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.