There are definitive advantages for children who are learning two languages simultaneously. Though parents may question whether or not they should teach their child to be bilingual, research has proven that bilingual children develop language skills in the same manner as peers who are learning one language.
Parents should begin using both languages from the start and continue to give their child opportunities to hear and communicate in both languages throughout their daily routines. Bilingual children typically have a dominant language; that is, one that they know better and use more proficiently. Learning two languages simultaneously does NOT hinder speech and language development. If a child truly has a language disorder, this will be evident in both languages. Additionally, bilingualism may confuse grammatical rules or use words from both languages in the same sentence, and this should not be concerning.
Playing rhyming games with words like “cat” and “hat”
Breaking down words by sounds, such as C-A-T for cat
Being able to use information in new ways
Putting words into categories
Coming up with solutions to problems
Developing good listening skills
Connecting with others
Language learning follows patterns. Developing sounds in the first language may further support how a child learns and uses their second language. ASHA also reports that currently 1 in 5 individuals over the age of 5 speak a language other than English at home. Subsequently, simultaneously language learning is becoming more common and is expected to increase over time.
In a time where speaking more than one language is becoming increasingly common, the topic of being bilingual (speaking more than one language) and having a language delay arises. How does having a language delay affect the acquisition and use of a second language? What if your child is a native speaker of both languages? If your child has a language delay, should they be exposed to a second language?
Sometimes children speak two languages when they are exposed to one language at home and a different language at school or daycare. Other children speak two languages because their parents have chosen to expose them to a second language (e.g. an immersion program). Further, there are different terms for these types of acquisitions. Simultaneous acquisition occurs when children acquire two languages before the age of 3, and sequential acquisition occurs when children acquire a second language after their first language is established (Lowry).
How Does a Language Delay Affect Learning a Second Language?
But what if your child has a language delay? How does this affect their languages? In the case of simultaneous acquisition, children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) have no more difficulty learning two languages than children with SLI who are learning only one language (Paradis 2003, Gutierrez 2008). (SLI occurs when children have difficulties with language but no co-occurring developmental difficulties or medical diagnoses.)
In the case of sequential acquisition, if your child already has a language delay, you may be hesitant to expose your child to a second language. However, although these children do face language-learning difficulties, they are not at a greater disadvantage than a monolingual child with the same language difficulties (Lowry).
These conclusions seem promising for those wanting to learn multiple languages, but according to research done by Paradis, Genesee, and Crago (2011) (referred to herein as “the study”), children with SLI may continue to have language difficulties in their second language even after years of exposure. The study was conducted with Turkish speaking children learning Dutch, and showed that the children with SLI learning a second language continued to lag behind their monolingual peers with SLI. It has been suggested that the continued struggles were a result of the children coming from low socioeconomic and disadvantaged minority groups; however, this has not been proven (Paradis 2010). Given the varying conclusions of existing scientific research, it is important to make as informed of a choice as possible by looking at all the factors applicable to your child. No matter what you decide, be sure to support your child’s language(s) in all environments to foster growth.
Paradis, J., Crago, M., Genesee F., & Rice, M. (2003). Bilingual children with specific language impairment: How do they compare with their monolingual peers? Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 1-15.
Gutierrez-Clellen, V., Simon-Cereijido, G, & Wagner, C. (2008). Bilingual children with language impairment: A comparison with monolinguals and second language learners. Applied Linguistics, 29, 3-20.
Paradis, J., Genesee, F., and Crago, M. (2011). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning. Baltimore, Maryland: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Paradis, J. (2010). The interface between bilingual development and specific language impairment. Applied Psycholinguistics, 31, 227-252.
https://secureservercdn.net/22.214.171.124/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/langauge-boy-FeaturedImage.png?time=1593626472186183Katie Heschhttps://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngKatie Hesch2015-07-21 10:08:332015-07-22 10:46:23Can My Child be Bilingual with a Language Delay?
Parents may wonder, what are the benefits of exposing my child to two languages? Children who are exposed to multiple languages from an early age are more likely to become bilingual, and may have greater success with second language acquisition. As with any skill, the more exposure and practice a child has to a second language, the more successful he will be in both languages.
Myths of Learning Another Language in Childhood:
1. Speech and language acquisition will be delayed: This is not true; according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, language milestones are the same across languages. Children will likely develop their first word around 12 months, and will begin combining 2-words around 24 months. If children are struggling with language acquisition, it will likely manifest in all languages a child is exposed to.
2. Children will have a dominant language: This may be true; depending on when a child is exposed to a language, he may have a dominant language. If there is a delay in exposure to languages (e.g., parents speak one language but at daycare a child is exposed to another), children will likely be dominant in their parents’ language, but may still acquire a second language. For an older child who has been exposed to two languages equally, he may elect to have one dominant language or may use different languages depending on environments (e.g., one language at school/home).
3. One parent should speak one language, the other parent should speak another: This is not true; parents need to speak to their children in a language they are comfortable in. For example, children may learn a language inaccurately if a parent exposes a child a language that they themselves are not fluent in. In these cases it is best for families to stick to one dominant language or rely on other individuals who may be fluent in a desired language to help their children.
https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.png00Jaclyn Schneiderhttps://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngJaclyn Schneider2014-01-28 15:05:262014-06-02 22:26:38Debunking Bilingualism Myths: Will My Child’s Language Be Delayed?