People who communicate fluently in two languages are bilingual. Learning two languages will not cause a child to have speech-language difficulties. Bilingual language learners follow the same pattern of language acquisition as children that are learning one language. For example, toddlers that are in the process of learning one language should produce their first words around 12 months of age, and 2-word combinations (e.g. “no mommy,” “more juice”) at approximately 24 months of age. If a child truly has a language delay, he/she will exhibit difficulty meeting milestones in both languages.
What to expect if your child is learning two languages:
- Your child may confuse word order for a time in both languages.
- Your child may use both languages in one sentence.
- Your child may develop a dominance in one language. In other words, the child may be more proficient in one language compared to the other.
Tips for a child learning two languages:
- Start early on: a child learns new languages more easily when they are at a younger age.
- Read books, listen to music and watch videos as a family in both languages that are being learned.
- Practice makes perfect: a child must practice both languages in everyday interactions in order to learn to speak and understand the language proficiently. Your child will benefit from regular practice during your everyday routines, such as getting ready for school, in the car, meal time and bath time.
- If your child is struggling with using two languages (e.g. one at school, one in the home), it is acceptable to communicate using the language you are most comfortable with.