The bilingual population continues to grow across the world. With that, comes an increase in the number of bilingual children and adults that need speech therapy. Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) can help determine if your bilingual child has a language delay or a language disorder. In this post, I talk about the three most common questions I am asked about bilingual children.
Myth #1: Bilingualism can lead to language delay.
Children exposed to more than one language are not at risk for having a language delay. Furthermore, they are not at risk for language confusion (Goldstein & Kohnert, 2005). It is natural for bilingual children to present with grammatical errors as they go through the language learning process. Consequently, these “natural” errors may be mislabeled as a language disorder.
It is recommended that a trained, bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist assess bilingual children whenever possible. If needed, therapy should support the child’s home language (Goldstein & Khonert, 2005). This is very important. It is even more important when working with children under the age of five.
Myth #2: Bilingual children reach language milestones slower.
Bilingual children should reach language development milestones at the same rate as children who only speak one language. Being familiar with developmental milestones will help parents act early and get the help they need for their children.
Many states have free access to early intervention up to age three. In Florida, that program is called Early Steps. Furthermore, parents can inquire at their local school district to determine if their child qualifies for therapy through the school system. FDLRS is the Florida program that helps children qualify for early entrance into the education system.
Children who have a language disorder will have difficulties in both languages. Therefore, a bilingual speech and language evaluation is recommended to help determine if there is a language disorder. That is, the child should be evaluated in both languages.
Myth #3: Bilingual children should only speak one language at home.
Many people feel that bilingual parents should focus on speaking only one language at home. The fact is that bilingual people naturally use both languages in conversations at home and in the community. Research supports the use of both languages at home and parents should speak the language or languages they feel most comfortable with. In sum, the key to helping your children learn a language is to provide a strong language foundation.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Bilingual Service Delivery (Practice Portal). Retrieved 1/19/2018, from www.asha.org/Practice-Portal/Professional-Issues/Bilingual-Service-Delivery.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). The Advantages of Being Bilingual. Retrieved 1/19/2018, from www.asha.org/public/speech/development/The-Advantages-of-Being-Bilingual.
Goldstein, B. & Kohnert, K. (2005). Speech, Language, and Hearing in Developing Bilingual Children Current Findings and Future Directions. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch, 36(3), 264-267. doi: 10.1044/0161-1461(2005/026).
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.