I need the view of the community of parents of bilingual children on the difficult subject of speech delay.
I am under extreme pressure from my five-year-old son's father to drop his minority language (French) because my child has a speech delay. While his active speech is clearly behind, his passive understanding is excellent in both languages. However, since he mixes both languages, this is clearly a problem for the school he attends. While the school is very in tune with his issue, nobody there understands bilingualism from the scientific research perspective or specific needs involved.
I regularly asked myself that particular question of dropping my native tongue for a while, and asked it to the (many) professional who looked at him. Nobody so far suggested that a change of language strategy would help at all. My son is followed by a speech therapist and she does not give any clear answer to the question of stopping or not the second language, thus fostering criticism of the bilingualism from my son's father.
Speech delay and bilingualism are well documented and apparently, according to my readings, there is no evidence to suggest reverting to one language would help...but being under pressure now, I would love your views. Is there anybody who could share a similar experience? Are there any specific resources that could be recommended?
That is a very tough one and I wouldn't know what to say.
Last year, a PMI doctor told me to stop speaking ml2 to my eldest (which I repeatedly refused to do) as being trilingual certainly didn't help my daughter's pronunciation issue and that I should have a Speech Therapy Assessment made. Then, it coincided with the new teacher telling me (without actually knowing anything about that doctor) to take my daughter for a Speech Therapy Assessment. We eventually went for that assessment and it turned out my daughter has no delay. She just has a bit of therapy to help her (and it benefitted her hugely).
I think there are a lot of mistaken ideas about bilingualism, including that it is rare when in fact 50% of the globe is multilingual. If bilingualism really caused speech delay then I guess half of the globe would suffer from it.
Maybe before taking such a drastic step as to suppress your own language, your husband could read up a bit more on the matter, and then maybe have a talk with the speech therapist, or take your child to a speech therapist who specialises in bilingualism.
I did a fair share of reading when I was being pressured by that PMI doctor to give up ml2. This doctor and people's reactions in general made me feel guilty, as if I were a freak bringing my daughter up trilingual, and for speaking to my daughter in a non-native language. (Now that she speaks all 3 languages, well, nobody dares pester me again though. ) So I really sympathise with your feelings of whether to stop or keep going.
As an anecdote (I think it was somewhere in F. Grosjean's blog but can't find it again ), I read why there was such a huge bias in the medical world as to bilingualism causing speech delay: apparently the first real study made on bilinguals in the 1950s was wrongly "designed": they counted how many words a bilingual kid could say at a given age and compared with a monolingual peer...
The only problem was that they only considered the bilingual child's vocabulary in ML, and not globally with their ml. Hence the study concluded that bilingualism causes speech delay because the bilingual child might only have had 5 ML words (for example) when a monolingual would have 10 ML words (for example). But in fact a bilingual child's vocabulary is spread over 2 languages, so okay they might only have 5 ML words but they also 5 ml words.
Corinne, I feel for your frustrations and can also understand your husband's concern about your son's language development, though his conclusions may be misguided.
While I would tend to agree that withdrawing your support for the minority language could do more harm than good (since your relationship with your son, I assume, has already been established mainly in French and he could react negatively to that "loss"), it's also true that I'm unable to fully judge the situation and feel it best to recommend that you speak directly to a speech-language pathologist with a background in bilingualism.
Ana Paula is very knowledgeable and very helpful and I recommend contacting her and consulting with her, via Skype, for a "second opinion" on your situation. Of course, feel free to mention my name. (And if you have any difficulty reaching her via her site, send me a private message and I'll help connect you with her.)
We're cheering for you and your family, Corinne. With patience and perseverance, this is a challenge that will be overcome. Please keep us posted on your progress.
**NEW! Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book, created by me and my son, is now available at booksellers worldwide!** Adam Beck is the author of the popular nonfiction books "Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability" and "I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL!" (illustrated by Pavel Goldaev) as well as the award-winning humorous novel "How I Lost My Ear" (illustrated by Simon Farrow).
I am not an expert, but from what I have seen, children catch up. I live in a community where almost all children speak 2 or 3 languages! My daughter's best friend was a little delayed, but she is learning 3 languages! She still has catching up to do, but it's amazing to see and hear her speak 3 languages. Some kids take to languages better then others. For example, my daughter has really good pronunciation and vocabulary. She is ahead in her native language. She is also good for just learning French a few months ago. Her brother has a great vocabulary, but struggles with pronunciation. I am hoping when he starts at the bilingual school, he will be able to learn French as well as his sister did. There is that fear. But I am sure he will be fine.
I think you should continue with French. You will regret it later in life if you drop it, as it will be so much more difficult. If you have concerns, you could try some exercises to help with speech perhaps. What is his delay? Not pronouncing words properly? Not knowing many words? Or is he just confusing words as he strings sentences together? I heard with time that corrects itself. Good luck and keep us posted!
Mayken: We're at Harry Potter Book Night at the English bookshop in Paris. The activities are all in French but my daughter teamed up for the treasure hunt with a girl who also speaks ouf ml German!
Feb 8, 2020 3:50:49 GMT 9
Amy: Was stunned to hear eldest had an anglophone (ml) accent when she began to read in the ML this afternoon!! Didn't last more than a paragraph until her brain switched language, but chuffed mum here!!
Mar 7, 2020 23:05:49 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter found the secret stash of ml books I'd bought at the closure sale of the ml book store two months ago and hidden away for later. Guess it's a good time for new books now, right?
Mar 18, 2020 5:29:38 GMT 9
Caro C.: My baby (16mo) perfectly knows what "hi5" means and readily shows her hand even when we are not showing our hand first. It feels like the first minor blossom of the bilingual seed.
Jun 1, 2020 13:05:36 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice, Caro! Give her a high-five from me! And I look forward to hearing about many more happy developments to come!
Jun 8, 2020 15:12:21 GMT 9