Stimulus Question 28.

Does learning two languages in early childhood result in language delay or disorder?


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3 responses on “Stimulus Question 28.”

  1. Nisrine says:

    This is one of the questions I have been committed to answering as a speech pathologist and can see that families and educators and even other professionals including speech pathologists are always considering this.

    When you can answer this question this will be the key that impacts on whether a child is able to be connected to their family and community culture and interactions with language. I often see if families fear that learning two languages can cause a delay they will change their interactions and if they choose to speak a language they are not comfortable with they

    The first thing we go to is
    – the research which shows that being learning two languages does not and should not cause a delay.
    – Children are capable and their brains are ready: When you have met children who are capable of learning more than even two or three languages we know it can happen. I speak from experience having been able to speak 3 languages by the age of 6.
    However having worked as a speech pathologist for so language I have been able to understand the complexity and factors that can impact on children been vulnerable to find language difficult.

    If we have socio cultural perspective of language learning we know that children are not passive learners of language and they interact with the people in their environments to gain purpose and meaning for language.
    The EYLF is also an important to consider the whole child as a communicator in the context of their family and community.

    In an education context it’s understanding our limitations in our observations sometimes and the importance of working with families to understand the child at home.

    For this reason it is important to plan effectively and be informed about how to support language learning:

    – family involvement and supporting families to see the importance of how to model and introduce language and feeling confident about the contexts, people and environments to support language. It’s important for families to be supported with information and ideas for their choice to be bilingual
    – Understanding child factors that impact language learning:
    – Some children will have a language disorder or developmental delays and we know that learning language is hard. It doesn’t mean they should be disconnected from their families to just speak English but it can be the family can benefit from strategies to support language learning in any language.
    – Allowing time to understand changes to Personality and normal stages of bilingual language development – it’s important to understand what normal stages of bilingualism look like and what to expect like the silent period, code switching , taking time to find words, or taking time to listen and understand before speaking.
    – Observing the whole child their interests, their play and other areas of development like problem solving and social skills without language. These can be strong predictors of understanding the child as a learner as well.
    In conclusion: developing language is a complex process that requires many factors to work together. Families value the opinions of educators and other professionals when they are unsure about their choice to support bilingualism. It is our role to be informed and confident about how to respond to this question so that the child has the opportunity to be connected, contribute and be able to interact in their family and community.

  2. I think it depends on how the 2 languages are presented. If equal time is given to each language, the 2 languages are quite different and the languages are delivered well, I think it is possible. I remember reading once that children can hear the difference in languages which suggests to me that if children are given effective models of language in each one, language delay or disorder does not necessarily occur.

  3. Meni T says:

    This is s a common question asked by both families and education professionals through our work in the early childhood field and something that we come across via our Speech, Teach & Reach for the Culture of Each Speech Pathology Educator Coaching program. Multicultural Children’s Services are strong advocates for bilingualism in early childhood and work with Services and families to support bilingualism even in instances where there may be communication delays.
    We promote a range of child, family and educational factors that can be addressed to support children with communication delays to stay connected with their culture, community and identity.
    Research shows that bilingualism does not result in language delay or disorder. In actual fact, the benefits of bilingualism are diverse, including communication, cultural, cognitive, academic and economic. Misconceptions around bilingualism attributing to language delay or disorder occur as a result of lack of information around the silent period, language mixing, language loss etc. We feel that more work needs to be done and information disemminated on speech and communication issues around bilingual children.
    Contact the Multicultural Children’s Services Team at Ethnic Community Services Co-operative for more information on our Speech Teach & Reach Program, Workshops on Languages Learning and Bilingualism in Early Childhood and our resources on raising bilingual children.