How to Support Language Development and Second Language Learning in Children

Raising children in a multicultural community like the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) leaves many parents wondering about the impact of second language learning on language development. Specifically, many parents question whether being exposed to more than one language can affect their child’s language development, or worsen a language delay.

At this point in time, it is believed that bilingual children (those who speak two languages) do not appear to experience extra language difficulties or delays when compared to similar monolingual children (those who speak one language). Therefore, it is key to remember that children are in fact capable of learning more than one language at a time and that bilingualism itself is not the cause of a language delay.

Key points to remember when raising your child in a multilingual environment

  • It is important for you to speak to your child in the language you know best and are most comfortable speaking in. This will help foster more natural interactions in the home.
  • Learning a second language takes time. If you notice your child mix two languages when speaking, don’t worry – this is a natural and common occurrence seen in bilingual children known as ‘code switching’ or ‘code mixing’.

Tips to enhance your child’s language learning environment

  • Highlight your language by emphasizing key words. This will help your child hear and learn the vocabulary of the languages they are learning.
  • Be face-to-face when speaking to your child so that they may see how your mouth is shaped as you provide language models.
  • Keep your language simple: use 1- to 3-word phrases. Speak slowly and clearly.

Are you teaching your child more than one language? Do you have concerns about his or her language development? A speech language pathologist can help—reach out to us and we will set up a consultation.

Reference

Lowry, L. (2011). Bilingualism in Young Children: Separating Fact from Fiction.

About the Author

Winnie Shum is a trilingual speech therapist providing speech therapy in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. It is recommended that assessments and therapy are provided in your child’s first language. Contact 1to1 Therapy Services for therapy offered in over 25 languages.

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