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Bilingualism: Does It Cause Speech Delay?

There has been some confusion about whether children learning two or more languages at once is good or not. Bilingual families often speak at home in both languages when they’re together. So a common question in such environments would be: “Is there any harm in teaching both?”

In this post, we’ll go through answering some common questions regarding learning two languages simultaneously and how it affects children.

Is Learning Two Languages at the Same Time Possible for My Child?

Your child absolutely can!

Simultaneous bilingualism means learning two languages simultaneously. Learning multiple languages at an early age before they turn 3 is associated with this kind of language learning. Most often, families tend to speak their primary or native (minority language) at home and their second language or (majority language) when they’re out together where they live or learning lessons from school.

Children normally say their first words in both languages at approximately 12 months old, then two-word stages happen six months later. By 3 to 4 years old, most kids are able to string together more complex sentences in both languages. Simultaneous bilingual children learn both languages at roughly the same rate as monolinguals, so there’s no worry about falling behind on either language.

Children may also be fluent in two languages even if they have an underlying condition like developmental language disorder (DLD), down syndrome, or autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). In fact, they perform just as well as bilingual children without any additional diagnoses, and there is no reason why you could not teach them another language.

Will Bilingualism Cause Speech Delay?

Learning two languages at once doesn’t cause any delays in speech development. As far as simultaneous learners go, they learn languages just like monolingual speakers do. They reach the same stages of development for speech and language skills at roughly the same time.

Beyond the initial milestone goals, dual language development depends on the child’s exposure to both languages. In addition to using these words daily, other regular uses of language will help bilingual children grow their vocabulary at an early age.

Both languages should be normally acquired overtime. Children who speak two languages at home should be able to use them equally well in daily life just like monolingual ones.

Don’t assume that your child has delayed speech development if they’re struggling with their language skills. There isn’t any proof that stopping second language learning improves speech delay. If there’s any doubt whether or not your child has another problem causing their delayed development, consulting a speech-language pathologist would be the most appropriate course of action. There may be some other language difficulties present, not necessarily being bilingual.

My child is mixing words from two different languages. Is it okay?

Code mixing refers to when two people speak different languages at once. It’s often used by bilingual individuals who want to communicate across language barriers.

You don’t need to worry because this is a natural language process for bilingual kids, and even adults!. You’re right — your child isn’t struggling with the language; he/she is just trying out different things until the communication clicks for him/her.

If your child seems to be code mixing, try to figure out why he/she is doing so. For example: Do they not know the right words in English? You can confirm this with them if they meant something else by asking, “Did you really mean … ?” followed by the correct word in the appropriate language.

Learning pace for both bilingual and monolingual children is the same. There hasn’t been any evidence showing that teaching two languages together leads to delays in language development, so there isn’t any reason to stop using both languages when talking to children.

What matters most is if your child is comfortable with learning both languages. You and family members at home should talk to your children naturally for the best results. When children are taught using language in a conversational and normal manner, they’ll be able to pick up languages easily.

Like children who learn two languages at once, some bilinguals may also require extra support when they begin studying their second language. Contact us today via the form below!