Bilingual Speech Therapy: What You Need to Know About It

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It’s not uncommon for kids to learn to speak two languages.

In a world that’s becoming increasingly multilingual, you can find children learning languages at home, at school, or in their community.

While some youngsters have no trouble mastering two languages, others can experience difficulty with their bilingual journey.

Problems may stem from spending too much time correcting speaking patterns and not using both languages when communicating.

Whatever the case, it puts emphasis on the need for bilingual speech therapy.

Today, we’ll tackle what this form of therapy entails and how it impacts the normal speech and language development of children.

The Bilingual Evaluation

Through the bilingual evaluation, one can determine whether speech difficulties stem from learning a second language or if it is a true difficulty.

Bilingual therapy ensures there is proper diagnosis, so children can access the swiftest path towards their goals.

The bilingual assessment takes into consideration the following:

1. Codeswitching

This is when the speaker alternates between two languages when speaking certain words or phrases.

While perfectly natural, common wisdom may mistake this for “not being able to speak both languages well.”

Bilingual SLP services ensure that common patterns are identified.

2. Language Loss

Sometimes, a child may lose skill in their primary language if it is not reinforced properly.

Bilingual speech pathology helps review concepts and vocabularies unique to both languages to get a clearer idea of what the child knows.

3. Differences in Language

Grammar can take different shapes, depending on the language.

With the help of high-quality Bilingual SLP services, processes that are common in both languages can be understood easily.

This makes it easy to identify if errors are the result of learning the second language.

4. Dialect, Phonetic, and Accent Patterns

These elements can be difficult to master when a child struggles only with the sounds of their native speech.

Thanks to bilingual therapy, the shared sounds of both languages are put into focus.

5. Silence

When information about the new language starts to become too much to absorb, a child may withdraw into himself and refuse to speak altogether.

It may appear like the child no longer knows how to communicate or no longer understands both languages.

Bilingual speech pathology helps parents understand that this is a normal part of the bilingual journey.

While it’s true that your child can remain silent for months, he or she will eventually grow out of that phase.

Then, he or she starts absorbing information better than ever.

When Should a Bilingual Child Start Talking?

Each bilingual child experiences a unique journey in speech.

When it comes to learning two languages, climbing up the learning ladder depends on both the quantity and quality of practice.

Generally, though, bilingual kids start to speak their first words by age one.

By two, most can utter two- or three-word phrases.

For instance, they can ask for “more milk” or ask to “go potty” in both languages.

Where they may mix things up is in grammar rules.

They may use words or phrases in their two languages in the same sentence.

Of course, this is perfectly normal and something that bilingual kids usually get the hang of in time.

Also, don’t be surprised if your child no longer talks as much when he or she starts to learn the second language.

This is when bilingual kids are known to go through a “silent period.”

Again, this isn’t a cause for concern and usually goes away within a few short months.

How to Improve Your Child’s Bilingual Journey

There’s no better way to help your child become bilingual than to get them started early.

The first few years of a child’s life is when their brains are wired to process more growth-critical information than ever.

Teaching them another language during their early childhood years can increase their chances of acquiring native-level fluency in not just their native language but also in their second one.

bilingual speech therapy

Use the following items to aid your child’s bilingual learning journey:

1. Books

Reading material in both languages can go a long way to helping one acquire dual language skills with ease.

You can acquire books in almost all languages in libraries, on the Internet, and in bookstores.

2. Music

Singing to your little one or letting them listen to music by a foreign artist is a great way to help them learn another language.

Not to mention, this can also be a fun method for you.

3. Language Programs

There are programs at school and at camp geared towards learning other languages.

These usually provide the best scenario for practicing with other kids.

4. Videos and Television

There are all sorts of children’s programs to help kids learn other languages.

These programs usually tackle the basics, such as simple words, numbers, colors, and letters.

Can Bilingualism Cause Speech Delay?

The reason why bilingualism is often blamed as a culprit of speech delay lies in its two methods of acquisition: sequential and simultaneous.

The latter deals with the introduction of two languages at the same time.

This means a child is already being taught a second language before he or she turns three.

On the other hand, sequential deals with the introduction of another language post-toddler age or beyond three years old.

The child would have already established his or her primary language by this time.

The slight difference between monolingual and bilingual development doesn’t necessarily mean a speech or language delay exists.

Speech delays are usually developmental in nature and are caused by hearing defects, intellectual disabilities, or autism.

Whether your child is monolingual or bilingual, he or she will more or less have the same vocabulary size.

While bilinguals tend to speak a little later than their counterparts, both usually accomplish speech milestones within similar periods.

You also want to take into account that some children are generally more reserved than others.

Their delayed speech could simply be because they are operating on their own time table.

Within a short time, these children will eventually catch up to their peers in the speech and language department.

Bilingualism does not contribute to speech delay, cognitive problems, or language confusion among kids.

In fact, it does the opposite by enhancing focus and speech abilities despite the presence of distractions.

When one learns to speak two or more languages, he or she can broaden their horizons and have an easier grasp of other cultures.

For the most part, one only has the benefits of bilingualism to look forward to.

Learning two languages can help a child acquire social, math, and language skills.

How to Use the Second Language

Speech delays in bilingualism usually result from the erroneous use of the second language by parents.

How does this happen?

Not using the second language in conjunction with the first.

When you fail to mix things up and teach only the second language, you can make it more difficult for your child to learn any language properly.

That’s because your little one will lack the language exposure necessary for learning two languages well.

For dual-language learning to succeed, teachers must do what feels most comfortable to them—using their native language and the second language together.

Use two languages in one sentence.

Bilinguals may communicate using two languages in a single sentence.

Contrary to what some people believe, this actually doesn’t cause confusion in the child.

Instead, it helps the child learn how to switch from one language to another with ease.

Does Speaking Two Languages to a Baby Confuse Them?

Learning another language is difficult—at least, for an adult, it is.

For two- or three-year-olds, though, foreign language learning is an entirely different story.

While traditional wisdom assumes that children regularly mix up the two languages they’re learning simultaneously, science shows differently.

In fact, the best possible time to learn a second language is during early childhood.

This is when the majority of brain development targeted towards language learning occurs.

As such, babies who are taught two languages have the highest chance of attaining native-level fluency in both.

Talking to Your Child Is What True Bilingual Speech Therapy Is All About

In the event that your little one finds both languages challenging, talk to them.

You specifically want to speak to your youngster using the language you’re most comfortable with.

This should be done even when your child uses another language to communicate with his or her classmates.

This gives them the ideal language model for acquiring the necessary skills in other languages.

Keep in mind, though, that even when you’re doing at-home bilingual speech therapy, do not spring solutions on your child so suddenly.

This could mess up their routine and cause them stress.

Conclusion

Most modern children are multilingual.

There’s a host of scenarios in a child’s life where they learn different languages.

So, don’t worry about bilingualism causing speech delays because that simply doesn’t happen.

Monolingual or bilingual, children develop speech and language skills right around the same age.

In case your child ends up having trouble with both languages, get in touch with a speech language pathologist.

This professional knows the best courses of action for improving your little one’s multilingual journey.

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