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Jun 092014
 
Question

Our first son learnt to speak both of our family languages really early, but our younger son is taking a much longer time. Our family doctor told us that it is because he hears us speak different languages and that we should only stick to one language to support his language development. Should we drop one of the languages?

Answer

The pace of the language development varies greatly from one child to another and there can be significant differences even between siblings. On average, bilingual children tend to start speaking a bit later than monolinguals, but they quickly catch up and by the age of five they are usually fluent in both their languages, providing they have had enough exposure to both of them. Two languages in a family do not cause confusion and dropping one language is not the right advice in your case. Continue speaking your respective languages to your son, just like you did with your older son. By all means, support his language development by talking and reading a lot to him, especially in the minority language. As he is the second child, also make sure he gets one-on-one time with each one of you, where you speak directly to him only. Interaction is the key for children’s language development. If your son understanding of what you say to him is within the normal range, I wouldn’t worry. However, if you do feel concerned, get in touch with a speech therapist. Make sure the therapist has experience of dealing with bilingual children before you make the appointment.

Further reading

Bilingual parents – What to do if you are told to drop one of your languages?

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  2 Responses to “Should we drop a language?”

  1. […] family? Many bilingual families have been incorrectly advised to change their use of languages and stick to only one language – what if families were to be told to introduce another language […]

  2. […] to speaking with each other adds another big stress factor to the family life. Telling parents to drop a language is not beneficial for the relationship between the parents and the school – on the contrary, such […]

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