Bilingual Kids and Speech Therapy

Is it best to speak one language to your child?

Bilingualism has many benefits but families may be wondering if learning two languages will cause their child to have a speech delay and need speech therapy. This is not true.

Developmental Process of Speech

Children across all cultures follow a very similar developmental process. Sometimes this process gets disrupted and intervention is needed; we call this a “speech delay.” I’m often asked if speaking more than one language at home will make things worse. I’ll give you the insider details from a speech pathologist about the effects of bilingualism.

Here are three things I want every parent to know about bilingualism.

1. Bilingualism Does not Cause Speech Delays or Worsen them

Several studies comparing monolingual and bilingual children with speech delays show no evidence that being bilingual worsens their difficulties or has any negative effects on the children’s overall language learning. 

In actuality, bilingualism has many benefits and these include:

  • Being able to learn new words easily
  • Being able to use information in new ways
  • Putting words into categories efficiently
  • Quickly coming up with solutions to problems
  • Good listening skills
  • Connecting with others easily

YAY! Hopefully, this is a huge relief to you and encourages you to speak your native language at home.

2. Hearing multiple languages will not confuse your child, even if they have a speech delay.

Bilingual children are also not confused by acquiring two languages at the same time, even if they have been diagnosed with a language or speech delay.

3. Language mixing is also not a sign of confusion.

When bilingual children mix two languages (also called “code-switching”) it does not mean they are confused or are having a hard time learning to speak. Much to the contrary, it shows how much mental flexibility the bilingual child has by alternating between languages while communicating. This is a positive sign.

Bilingualism does not cause communication delays and these communication delays are NOT worsened by bilingualism. 

Guidelines for Bilingual or Multilingual Families Seeking Speech Therapy

If your child is showing signs of speech-language delay, contact a speech-language pathologist and if your child is bilingual, then search for a speech-language pathologist who is trained in servicing culturally and linguistically diverse children. If a bilingual speech therapist is not readily available, you may need an interpreter. 

Guidelines for best practice suggest that evaluation and treatment in a child’s home language help build a stronger foundation for further speech and language development.

The earlier you get in touch with a speech-language pathologist, the sooner you can get your child the treatment they need to develop their language skills.

Content for this resource was adapted from Eveline de Castro’s article Should You Stop Speaking to Your Child in Your Native or Preferred Language?

Eveline de Castro, M.S. CCC-SLP

Eveline de Castro, M.S. CCC-SLP

Check out my online course called How to Teach a Toddler to Talk. 

Now available with English and Spanish subtitles!

Disclaimer: This information is meant for general education and not to diagnose. 

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