Here's a question I wonder about: How old was your child before they began to talk?
I have an 18 month old who I've spoken Hebrew with (minority language) and my husband has spoken English with since the day he was born. Now, I hear that by 18 months they are supposed to have a vocabulary of up to 20 words...and my son is no where near that! He does say a few words consistently and we encourage him to repeat those words (mostly in Hebrew). He's also said a few words in English in the past, but hasn't repeated them often enough to say that they part of his vocabulary.
Now, I'm not so concerned because I know he understands everything in both languages. He follows directions nicely in either language and enjoys books in either language as well. (also responds when you ask in either language to point at the cat, ball etc. in the books) His Dr. says it's normal when learning two languages that the speech comes later but people are raising their eyebrows if he doesn't respond to: "What is your name?"
So what should I be expecting? Is there anything I can do to encourage his speech? Or should I let it happen naturally?
Ilana, I just checked the list where I wrote down my daughter's first words, and the very first ones, which were still one-syllable words like "ka" for "käse" (cheese) and "brm" for car, came at 19 months. In fact, the only real words she said by them were "maman" and "papa". I don't think you need to worry yet. Just keep going. Talking with him is the best both of you can do. Good luck! Mayken
Ilana, I don't think it's necessarily true that children being raised with more than one language start speaking later than monolingual children. Much of this, I think, depends on each child's own biological timetable.
In your case, based on the positive signs of development that you've shared, I don't think this should be a worry. I understand your feelings--because many parents (including me) have had moments when they wondered if their children would ever start speaking--but it will happen in its own good time, I can assure you. Just continue to be persistent with language exposure (especially to the minority language) and patient with your son's process of language acquisition. I suspect you'll see a lot of movement over the next year.
For the most part--unless a somewhat older child still isn't speaking and seems to be experiencing delays in other aspects of language development, too--it isn't very useful, really, to compare your child with other children.
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My pediatrician says that 6 words by the 18 month mark is what they look for. Even so some kids miss it and then catch up a bit later.
Also all the research shows that bilingualism doesn't cause delays or speech impairments when counting words in both languages.
For my own part, both my kids didn't really talk at 18 months. A handful of words maybe. About 24-26 months is when they turned into chatter boxes. The one thing I noticed from the first child to the second is that first time parents contribute to "speech delay". By that I mean that first time parents expect adult speech out of their children and therefore don't notice when a child starts consistently using a group of sounds for a meaning. For example, I have no idea when my oldest's first word was because I thought she was babbling dadadada and only when I visited my parents they pointed out that she used it when she wanted something and it was her way of saying "dai" (give me). So look for consistent use and not for proper pronunciation. Baa baa sound that a sheep makes counts as a word, nana totally counts as a word when talking about a banana. Heck my youngest has two words she plain made up "ami ami" for food (probably from yummy) and "tommy" for Doc mcStuffins.
The way you describe your child, they sound perfectly normal and right on track in terms of speech.
Thank you so much for your responses. I admit that, as a first time parent, it's hard to know what to expect. It's good to hear that others at his age had only a few words under their belt and that I have my work cut out for me (re: "On Babies and Hammers") until he does begin to chat away.
Tatyana, thank you for your input re: the baby babble that could actually count as "words" when used consistently towards something. Now that you mention it, there are certainly a few babble words he's been saying to me that I just can't make out the meaning of...so I'll take your advice at looking for consistent use to decipher the babble.
By the way Tatyana, I also come from a Russian background, my parents spoke it at home with us. I can carry a conversation in Russian but I don't feel my Russian is strong enough to pass it on to my son. All this is to say, that one of his vocabulary words is "DA" (yes)...probably picked it up from his grandparents.
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