Telugu Speech and Language Development

We see why so many speech-language pathologists are in need of information about Telugu speech and language development.  Did you know that there are more than 250,000 Telugu speakers in the United States.

Telugu Facts

  • Number of speakers: There are approximately 74 million native speakers of Telugu. It is the third most spoken language in India and the fifteenth most spoken language worldwide.
    map of Telugu region in southeastern India

    The dark blue area indicates where native speakers of Telugu live. Telugu is also spoken in the light blue areas.

  • Writing system: Telugu script comes from the Brahmic family of scripts.
  • Language Family: Telugu is a Dravidian language native to southeastern India.
  • Official language in: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Yanam, Puducherry in India

The Sound Systems of Telugu and English

If you’ve read our book, Difference or Disorder:  Understanding Speech and Language Development in Children from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds, then you  Igbo Speech and Language Development already know that we need to understand the similarities and differences between the sounds of languages before we can make a decision about whether a speech error is a language influence error or whether it might indicate a speech impairment.  So, take a look at the Venn diagrams below for information about the consonants and the vowels in Telugu and English.

Assume we are testing a child from an Telugu background who is learning English as a second language.

If errors occur on the sounds that are unique to English, that is indicative of language influence. 

If errors occur on the sounds unique to Telugu or the sounds shared between Igbo and English, that is indicative of a speech impairment.  

It’s more complex than that, obviously, but that’s a good place to start.  Then we need to think about the order of acquisition of the sounds in development, and of course the phonotactic constraints.  For more information on all of that, check out the Difference or Disorder book.

Telugu Speech and Language Development

Telugu and English Consonant Phonemes

Telugu consonants compared to English consonants


Telugu and English Vowel Phonemes

Telugu vs English Vowels


Phonological Patterns in Telugu

Patterns of Native Language Influence: Example/description of possible errors:
Telugu has a vowel harmony in 2-syllable words in which the first vowel dictates what type of vowel will come next.   Second syllable vowel errors might be influenced by this harmony
Telugu words generally end in vowels.  Words can end in m, n, y, w Final consonants might be omitted or substituted for an allowable Telugu final consonant
Word stress is usually placed on the last or second-to-last syllable Stress could be switched for multisyllabic words with stress on the initial syllable (e.g. butterFLY for BUTterfly
There are many Telugu consonants that are similar to English but are produced as dentalized and/or aspirated. These patterns may influence productions of English stop consonants
Half of the Telugu vowels are longer than English vowels Vowel sounds might be produced as longer vowels than is typical in English


Feature Telugu English Examples of Errors
Word Order Subject-object-verb Usually subject-verb object Bill to the store goes.*
Gender Telugu marks nouns for gender using masculine, feminine, or neuter inflections. There are no gender inflections for nouns in English.


Inflections might be carried over into English.

Plurality Marked with an inflectional suffix Usually marked with the inflectional suffix /s/ or /z/ None expected

Note: Sentences marked with an asterisk (*) are not grammatical.

Thank you for all the great feedback for all the languages you are requesting information on!  We have published posts or are working on:  Albanian, Amharic, Cambodian, Cantonese, Flemish / Dutch, Filipino/Tagalog, Hmong, Igbo,  Karen, Kinyarwanda (ever heard of that one?), Portuguese, Romanian, Somali, Thai, Turkish, and Urdu/Hindi.  For those not familiar with our current book, we’ve already compared and contrasted English with Spanish, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Korean, German, Czech, Japanese, Farsi, Mandarin, French, Russian, Arabic, and the African-American English dialect.

If there are other languages you would like to see, please let us know with your comments below!

If you are looking for speech therapy in Austin, Texas for a child who speaks Hindi / Telugu / Malayalam / or other Indian languages contact our Austin speech therapy clinic.

Written by: Ellen Kester

44 Comments on “Telugu Speech and Language Development”

  1. May 25, 2017 at 8:11 pm #


    • May 26, 2017 at 11:41 am #

      Hi Sara,

      I have some notes on Polish that I will send you by email. I haven’t constructed the Polish chapter yet though.

      Thanks for being a part of our blog!

      • May 5, 2021 at 8:12 am #

        Just wanted to see if this was being followed up on? I’m a bilingual Polish/English SLP, I’d be happy to contribute!

      • May 10, 2021 at 1:54 pm #

        Hi Claudia,
        Thanks so much for reaching out. I’d love to talk to you about Polish. I’ll reach out via email.
        Best, Ellen

  2. May 25, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

    In the Southern California area we have many families that speak Nahuatl.
    If you could please provide us with information it would be greatly appreciated.

    • May 26, 2017 at 11:47 am #

      Hi Maria,
      I’ve put Nahuatl on the list too. Thanks so much for reaching out to us and for reading our blog every week!
      Best, Ellen

  3. May 25, 2017 at 9:13 pm #

    thank you.

  4. May 26, 2017 at 7:50 am #

    Can we have this information about Tamil, an oldest dravidian language spoken in Tamil Nadu,India ,Singapore, Malaysia, SriLanka ??

    • May 26, 2017 at 11:46 am #

      Hi Perumal,
      I’ve added Tamil to our list too. Thanks for your input and for being a part of our blog community!

  5. Pamela Norton May 26, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    I have a client whose family speaks Naga, from northern India. I have discovered already that /s/ and “sh” are interchangeable and we worked on English minimal pairs for that. Currently we’re struggling with /ae/ followed by nasal being pronounced as EI or E. not sure if that has anything to do with Naga.

    • May 26, 2017 at 11:45 am #

      I’ve added Naga to the list!

  6. May 26, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    I am working on spelling errors in Telugu in school going children, can I have any information in this regard

    • May 30, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

      Hi Swathi,
      I ran across your article on phonological processes and dyslexia when I was doing research for the Telugu chapter. It makes a lot of sense that the children who are having reading difficulties are using phonological processes longer than those who are not. I have not focused on spelling errors but I would love to have a conversation with you about what you are studying and finding. A have ideas about what types of errors we might see in the English spelling of children who speak Telugu as their first language. Is that the population you are studying?
      I look forward to continuing the conversation.

      • November 11, 2018 at 2:59 pm #

        Hi , my child has a delayed speech and mild autistic 5 yrs old. I am looking of speech therapy apps to make practice at home for my kid . Please help me.If u have any apps in Telugu please send to my mail I’d. It would b a great help . Thank you

      • November 11, 2018 at 8:45 pm #

        Hi Lavanya,
        I do not know of any apps in Telegu but I know there is a wide range of apps for supporting children with communication disorders. Smarty Ears is one of our go-to places.

  7. June 7, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    I am hoping that a revised edition is coming out very soon for this amazing resource! Any estimate on the timing?

    • June 7, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

      Hi Tina,

      We are actively working on the revised addition with MANY more languages. We aren’t yet sure when it will be complete but in the meantime, we’ll be putting out a blog post a month with a summary of a new language. Thanks so your kind words about Difference and Disorder and we’ll keep you posted on the next edition!

      • November 1, 2020 at 1:02 pm #


        I complete many, many evaluations of dual language learners. What languages do you currently have? I have your book, but want to make sure I have all the posts written too!
        Thanks for all you do!

      • November 2, 2020 at 3:23 pm #

        Hi Cassandra,
        We have the 12 in our books and the ones on our blog, which you can search with Bilinguistics Blog Difference or Disorder. I also frequently share information about other languages that we have not compiled into full chapters yet. Just let me know if you encounter a language you don’t see in the book or on the blog.
        Best, Ellen

  8. July 28, 2017 at 8:15 am #

    Do you have any information for Kannada?
    Thank you

    • September 5, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

      Hi Katherine,
      I don’t yet have Kannada ready but we’ll be working on it soon!

      • October 1, 2021 at 6:36 pm #

        Do you have any information on Kannada yet?

  9. March 9, 2018 at 1:34 pm #

    My student comes from an English and Telugu-speaking household. He substitutes /th/ with /t/ or /d/ (Ex: says tirteen, dem, broder, dumb) and /w/ with /v/ (Ex: says vinter, vork). Are these substitutions typical of the Telugu accent?
    Thank you!

    • March 9, 2018 at 4:34 pm #

      Hi Stephanie,
      Yes, those substitution patterns are consistent with Telugu-influenced English. There is no bilabial approximate in Telugu so the substitution of v for w makes sense. There is no interdental fricative so the substitution of /t/ or /d/ for the unvoiced and voiced interdental fricatives, respectively, makes sense also.

      I love getting questions like this one!


  10. September 26, 2018 at 11:17 am #

    I work in a school with a big Indian population. As I quickly learned, there are A LOT of languages, and they all appear to be pretty different. I have printed out the venn diagram for Telegu, but there are many other languages including Punjabi, Marathi, Malayam, Bengali, and Hindi. I am hoping those are on your list! I would love to have more insight on the common sounds between English and these languages. I have also noticed an increase in lateral lisps in my current school and wonder if there is any correlation between their native language and the presence of a lateral lisp. Thanks!

    • September 26, 2018 at 11:49 am #

      The languages you mentioned are all on my list except Marathi. I added it. You could explore the native language and dialects of those with lateral lisps to see if their native language might account for it. Listen to their parents in both English and their native language to see if you hear similar patterns. If not, I don’t think you can attribute it to language influence.

  11. November 9, 2018 at 12:22 pm #

    What about vocalic R (er, or, ar ear, air)? Do these sounds occur in Telugu?


    • November 9, 2018 at 12:48 pm #

      No, just the flap r.

  12. March 6, 2019 at 9:37 am #

    Is there a resource (list) of bilingual SLPs who speak English & Telugu?

    • March 21, 2019 at 3:30 pm #

      ASHA has a feature in their Find a Provider database that allows you to search SLPs who speak specific languages.

  13. August 31, 2019 at 12:34 pm #

    I will soon be teaching a kindergarten student that speaks no English. She speaks Telagu. At this point in class, I am introducing letters and sounds. Identifying colors, shapes, identifying numbers and counting. Where do I start with this student?

    • September 3, 2019 at 3:40 pm #

      Hi Karen,
      There are two quick goals you can begin with for ESL students. The idea is that we want to target the things that exist in both languages. Not something unique to one language. On the language side (content) work with nouns and simple commands (verbs). All languages label objects. On the speech/sound side, you want to target sounds that both languages have. For example, here is a list of the sounds in Telegu.

      You’ll notice that the language has almost all of the same sounds as English so you could expect the student to be able to learn and use the sounds. Using Spanish as an alternative example, Spanish doesn’t have th, or z so those are not sounds that we would focus on.

      Telagu is not that common but you should be able to find a staff or community member that speaks Hindi or another Indian language if you have questions to compare it to.

      Hope that helps.

  14. February 19, 2020 at 1:22 pm #


    I have a student and his native language is Telegu. He has difficulty producing s-blends. Is there any research or information for s-blends and Telegu?

    Thank you!

    • March 25, 2020 at 8:51 am #

      I can’t see a lot of cluster use in Telugu. If you scroll through the words in this Cambridge Journal of the International Phonetic Association you can see lots of CVCV stuff.

      Two things that you can think about. If the child is older, they should have been exposed to enough English to have developed our sound system. Have a talk with parents and listen to their sounds. Also, is there another similar-age Telugu speaker in your community that you could listen to? Hope that helps. Scott

  15. February 24, 2020 at 9:19 am #

    Hi. I have a 5th grade student who is a native Telugu speaker but also has been exposed to English and English is his more dominant language now (he has been in the US since he was 3 years old). He produces the R sound as an L sound in most cases…initial, medial, final position of words and for the -OR, -ER, -AR, -AIR and R Blends. I see that the R sound does not occur in Telugu language (correct?) but since he has been exposed to English for so long now, would it be appropriate to say he has a speech impairment? Any help on this case would be appreciated. Thank you!

    • March 25, 2020 at 8:30 am #

      We are working on the second volume of Difference or Disorder and it will have Telugu in it. Here is some information that we have together already.

      Telugu Speech Language Development

      Telegu does have an R sound it is just different than ours. So I would expect an allophonically different R but not an L. Your gut feeling is right. This happens a lot with Spanish where we work with a child in Spanish until 3-5th grade and then pass them off to an English-SLP to work on RSL stuff. Regardless of language influence 5-7 years is the average time to acquire the new language skills proficiently. Assuming your 5th grader didn’t show up in 2-4th grade, you should feel comfortable targeting it.

      • February 5, 2023 at 2:30 am #

        I work with a great number of native Hindi and Telugu speakers. I’ve been told by our interpreters for Hindi and Telugu that substituting /l/ for /r/ is common in those languages just as /w/ for /r/ is here for English speakers. While consonant clusters are not as common in native Telugu, modern Telugu has many borrowed words making consonant cluster use more common. There is an extended phonetic inventory for modern Telugu that has been used in linguistic research.

      • February 8, 2023 at 7:58 am #

        Really interesting Sandy. Do you have a link or a reference for that work that we can include here for people? Thanks.

  16. September 29, 2021 at 3:30 pm #

    Hi Ellen!
    So grateful for this blog and the DoD book! I’m looking for information on Turkish for an evaluation I’m completing. It says in this blog post that a post/book entry is in the works for Turkish, but I was wondering if you could send me anything information you have to my email?
    Thanks so much!

    • September 30, 2021 at 10:04 am #

      Hi Adria,
      I do have some notes on Turkish, which I will send you via email.

    • April 3, 2023 at 9:00 pm #

      I have a student who does the opposite. /r/ for /l/ and in /l/ blends…rion/lion; sride/slide; grasses/glasses….
      my main question though is more related to the syntactical differences in development. I am having a hard time teasing out if what I am hearing is more due to ESL (though parents speak good English) or more related to a disorder. This child is in 1st grade, also has Autism, but has taken off in the last year in terms of his overall expressive language–especially vocabulary and comprehension. In mainstream classes with some support for phonics/reading and behavior (more inattention/off task)…is able to answer questions about story elements and retell stories as well as make predictions and inferences…what is lacking is the more complex sentence structure (complete sentences, subject-verb agreement, use of articles). Wondering where to go next and what native language considerations might be influencing this–or how to tease out if it is more from the AU side of things. As a 15 year SLP I feel like I should know more about this, but I am not nearly as familiar with Telugu as Spanish, etc.

      • April 24, 2023 at 4:12 pm #

        Hi Carrie,
        Tough questions when you get into the nitty-gritty of the language productions when I child starts to produce more complex language and their home language is not as familiar or as well documented. In this case, can you document some of the child’s productions, meet with the parents, and ask for them if there is anything about Telugu that makes that pattern make sense? You can give an easier example from Spanish or Mandarin, something more common to let them know what you are talking about. That might be the quickest way to get to the bottom of it. Secondly, is it always happening? If not, it might be related to an irregular construction or be in the process of being mastered.

  17. November 29, 2021 at 2:38 pm #

    Am I interpreting the Venn diagram correctly? I am seeing that strident sounds /s/, /z/, and “sh” are only in English while /f/ is in both? Thank you for this resource!! I was SO excited when I found it and immediately printed it out for future reference! We see a LOT of Telugu at our school in St. Louis, MO!

    • November 29, 2021 at 3:05 pm #

      Yes, Holly, you are interpreting that correctly. So glad you have found this resource to be helpful!
      Best, Ellen

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