As a Manhattan-based speech and language therapist, half of my caseload typically contains children speaking two or even three languages.
Parents of bilingual children are often concerned that they have fostered a language delay. This is particularly pressing when their toddler doesn’t seem to be using as many words, or is not speaking using the complex sentences of their peers.
As De Houwer (1999) summarizes, “There is no scientific evidence to date that hearing two or more languages leads to delays or disorders in language acquisition. Many, many children throughout the world grow up with two or more languages from infancy without showing any signs of language delays or disorder” (p. 1).
There have been very few instances in my career where I discouraged a second language. Speaking two languages is an incredibly valuable skill. What a great gift to give your child!
Bilingual children generally develop language skills just as other children do, although it may take longer than learning one.
Children who speak more than one language may:
- mix grammar rules between the languages
- use vocabulary from the different languages in the same sentence
These experiences are standard and should gradually disappear as language skills develop.
Major language milestones should still be achieved:
- first words by age one
- two-word phrases by age two
If you would like to have your child evaluated for a language delay, please call or email me, I would love to hear from you.
Stephanie Sigal M.A. CCC-SLP
De Houwer, A. (1999). Two or more languages in early childhood: Some general points and practical recommendations. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics. Retrieved March 4, 2005, from www.cal.org/resources/digest/earlychild.html
Let’s Talk, Children and Bilingualism. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2003.