Many bilingual families that I have worked with have hesitated to teach their child a second language in fears that it will cause a speech and language delay. Questions about bilingualism come up a lot as there are many myths and beliefs that it will negatively impact a child’s speech and language development or that it can confuse young children who are learning language.
“Will teaching a second language affect my child’s ability to talk?”
As a speech-language pathologist in early intervention, a question many bilingual families ask is whether or not bilingualism affects speech and language development.
The answer is no! Teaching a second language does NOT cause speech and language delays. In fact, research shows it can have many cognitive benefits.
Many parents feel their child may have a delay as they are not saying as many words as monolingual peers. It is important to remember that bilingual children’s vocabulary is divided into two languages. It may appear that they are using less words, but they have those words in two different languages.
“When is the right time to teach my child a second language?”
There is no right time to teach your child a second language. You can teach two languages from the start, incorporating both languages simultaneously. You can also teach one language at home and your child can learn the second language when they start school! Regardless of which approach you choose to take, it is important to speak to your child in the language you feel most comfortable with, so they do not learn grammatical or lexical errors and they are exposed to strong language foundations.
Use books, music, and fun videos in both languages to help teach your child. Make sure to give them amply opportunities to hear and speak both languages throughout activities and their daily routines!
About the author:
Jacqueline Pfeiffer, M.S. CCC-SLP earned her B.S. in Psychology at The State University of New York College at Oneonta and M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Sacred Heart University. Jacqueline provides Early Intervention Speech Therapy Services to children ages 0-3 in Westchester County.
When there are 2 languages and the child has no expressive lexicon in either language, no vocal play, no imitation, and is over age 2 years, how concerned are you as an SLP that there may be a problem. For example, verbal apraxia.