In an increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) society, many children are now growing up learning two or more languages.
Here at Speech Therapy Services we support many families for whom English is not their first or primary language.
We find that these families often have many questions surrounding multilingualism, some of which we hope to address in today’s blog.
“Does my child have language difficulties because they are learning more than one language?”
Not at all! Millions of children all over the world learn multiple languages without difficulties. Multilingual children develop just as other children do.
“What should I expect from my multilingual child?”
Just like children who speak one language, multilingual children are all unique. How their languages develop depend on the amount and type of input the child receives. For example, a child who is exposed to Mandarin all day every day and English for only an hour at a time, will likely have stronger Mandarin skills than English.
Most multilingual children follow the same developmental milestones as other children their age. For example, first words usually appear by the time they are one year old and two word phrases by the time they are two.
However, children learning more than one language may confuse grammar, or use words from both languages in the same sentence. This is a normal stage in multilingual language development.
When a second language is introduced, some children may not talk much for a while. This “silent period” can last for a few months or for as long as a year, while the child is learning and storing the language before they can begin to speak it. This is normal and will go away in time.
“Should we stop speaking to our child in our primary language?”
We typically recommend that multilingual children with language delay/difficulties continue to experience both languages. There are many benefits to multilingualism, and continuing to speak to your child in both languages. Some of these include:
“How can I help my child learn English as their second language?”
There are many ways you can support your child to develop English alongside their primary language/s: