We speak our native language at home but also want our baby to learn English. Will this confuse him or cause a language delay?
Although you may hear differing opinions from doctors and speech-language pathologists on this topic, there is no scientific evidence to prove that hearing two or more languages leads to delays or disorders in language acquisition. In fact, it is very important for parents to use the language that they know best and feel most comfortable with. This is how they can help their children learn language, talk about ideas, and learn about the world. Evidence suggests that a strong base in the first language helps a child learn a second language. Language is strongly linked to the development of identity and social and emotional development. Children should be encouraged from a very young age to feel proud of their language and culture.
A Word of Advice for Bilingual Families: At home do what comes naturally to you and your family in terms of which language(s) you use when, but make sure your children hear both languages frequently and in a variety of circumstances. Create opportunities for your children to use all of the languages they hear. Read books to and with your children in each of the languages that are important to their lives. Do not make language an issue, and do not rebuke or punish children for using or not using a particular language. If you feel your child is not talking as he or she should in either language, consult with your child’s pediatrician and discuss whether a speech and language evaluation may be needed.
For more information, visit www.asha.org.