Bilingualism and your child’s language development.
Your native language is Spanish, and you want to teach your child to speak both English and Spanish but you worry it will cause confusion and language delay. I’m here to tell you, not to worry! Teach your child your native language. Not only are there multiple cognitive benefits to bilingualism, it will also allow your child to communicate with your family members fluently and feel connected with his/her heritage. It provides your child greater access to people and resources.
A York University study suggests that exposure to two languages may actually give toddlers a cognitive advantage over young children who use only one language . Bilingual children are better able to focus their attention on relevant information and ignore distractions. In addition, bilingual individuals have been shown to be more creative and better at planning and solving complex problems than monolinguals.
Bilingualism alone does not cause language delay. Bilingual children acquire language milestones at similar ages as children learning one language such as; the onset of babbling, first words and vocabulary growth. When you combine the number of words a bilingual child knows from both languages, it should be similar or superior to that of an English only speaking child.
How you can support your child:
-Speak to your child in the language you feel most comfortable with. Providing a proficient language model for your child is important so he/she hears the correct language structures and vocabulary.
-If your child begins learning his/her second language when entering school and he/she is acquiring it slowly, do not stop speaking your native language at home. This is the only language they have known up until now and you need to continue to foster his/her language skills. The stronger the child’s first language, the easier and stronger the second language will be to acquire.
-When a second language is introduced, some children go through a “silent period” that can last a few weeks to a few months. Be patient and supportive. This is normal.
-Children sometimes may “code-switch” or use both languages in one sentence. This is normal and not a sign of confusion.
Despite the benefits of bilingualism, some bilingual children, similar to monolingual children, are language delayed. If your child’s language development is delayed, it is best to speak to a Speech-Language Pathologist.