Today, I want to talk to you about the myth surrounding multilingualism and/or bilingualism and language delay in children. The first step is for parents of children who speak more than one language to understand the relationship between bilingualism and language. This way, they’ll know how to optimally support their children in different languages.
Multilingualism and/or bilingualism is a phenomenon in which a person speaks more than one language fluently. Depending on when it occurs, we encounter various types of bilingualism. If a person learns two or more languages from birth until around the age of 3, it’s called simultaneous bilingualism. On the other hand, we refer to it as sequential bilingualism when a person learns a second language after already communicating basic skills in a first language. Speech therapy, on the other hand, is a discipline that focuses on preventing, evaluating, and treating disorders related to language, speech, voice, and communication, whether in monolingual or multilingual individuals.
In the realm of speech therapy, bilingualism can present certain challenges. For instance, it’s possible that a child learning two languages might experience language difficulties or simply take more time to learn both languages. Moreover, scientific evidence demonstrates that during childhood stages, the quantity, quality, and continuity of language exposure are more crucial than the age of learning (Thordardottir, 2019).
Can bilingualism cause a language delay?
It’s important to emphasize that multilingualism and/or bilingualism itself is not a cause of language or speech disorders. In fact, studies have shown that speaking more than one language can have benefits for children’s cognitive and linguistic development.
Speech therapists can work with bilingual children to develop skills in both languages and help overcome any communication issues they might have. They can also provide guidance and support to families to encourage language development in both languages. This may include working on pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and language comprehension in both languages.
Remember that an appropriate and personalized approach in speech and language therapy can help bilingual children effectively develop linguistic skills in both languages, even when there are underlying difficulties such as developmental language disorder, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, or hearing impairment.
If you have a child you want to raise in a multilingual environment and you’re concerned about this aspect, we offer advisory services to address your questions and debunk the myth surrounding multilingualism and/or bilingualism and language delay