Does Bilingualism Cause Speech Delay? 3 Tips to Improve Multi-Language Learning

It’s no secret that learning new languages is tough. Parents ask me all the time, “Does bilingualism cause a speech delay?”

The answer is no. 

As speech pathologists, we encourage families that speech delay isn’t their fault and that it’s not caused by speaking multiple languages at home.

Noticing Traits of Speech Delay Doesn’t Mean Hope Is Lost 

Speech delay can present itself in different forms. In my blog, I go in-depth on the distinctions of speech delay, but here are a few red flags or possible indicators you might see in your child:

  • Limited use of words compared to other kids
  • Difficulty understanding language 
  • Lack of interest in others and antisocial behavior
  • Excessive use of sounds to communicate, such as babbling or grunting
  • Increased frustration and the inability to communicate

This isn’t to say if you notice some speech delay indicators—that your child cannot learn multiple languages. Children with speech delays can totally learn those languages, as studies have shown us. 

Also, bilingualism offers many incredible cognitive and social benefits! Learning languages is a powerful cognitive exercise, and it can open up new job opportunities in the future.

However, when it comes to teaching new languages and engaging in bilingual communication, there are a few tips as a speech pathologist that I can give you. 

Lay Down a Strong Linguistic Foundation 

Start by using the language in which you are most proficient.

Whichever language you’re strongest in is often the best model for your child. You want to give your child a solid foundation in that language, since it’ll serve as the building blocks for future development. 

It’s important to capture the right accent, vocabulary, and grammatical skills for a specific language.


Schedule Speech Therapy With an Interpreter

When it comes to speech therapy services, your preferred language may not be available.

So, what can you do? The answer’s simple: an interpreter.

This makes it easy for you and your child to get evaluated in the spoken language that the child should know. This will also give you a more accurate depiction of what your child knows and doesn’t know.

Be Patient During Your Child’s Language Learning Journey

Learning a language, like learning a skill, takes time. It’s important to allow nice, long pauses between translations. This way, the child has time to process the language and not be overwhelmed or distracted by the different ways words sound. 

Slow down your language, so the child comprehends individual words and grammatical structures instead of understanding your words as one long jumbled sound. 

Children at this age just need time. In my years as a speech therapist, I’ve seen how important it is to nurture this teaching and learning process. When I’m working with a child, I make sure that they are my number one priority and focus.

Bilingualism: A Big Yes From Speech Therapists

Bilingualism is supported and encouraged by speech therapists. I encourage the inclusion of these diverse languages in the child’s upbringing and their unique cultures. Being a speech therapy pathologist is so rewarding because of the diversity of people I get to help and work with every day. 

Everyone is coming from different backgrounds, with varying styles of learning and language abilities. I think that is beautiful and really inspires my work and the fantastic team here at Walkie Talkie. 

No matter where your child’s speech journey starts or language proficiency falls, we are here to help guide you and your little one in learning new techniques for tackling challenges like speech delay. 

Reach out to us at Walkie Talkie Speech Therapy on social media or visit our website to schedule a consultation today.


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