Debunking The Myths About Speech Development In Bilingual Children

Debunking The Myths About Speech Development In Bilingual Children | Voz Speech Therapy Clinic Washington DC

Are you hoping to raise your child in a bilingual household, but have some concerns?

Maybe you’ve heard some naysayers say that speaking multiple languages as a child could cause delays in your child’s development.

Or maybe you’re just worried that your child seems like they’re not keeping up with their peers and you’re wondering if learning multiple languages might be one of the reasons why.

If you do have concerns about your child’s language development, a speech therapist for kids like Voz Speech Therapy can help.

There are many myths surrounding bilingual children and their abilities, and we’d like to help you address them.

Keep reading to find out more about these myths.

MYTH: Teaching Children More Than One Language Can Cause Developmental Delays

It’s common to hear that exposing a child to more than one language might cause delays in their language development.

But is that true?

Based on the fact that it’s in this article, you can probably guess the answer.

Why It’s False

Studies have found that children who speak more than one language hit similar milestones as their peers who only grow up hearing one.

Bilingual toddlers may mix up words – also known as “code-switching” – from both languages for a while, and this is completely normal.

While they may have 15 words in one language and 35 in another, they’re still keeping pace with their monolingual peers, because what matters is the total amount of vocabulary words they have across all learned languages.

In truth, all kids acquire language at their own pace and there are no hard rules when it comes to language and speech development.

There are, however, some important milestones that determine whether your child has a delay or a disorder.

MYTH: Teaching Children More Than One Language Can Cause A Speech Disorder

Beyond developmental delays, there’s a myth out there that teaching children more than one language at a time could cause a speech disorder such as stuttering, which would mean your child would need speech therapy for stuttering.

Sounds stressful, right?

Well don’t worry, this one isn’t true either.

Why It’s False

If your child has a speech disorder, it will probably show up in both languages.

However, that doesn’t mean bilingualism is what caused their speech disorder.

Speech disorders have complex origins that can’t be easily pinpointed, but learning multiple languages as a child is not known to be one of those causes.

MYTH: Teaching Children More Than One Language Can Cause Difficulty In School

There are many worries that bilingual children will struggle in academics when they enter the school system.

Some even worry that it might trigger the need for learning disability speech therapy.

But it doesn’t.

Why It’s False

The younger your child is, the better it might be for them to be enrolled in an immersion program: this way they’re learning their second language in a way that is natural for them.

As your child gets older, however, it might be better for their instruction to be in their first language while supplementing studies with their second language.

Bilingual skills will mean your child could have advantages in multitasking and problem solving, so there’s no need to worry about their academic performance.

While it’s true that there are different approaches to bilingual learning depending on the age of your child, being bilingual can actually be an advantage in academics.

MYTH: Your Child Won’t Be Fluent In A Second Language If They Don’t Learn It Early

Many people think that children have to learn their second language at a very young age for them to be proficient in both languages.

It’s common for people to say a child will never speak like a native unless they learn as a young child.

Why It’s False

This is false because the situation is much more nuanced than this.

While it is true that the best time for a child to learn a language is within their first few years of life, children can still learn to speak fluently at any age.

Earlier is better, but people can become fluent speakers of a second language at any age.

If that weren’t the case, it would be a lot more difficult for people to move to a new country, but millions do every year.

MYTH: Teaching Children More Than One Language Can Cause A Speech Disorder | Voz Speech Therapy Clinic Washington DC

MYTH: Bilingual Children Have Smaller Vocabularies

This myth is derived from a truth but doesn’t show the whole picture.

Studies have shown that bilingual children may have smaller than average vocabularies in each individual language they speak.

But there’s more to it than that.

Why It’s False

What this myth is obscuring is that while their vocabularies in each individual language might be smaller, their combined vocabularies for both languages are usually equal to that of their monolingual peers.

Also, it’s known that bilingual children don’t always use the words they’re learning right away.

Your child may be in a “silent phase” of language learning, where they know words when they hear them but don’t have the confidence to speak them out loud yet.

MYTH: Learning Two Languages Is Confusing For A Child

You may be worried that learning two languages will leave your child confused.

Because language learning can be quite challenging for adults, it can be hard to imagine that a child could do it without significant confusion.

However, assuming this ignores that children absorb and learn languages much differently from adults.

Why It’s False

Instead of confusion, bilingual kids are actually learning languages in a more complex way.

This allows them to swap between the languages.

Difficulty and difference within learning is not the same as confusion, and some researchers even believe there are significant advantages to bilingualism.

MYTH: Your Child Is Not Truly Bilingual Unless They’re Proficient In Both Languages

There is a popular idea that to be truly bilingual you must be able to speak both languages with equal proficiency.

This is actually quite rare, however, and would mean that many people who speak two languages fluently would not be considered bilingual.

Why It’s False

This is false because having a preferred or dominant language – something that is extremely common – does not make your child any less fluent in their other language.

One doesn’t have to be an expert in a language to be bilingual.

Language proficiency changes over time and people have preferences, but none of that fluctuation would ever mean that your child doesn’t “count” as bilingual.

This is why we consider bilingualism to be a continuum throughout your life.

Book Your Appointment WithVoz Speech Therapy Today

After seeing these myths, we hope that you feel reassured that your child is learning languages at the rate that works for them.

However, if you’re still worried about your child’s speech and language development and have questions and concerns, we’re here to help.

Book your appointment with Voz Speech Therapy today.

Voz Speech Therapy
1331 H St NW Ste 200,
Washington, DC 20005

(202) 734-4884

Voz Speech Therapy is a pediatric bilingual speech therapy clinic in Washington, DC that provides individualized services based on the specific needs of your or your child. Therapy sessions are provided in English or Spanish, depending on your child’s native language. Voz Speech Therapy es una clínica pediátrica bilingüe de terapia del habla en Washington, DC que brinda servicios individualizados según las necesidades específicas de usted o su hijo. Las sesiones de terapia se brindan en inglés o español, según el idioma nativo de su hijo.

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