Does Multilingual cause Language Delay in Toddler?


Welcome in different languages

At home, we speak 3 different languages and my toddler son who is 21 months does not speak any of them yet.

Could his speech delay be caused by the confusion of choice from the three languages?

I would say yes, without a doubt! All the trilingual families I met here in London told me that their children had speech delay.


Trilingual at home


My mother tongue is French and I have been living in United Kingdom for over 10 years now. My husband has been living here longer than me and his mother tongue is German.
And, as you guess my son was born here in London.

I am not too much worried about the time it will take but rather him not being interested in learning all the languages.

I have to say that I have difficulties to understand immigrant parents who refuse to speak to their children their own language for the sake of integration of the host country.
It’s such a pity to lose these skills that are in my opinion so important especially nowadays in this high competitive marketplace.

Language is part of your identity


I will be seriously sad if my son refuses to speak any of our language. I see language as part of our identity; it is part of our heritage from our parents.
I speak mainly French to my son and sometimes I introduce some English word accompanied with French.
So, for the moment, he understands better French than English and very little German.
As, he spends much of the time with me his understanding for French is obvious. And, my husband is working during the day and so my son is less exposed to the German language.
We are very vigilant and determined that he learns French and German. For English, we don’t have to worry since he is surrounded with English speakers.
So, he can say a few words in French and English but not as much as he should in comparison to a child from his age.
Clearly, I do not like comparing children because they are all unique. And comparing their abilities to do things does not mean anything. Everyone learns differently.
For instance, my son was very impatient to learn how to walk. He started doing his first steps when he was nine and half months. He had a lot of teeth early on as well. And, despite all the early steps, he was not a fast learner for language acquisition.
I met once a mother who told me that her daughter took quite some time to walk , closed to 2 years old but she could speak very early on. So, she talked before she could walk.

Learning Languages

Back to my son, I’ve observed his development in learning languages. It’s quite interesting.
For instance, last week, I taught him how to say butter in French. He could repeat it without problem. Today, he saw the butter and said ”beurre” (butter). For information, we have not used the term at all during the week. So, he heard it a few time but in one day and yet he could remember how to say it.
I was very surprised because normally, what he has always done was pointing at the object and saying “Aa” meaning that we have to tell him the name of it next page.
And then, he will ask again and again the same things days after days.
But, I suppose that some phonetic is easier to say than other like ‘beurre’.
Also, there is another interesting observation, he knows for a while now how to say cat in French (chat), he even managed to say it several time. And, yet, he still points his finger at it either when he sees it on a book or in reality; and he wants me to tell him what it is.
I am a bit puzzled about this. Anyway, I just observe and make adjustment.

Watch your tone!

I read a very interesting and informative article about multilingual children and they mention how important the tone was. You can read the full report here. The tone has to be positive.
They said that when the maternal speech is marked by negative tone in commands or directives, language progression is poorly supported (study by Hart & Risley, 1995; Hoff-Ginsberg, 1986).

Being a multilingual is not a problem


In the report, Multilingual Children: Beyond Myths and Towards Best Practices. They said “multilingual children are not at a cognitive disadvantage”. Just the opposite, their meta-cognitive and meta-linguistic skills tend to increase. (study by Bialystok, 2007)
Also, according to this report, it seems that girls are faster than boy in term of language acquisition.
Well, I don’t know about this but I am continuing speaking to my son in French and my husband in German to him. I know it seems to be overwhelming for him. There is a lot to take on-board but I am patient and let him process the three languages.
And you, what is your experience with a Multi language child? Do not hesitate to share your story here.:)


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