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Multilingual Children?????

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
So we are raising our son and daughter pretty much multilingual. English first, arabic second with Tunisian all wrapped up in it,french third and spanish fourth. My son is almost 27 months and doesn't always say things correctly. I mean what 2 yr old always does anyway? But I just worry that us being so diverse is hurting him. I figure that the words will all come later on and right now he is just processing things, but you know that constant worry is still there. I am afraid he will develop so much slower than other kids and lose out on potential activites/interactions with others where clear language is necessary - Like in a school environment.

My friends son is younger and says most things very clearly, but he only hears one language. Please tell me your bilingual child may have started out slow but look out now. Does or did anyone worry about this same kind of thing? Did it resolve itself? And we really can't do the one parent one language thing, my husband always forgets.

Anyone?
TIA Andraea
post #2 of 18
:

I just came to ask basically the same question: if kids raised with more than one language usually fall into the "late talk" camp. My son doesn't have a single word yet, and I'm wondering if it's maybe because he's getting more than one word for everything.
post #3 of 18
I think it depends a lot on the kid. DS is 18 months and obviously understands nearly everything we say to him in either Turkish or English, plus he has lots of word in both languages, but mostly Turkish. I have a friend whose little guy didn't say a thing until he was over 2, but now speaks both at nearly 3. Another friend had a little guy who spoke--simultaneously--English, Spanish, and Turkish by age four. I vote for "don't worry about it." You're doing far more good than harm and your DCren will benefit from being multilingual, all the studies I've ever seen have shown that.
post #4 of 18
I am around a lot of kids who are growing up bi- and multi-lingual and in my experience they do talk later. I definitely wouldn't be worried about it.
post #5 of 18
Definitely later, that's alot of languages to process, we were doing four languages but when we noticed that dd was having problems with pronunciation we cut it down to two, but as a pp mentioned it depends on the child, ds manages fairly well in 3 languages and dd is slowly picking things up again, so our languages were/are English, French, Arabic, Italian
post #6 of 18
DS was definitely a late talker. He didn't really start forming sentences and such till he was well over two years old. Now, though, he's quite articulate in two languages at 5.5.
post #7 of 18
I'm a speech and language therapist (UK term for a speech-language pathologist), and the research does suggest that children learning more than one language may be slower to develop language initially, but that ultimately, it's an advantage in life. They are learning so much more information, so it's logical really. Mixing languages is common, whether within a conversation or within a sentence (e.g. "I want du lait", and you might find that similar sounds between the languages are mixed (e.g. using the English /r/ sound for French words containing /r/). [Sorry, I have no grasp of Arabic to give you a more likely example for your family!]

If you're worried, I would suggest trying the one parent, one language approach. Or one context, one language (e.g. we speak Arabic at home/when it's just us, and English in front of others/outside the house). It might help your son to separate the languages in his head more easily if he can make associations between a language and a person/context.

Don't be shy to seek advice/an evaluation from a speech-language pathologist if you're concerned, but an initial language delay is definitely common in children who are developing as multilingual. Good luck!
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the replies. I am just glad that my thoughts have been reaffirmed. I will keep all the languages going as they are, but will encourage more arabic all the time at home.
post #9 of 18
I have a friend with two children,2.5 and 4.5. Both are tri-lingual and spoke by age.2 plus in 2 languages. Learned third language at 3. Fluent in all. Mother speaks only Turkish, father only French, and English in day care. Parent must speak to each other in English. Don't know each other's language.
post #10 of 18
DS is learning three languages-- Arabic with his baba, English with me (and the rest of his environment) and our family language is French.

His English is excellent at 27 mos, his Arabic is good, but he mixes a lot, or conjugates/constructs Arabic as if he were speaking English. He hardly speaks in French, although he clearly understands everything.

We're working on incorporating more Arabic and French. I think it takes awhile for everything to get sorted out, but they do catch up to their peers!
post #11 of 18
Quote:
I'm a speech and language therapist (UK term for a speech-language pathologist), and the research does suggest that children learning more than one language may be slower to develop language initially
Actually, that's not true. The most recent research shows no demonstrable difference between the age at monolingual children begin speaking and the age at which bi/multilingual children speak.

It is the individual child, not the number of lanaguages, that determines when and at what rate speaking develops.

As for the original question, you are in NO WAY harming your children by exposing him to multiple languages at once. Studies have proven this time and again, so there is absolutely no reason for you to stop. He will not develop more slowly, he will develop at his own, individual pace. As all children do
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by EVC View Post
Actually, that's not true. The most recent research shows no demonstrable difference between the age at monolingual children begin speaking and the age at which bi/multilingual children speak.
I asked my pediatrician about that and she said in her experience, she had never met a bilingual child who wouldn't have what would be considered a language delay in a monolingual child. She said that she doesn't put a lot of stock in research to the contrary and that the jury is still out on the issue. I find so much conflicting information about it, I tend to agree with her.
post #13 of 18
well... i grew up bilingual (english and german) and i think i started talking at the "normal" time. BUT... thats just according to my mum and really, who can say what is normal?? in our toddler group all the kids are the same age and theres two who talk a lot more than any of the others. ds is the only bilingual child there and says maybe 4 or 5 words in both english and german. two of the kids can say simple senctences (i love you mummy awwwww... lol and i see you baby lol!!) and one of teh other kids isnt saying anything and thats differences between kids who just learn one language.
dps dd started talking really late (only one language) and a child i nannied for who is bilingual is now talking more fluently in both languages at the age of 3 1/2. she didnt talk when i left for my maternity leave at almost 2 years old.

just with kids who learn one language there are differences in how soon / quick kids start to talk. basically there is no reason to worry. try to keep all languages equal and have books and dvds etc in all languages too.
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonnenwende View Post
I asked my pediatrician about that and she said in her experience, she had never met a bilingual child who wouldn't have what would be considered a language delay in a monolingual child. She said that she doesn't put a lot of stock in research to the contrary and that the jury is still out on the issue. I find so much conflicting information about it, I tend to agree with her.
Well, she's entitled to both her opinion and her experience

The research I've seen is fairly convincing to me (and I am a linguist so the methodology that has been used is something quite familiar to me, although I do not specialize in language acquisiton). And as far that goes, I don't think the jury is really out at this point.

Of course, there is anecdotal evidence both ways. And if it seems like I'm totally contradicting myself right now, I will nonetheless admit that my bilingual dd seemed a little slower in starting to speak initially than some of her friends: she didn't really start talking much until about 18 months old when she had a language explosion and basically caught up to and even surpassed the language skills of most of her peers seemingly overnight--and I don't even think she was ever really to the point where she would have been considered "speech delayed". 18 months isn't really THAT old to start talking, even among monolingual kids Further, I don't necessarily think she would have started any earlier had she been monolingual. Actually I do know another bilingual child of the exact same age as dd (they were in the same daycare group) who started speaking in sentences by the time she was about a year old in both English and German. So who's to say?

It is an interesting question, though, and I actually did an informal poll here on the issue:

http://www.mothering.com/discussions...d.php?t=895649

So MDC anecdotal evidence also supports the lack of delay among bilingual children with the majority of respondants indicating that their bilingual children were either always on par with their peers verbally, or ahead of them. Obviously FAR from scientific, but if one wants to reject the current research and make conclusions anecdotally, this should qualify as much as anything else. And, by the way, I personally DO believe that anecdotal evidence counts for something. Isn't there even a saying along the lines of "research is just anecdotal evidence that's been peer reviewed"

Anyway, as I said, it certainly runs both ways on this issue (look at the number of people on this thread alone who say that their bilingual child is behind in speaking!)--but based on that very diversity, I think it's hard to make a blanket statement that "all/most bilingual children start speaking later than their monolingual peers." At best one could state "Some bilingual children start speaking later than their monolingual peers." But based on other statements (such as the ones in the poll thread), it is equally possible to state "Some bilingual children start speaking earlier than their monolingual peers."

So anecdotal evidence on this issue can only leave us very uncertain. That is part of the reason that I do look to the research on the matter--even if you don't buy into all of the methodology used, there is at least a much larger sample size and that in itself can help us better see what the most common scenario is statistically. Apparently it averages out, leaving rate of language acquisition largely dependant on the individual child rather than having a bi or mono language speaking environment.
post #15 of 18
We are multilingual, speaking to DD in two languages, with a third between us. My daughter started at around the same time as most kids, but she is 23 months and pretty much nobody outside our family can understand more than 30% of what she says. I read in books that you don't really expect kids to be understood by other adults until they are closer to three.

I know it is worrying to have a peer of your child that seems way ahead, because my cousin's son was waaay ahead of my daughter when I first came to the U.S. and I felt she was so behind. But the truth is that he was precocious and simply different to my daughter. She has almost caught up (and she's two months younger). So don't let comparisons to a few people worry you. So long as she is on track on the charts (What to Expect is the strictest, I think, and there are many more standards online, one at PBS, etc.), don't worry. We KNOW that multilingual people are the norm in countries around the world and that they do learn to speak and that they do grow up to be intelligent adults (though, not always... but that is a different point ) and so will your baby.
post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Turkish Kate View Post
I vote for "don't worry about it."
I speak English, DH arabic. DD didnt start verbalizing strings of words clearly until she was 3. Now, at almost 4, she's night and day- i think above some kids who only speak English (we ready every night and she's in an english-speaking daycare). It will come!!
post #17 of 18
I was raised in Ontario Canada, and there children learn french from kindergarden on into high school. my mom and dad do NOT speak french, so i did find it a little harder to learn, but do understand and can speak some french myself. Now living in California, and DH being Filipino and speaking Tagalog, I wanted to be able to teach our son french because its apart of what i grew up with. DS is almost 2 1/2 and since mommy doesn't speak tagalog fluently we've been learning together. my DS hears me speaking in french and can understand what i am saying to him, as well as being able to do the things he's asked in tagalog. we started with body parts with him and he can tell you what they are in tagalog, but not in french. what i have been doing is everytime he says a body part in tagalog or english, i in corporate the french, so far so good

although i do somtimes wonder if there's a 20 yo in there somewhere with the things he says, or comes out with

if you do find theres confusion, cut back on one or two of the languages and incorporate later!!!

good luck to you and your family
post #18 of 18
Don't worry about it, my dd didnt started talking until she was 2.5, and now at 5 she's fluent in spanish, english and dutch with some euskera thrown in, she caught up with kids her age and i'll say she's far more advanced that other kids, sometimes she words she uses surprise me, specially when speaking spanish and english.
But this may vary from child to child.

We dont do one parent one language thing, becuase its only me with my daughter, so i mix in the 3.
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