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.
Hope that made sense
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
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.
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, and the author of the popular non-fiction book Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability amzn.to/22XKuCt and the humorous novel How I Lost My Ear amzn.to/2EsjVRS, both available worldwide.
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!
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Wojtek: Well, it suited both teams to slow down the ball. However, it was really unexpected and peculiar
Jul 1, 2018 1:16:27 GMT 9
Mayken: On the train from Cologne to my hometown, I saw a boy about 9/10 and his older sister. She was fluent in German but spoke French with a slight accent, he spoke only French. They were visiting their grandparents. I was intrigued but didn't ask.
Jul 1, 2018 22:06:55 GMT 9
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Jul 6, 2018 4:02:38 GMT 9
Mayken: Yay! My 8-year-old daughter passed her ml swim test today! After swimming & diving, the pool attendant asked her to recite the swimming/safety rules (our recent captive reading), and she knew them all!
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Agnese: First words. What to expect? My son is 10 months old. He's still babbling, but I've noticed some different sounds depending on the situation. I wonder if he'll start saying his first words in the next weeks (or months, who knows?). What should I expect?
Jul 11, 2018 0:30:24 GMT 9
Amy: Don't expect anything Agnese. Just let it happen, and then what he says will hit you like a train. It's an amazing moment. Just live it and don't overthink it. Whatever he says, in whatever language it is, it is a magical moment.
Jul 11, 2018 5:11:14 GMT 9
Agnese: I've recently found a further (annoying) challenge: when I speak ml (Italian) to my child (10m) in front of ML acquaintances, they are making jokes about what I said (mostly accent, similar unrelated words...). What do you think is the best way to act?
Jul 15, 2018 13:04:11 GMT 9
Amy: Agnese, it is simply because they never had the opportunity to be acquainted so closely to that language. Just smile and keep going. Over time (even if this may seem long), the comments will fade. Don't show your son you are embarrassed by your ml.
Jul 16, 2018 3:56:41 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Agnese, I strongly second Amy's advice! Stay strong and continue speaking Italian!
Jul 18, 2018 6:22:37 GMT 9
Adam Beck: And Agnese, keep in mind that, above all, the highest priority is your bilingual aim, not the other passing concerns that are part of this experience (for us all). Don't let these distract you from the greater goal.
Jul 18, 2018 6:24:49 GMT 9
Agnese: Thank you! After this setback I feel stronger than ever! The same day of the incident I ordered plenty of books in the ml on Amazon and I'm reading every day new research on bilingualism and bilingual education. I'm ready to defend my goal! Thanks
Jul 19, 2018 18:37:58 GMT 9