Does Growing Up Bilingual Impact Children’s Development?

By: Virginia M. Van Epps, M.Ed. CCC-SLP, CLC

Speech-language assessment of children growing up bilingual is an area of increasing need and demand. Parents will oftentimes demonstrate an interest in maintaining a bilingual household, but they will be concerned about whether this may put undue demand on their child or put their child at a developmental disadvantage.

Quite to the contrary, existing and emerging research indicates that bilingualism is advantageous to the child during development and beyond.

Exposing a Child to a Second Language

Oftentimes, even in bilingual household, there is a “default” language in which most speakers tend to communicate. If you want to make a conscious effort to expose your child to the second language, you can do this by selecting or alternating specific daily routines in which you will use the target language. For example, focus on using the second language for bath time routine, or mealtime routine, or bedtime routine. This will provide a targeted vocabulary opportunity and also provides natural repetition.

Managing Concerns about a Child’s Language Progression in a Native Language

If a family is concerned about a child’s language progression in the family’s native language, it is certainly advantageous to have the child and family see a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who is fluent in the child’s native language, but it is not necessary.

There will be certain things that only an SLP fluent in the same language can provide (e.g. standardized testing). However, a non-native speaking SLP can still assess a child’s developmental milestones through caregiver report, informal assessment, and interaction.

A non-native speaking SLP can also utilize an interpreter to dialogue with family and during interaction with the child. It is often very difficult to obtain the services of an SLP who is a native speaker of the child’s language, and it is most important that the child receive early identification and intervention.

Concerned About Your Child’s Language Development? Here’s What to Do:

If a parent or pediatrician have a concern about a child’s language development, then they should request an assessment by a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist who can assess the child. Learn more about Connecticut Children’s Speech-Language Pathology program

For additional information, refer to the article “7 Myths and Facts About Bilingual Children Learning Language,” developed by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Virginia M. Van Epps, M.Ed. CCC-SLP, CLC is the clinical manager of Connecticut Children’s Speech-Language Pathology program.

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