”

“You need to be able to communicate to get what you want... in a good way.”

“If you can’t express your views then you don’t get listened to.”


This video clip from the Communication Trust starts with children explaining why they feel communication skills are important.


The impact of poor spoken language

Children with poor language skills struggle across many areas. The impact of having poor spoken language affects educational outcomes, social relationships, employability and places young people at risk of poor mental health and offending.


  • Want to find out more?

    • Hear from young people themselves about the impact of speech, language and communication difficulties on learning to read in this short video from the RADLD
    • Students in this video explain the impact their difficulties with spoken language have on their everyday life.
    • Professor Pamela Snow is an expert in the field of language literacy and links to behaviour and mental health. She explains the strong links between spoken language ability and behaviour in this short blog post.
    • This study describes how poor language skills impact negatively on the quality of life of children.
    • Evidence from this study using longitudinal data shows the impact of early language difficulties on later emotional wellbeing.

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What is the relationship between poor language and mental health?

Have a look at I CAN’s factsheet on this topic, or these summaries from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy here and here.

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