Busting Myths About Bilingual Upbringing | News | Loyola Medicine
Saturday, May 23, 2015

Loyola speech-language pathologist busts myths about bilingual upbringing

MAYWOOD, Ill. (May 20, 2015)  – Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that the number of Hispanics speaking Spanish at home has risen from 10.2 million in 1980 to 24.7 million in 2000. Chinese, Korean, Arabic and many other languages are also growing in frequency. 

“The growing diversity of American households is causing parents to debate on the benefits and detriments of raising their children to be bilingual” says Megan Riordan, speech-language pathologist at Loyola University Health System. “Many respectable medical professionals often suggest that parents refrain from speaking their native language to avoid confusing their child.”

Here are common questions asked by bilingual parents and the answers from Riordan. 

Will learning two languages cause my child’s speech to be delayed?

“Currently, there is no evidence that suggests learning two languages causes speech delays,” says Riordan, who holds a bilingual English-Spanish certificate “A typically developing child should begin to produce first words by 1 year of age, put two words together at 1.5 to 2 years of age and have a vocabulary of 200 to 300 words by 2 years of age.”  Research has shown that monolingual and bilingual children reach developmental milestones at similar ages.  

How can parents and educators support a child’s bilingual language development?

Provide a language-rich environment in one or both languages,” says Riordan. “A language-rich environment consists of a setting with a lot of talking, a variety of vocabulary and correct grammar. Ways to create a language-rich environment include turning off the television, engaging in shared reading and getting out toys and playing!” 

Riordan says that studies have supported environments that consist of one-parent, one-language.  For example, the mother speaks Spanish to the child and the father speaks English.  Studies have also supported one-language, one-place.  For example, the child speaks Spanish at home, and English at school.    

Will dual language learning make my child confused?

“No evidence indicates that learning two languages confuses children,” says Riordan. “About one-half of the earth’s population speaks more than one language.” Signs mistaken for confusion are often signs of learning.  Both monolingual and bilingual children make mistakes as they acquire language.   A bilingual child may make errors in both languages.  They may mix the languages. It is simply an indication that the child is learning the languages.” 

Will learning two languages cause my child to be less intelligent?

“Absolutely not!  There are many advantages of being bilingual,” says Riordan. “Research has shown that bilingual children may learn new words more easily, pick up pre-reading skills faster, be more creative and be able to multi-task better than monolinguals.  Some studies have also shown being bilingual may help fight against Alzheimer’s disease.”  

Will reducing to one language improve my child’s chance for success?   

“Reducing to one language can actually cause a handful of difficulties.  Taking away one of the languages spoken at home or in the community may cause a child to feel isolated through lack of communication,” says Riordan. “Removing one of the languages may also prevent the child from partaking in a variety of personal and professional opportunities, such as travel, volunteer work, and eventually their careers.”  

Loyola speech and language pathologists provide evaluation and therapy services for individuals with communication, cognitive and/or swallowing impairments. Patients range in age from newborns through the elderly. Loyola's experienced, certified and licensed speech/language pathologists are committed to  speech impairment prevention, rehabilitation and education. 

Participants with a variety of diagnoses can benefit from Loyola comprehensive speech and language therapy treatments. Loyola programs emphasize an individualized approach with tailored treatments. Both inpatient and outpatient speech and language therapy services for children are provided through the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Caring for children offers unique challenges. 


About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.