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Modeling Speech in a Bilingual Household

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When working with families, a common question or concern that arises is how to model and teach young children language in multilingual households. Multilingual families oftentimes have expressed concern that they’re going to confuse their child by overwhelming them with new information.

We would like to help families debunk this myth!  According to research, as well as the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), learning multiple languages at once does NOT impact or exacerbate articulation or language difficulties. While it is not unheard of for children to sometimes mix grammar rules or to use multiple languages within the same sentences, this wouldn’t constitute an actual language disorder.

There are several ways families can model language in a bilingual household, including
modeling both languages from the very beginning of a child’s life or using one language at home. There is no one size fits all approach, but the more opportunities a child is given to hear and practice, the more proficient they will become in using them.

For a parent who may only feel comfortable speaking in one primary language, ASHA recommends that you start by modeling 1–2-word phrases in the language that you are most comfortable speaking. Children learn language by listening to the models provided by their parents, so it is important that you feel comfortable speaking in the language you are modeling in.

-Jeff Greenfield, MS, CCC-SLP