Needs Advice from Bilingual Parents / Speech Therapists

Updated on August 28, 2010
M.A. asks from Lehi, UT
7 answers

My first language is Chinese (Cantonese). I spoke to my children in Chinese most of the time. I speak English to them when I read books to them or some words has fewer sounds in English than Chinese. My son turned 3 in July and got test with language delay. He goes to Special Ed Preschool twice a week. When the school started, the speech therapist and the teacher asked me to speak English to my children. I did. It has been almost two months. Sometimes my husband and I think I should speak Chinese to them again. My husband is an American and can understands a few words in Chinese. Any bilingual parents or speech therapists can share with me your experience / advice? Do I really confuse my children when I talk to them in one language and read books to them in another language? OR do I help them to learn as they expose to two different languages and will master both languages when they get older (I heard it is around 5 years).

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answers from Pocatello on

As a speech therapist, I would suggest to continue to work on both languages. There is never a better time to teach a person another language than at a young age. They learn better and faster then trying to teach an other person two languages. A previous poster is correct that expressive and receptive language comes from 2 different parts of the brain and often receptive comes before expressive. HOWEVER, I strongly disagree in the fact that you should disregard a speech therapist. Get a second opinion from another therapist. Speech and language is what they are educated in and what they specialize in and can give you techniques to continue to help your children learn both languages! Good luck!



answers from Great Falls on

I know some Spanish and speak to both my children in Spanish a little.

When my oldest was about 14 months, I started taking her to stay with a Mexican family while I was at work. In the home, they spoke mostly Spanish. My daughter would comment on their conversations (much to their delight!!)

I've NEVER heard of any instance where a second language was discouraged.

She doesn't speak Spanish, but she understands most of the things I say to her. I believe it's beneficial for children. My 2 year old also understands most of what I say to her. In April, when #3 makes his/her appearance, I'll speak Spanish then, too.

At the very least, you should question why they are discouraging the second language!



answers from Denver on

My mom and grandparents only spoke Hungarian in the home until I was 5. My dad spoke English and a few words of Hungarian, so a very similar situation to your kids currently. We moved further away from my grandparents at that point so although I still spoke a lot, it became less and less as I grew older and assimilated into American culture.

The verbal and comprehension centers in the brain for language are separate. When a child is learning two languages simultaneously their comprehension centers are growing by leaps and bounds and the verbal centers not so much. The brain is actively trying to best understand and relate to all the words before deciding to work on the verbal. Hence, a seeming 'speech delay'. They are not delayed whatsoever as they are learning twice what monolingual kids are learning, and are learning it faster.

When you child is ready to speak he will do so flawlessly in two languages. I would totally discount the speech therapist unless they have specific experience in working with bilingual children. (most don't, trust me) I would also look into sending your kids to the bilingual school in DPS that teaches Mandarin (not the same as Cantonese, I know, but its also the culture, the characters, the customs and norms that are important to learn) Or at least consult with the teachers there who are used to seeing kids such as yours and can tell you more accurately what is 'normal' for your child in particular and what might be 'delayed'.

There is no greater gift that you can give your child than fluency in a 2nd language. Its tough to do, but sooooo worth it. Stick with it, stick with it, stick with it.



answers from Denver on

My father is bilingual to this day because his parents spoke English to eachother and taught German to him. They were both from Germany.

My kids want to school with kids that couldn't speak English in kindergarten but they caught up.

I have heard of kids mixing the different languges(SP) but they were young. The thing is that kids need to learn at least two languges to be on par with other countries. It is a down fall that our children only speak English. I would keep doing what you are doing. They will learn both and speak them well because they learned at such a young age. It may be confuseing for a while but in the long run, it will help them commuicate with the world.

C. B



answers from Billings on

I am not bilingual, but everything I have ever heard about situations like yours has been positive. I have always heard great stories about bilingual families, how it enriches the children's lives to learn more than one language. I know a few families who are bilingual, and the kids are amazing! It is great to hear a little kid say something in one language and turn around and say something else in another.
It may be that your son would have had a speech issue even if he spoke only one language. My son has a speech delay, and we only speak English. Do not stop teaching your children your native language! If you do, you will be taking something very special away from them. It is an important part of their heritage, now is the easiest time for them to learn a second language. It gets harder the older they get. I say, keep speaking Cantonese!



answers from Orlando on

My parents came to this country not speaking any English and barely understanding it. They spoke to me in spanish all the time. By the time i started pre K i was confused between the both languages but i quickly learned english in kindergarten. I took 2 years of speech classes in First and second grade. And my parents were told to only speak to us in English. But unfortunately my parents didnt speak it enough to teach it to us. We learned from the TV too. Now 26 years later I speak both languages fluently. Knowing spanish helped me through grade school and high school because so many words are latin based and I was able to recognize the word in Spanish and remember it for any vocab tests.
I am know a mother of a 2 1/2 yr old so has speech delay. He understands both languages very well yet has trouble expressing himself. He is currently taking classes with a private speech therapist to encourage stringing more words together. Although it was suggested to keep to one language in the past I wont risk my son losing or forgetting the spanish language. My Advise would be to keep encouraging both languages. He will learn english without trying in school, with friends, and by watching TV.




answers from Boise on

I haven't had any personal experience, but I do think it is great for your kids to know both languages. I did see something yesterday that could help as well. I was at the eye doc with my husband yesterday helping him pick out frames, and there was a lady speaking Spanish to her daughter who was about 6. Her daughter had a little card with the word "popcorn" written on it. She was having difficulty reading it in English, but after a few tries, she got it! Then, her mother gave her another card with a different word written on it. The little girl sounded it out, and said the word. As we were leaving, I heard the mother explain that they just came to America from Mexico a few months ago, and this is how she was helping her daughter learn English. This made me smile because she is not leaving it up to the school system to teach her child, she is hands on helping her daughter, and learning English herself as well. I am of the opinion that if you are in America, you should learn the language, but I also think it is perfectly fine, also important, for your children to know how to speak Chinese.

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