11-14 years

This is a guide to how young people typically develop their talking and understanding of words between 11 and 14 years.

Young people develop skills at different rates, but by 14 years, most young people will: 

  • Talk in longer sentences; usually 7-12 words or more. 
  • Join sentences together using a range of joining words, such as ‘meanwhile’, ‘however’, ‘except’ so that they can explain more complicated ideas.  
  • Be able to use sarcasm and know when others are being sarcastic to them. 
  • Be able to change topics well in conversations. 
  • Use more subtle and witty humour. 
  • Show some understanding of idioms, such as “put your money where your mouth is!”. 
  • Know that they talk differently to friends than to teachers. They are able to adjust the way they are talking easily depending on who they are talking to. 
  • Understand and use slang terms with friends. They keep up with rapidly changing ‘street talk’. 

Support young people aged 11-14 years with their talking and understanding of words

Our Speech, Language, and Communication Progression Tools covering ages 11-18, supports staff in identifying young people who may be struggling with talking and understanding words.
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Things to look out for 

Some young people struggle with learning to talk and understand words. Possible signs to look at for at this age include: 

  • Young people who have difficulty giving specific answers or explanations. 
  • Young people who have difficulty telling their ideas in the right order. 
  • Young people who are better at understanding individual instructions than group instructions. 
  • Young people who find it difficult to understand hidden meanings. For example, they wouldn’t understand that someone wants to close the window or turn up the heating when they say, ‘It’s a bit chilly in here!’. 
  • Young people who find long and complicated instructions hard to understand. 
  • Young people who have trouble learning new words. 
  • Young people who take a long time to organise what they are going to say or write. 
  • Young people who take what others say literally. For example, they don’t understand that someone could take longer than one minute if they say, “I’ll be back in a minute”. 
  • Young people who have difficulty taking turns in conversations. 
  • Young people n who talk to teachers and friends in the same way instead of adjusting their style of talking based on who they are talking to. 

If you notice any of these things, have a closer look at the young person’s speech, language and communication skills using one of our free tools: 

Follow the process in your setting/workplace for raising concerns. This should include discussing your concerns with the young person’s family and your SENCo. Statutory guidance is outlined in the SEND Code of Practice (2015).