Language Delay in Bilingual Children | MyPaperHub


Simultaneous Language Acquisition- happens when a child is raised bilingually from birth
Sequential Language Acquisition- occurs when upon the establishment of the first language, a second language is introduced.
Bilingual: Someone who speaks two languages
Monolingual: Someone who speaks one language
Multilingual: Someone who can speak more than two languages
Language: It is a mode of communication among human beings that may be either spoken or written. It consists the use of words in a designed and conventional approach.
Speech: It is a communication or even the ability to pass on views and feelings in a way that is understandable.
CLASP- Cambridge Language and Speech Project
SLPs- speech-language pathologist
Specific Language Impairment









I was born in a family that spoke both English and Farsi language. However, as is the case with my younger sister, we suffered from delayed language development, and this affected me further to the extent that I could not learn the Farsi language. To date I speak English only. Despite the delay, I was able to recover fully and become fluent in the language over time. I was able to talk comprehensively at four years of age which was a little late as compared to my peers. The delay to some extent affected my social, emotional and to some level cognitive ability in my development as a child. I was born and raised with English being the primary language at home. Research indicates (Paradis, 2010) that children learn the primary language much easier since it is like the one that the parents or the caregiver are more proficient in and also if it is the language spoken by the majority. Children brought up in a bilingual setup experience the mixing up of languages especially if introduced at the same time. For my case, the two languages presented together made it harder for my parents to be able to notice any delays in my tongue until I was three years old. The late intervention is what caused my inability to acquire a second language with much ease and speed as compared to the other children with delay do. I was not able to speak until I got to four years of age and at the time my caregivers used English primarily as the therapist suggested the introduction of one language at time (Kelly, 2014). It is this that inspired my research topic since I want to find out more on language delays especially for children brought up in a bilingual setup.

Language delay is the inability of a child to acquire language skills at the age universally accepted and is suitable for their growth calendar (Catts et al., 1999). Language and speech are different and so they can delay independently. A child may be able to comprehend and decode messages to initiate certain action but may be unable to express themselves verbally. Both the receptive language and the expressive languages are essential for one to be in a position to effectively communicate (Berk & Laura 2012). There are the conventional stages that a child should go through as they develop both expressive and receptive languages (See table. 1).

Bilingualism is the ability of a child to speak in two languages (Genesee, 2009). Majority of children can learn many languages though it may prove difficult for various children to acquire a second language. It may be so especially in cases of language disorders or even delays in language acquisition of a child. There are various degrees of bilingualism, and one does not have to speak the two languages with equal fluency to qualify as being bilingual. It is rare for a child to acquire native proficiency in the two languages but usually they have a dominant language. There are also children that are passive bilingual in that they can understand one language though cannot express themselves in it as they speak the other. Whatever the level of bilingualism that a child may attain, it can be a fulfilling achievement to them and also to the family especially if the set-up is bilingual (Paradis et al., 2011).

In an interview with Kelly (2014) a language pathologist, she argues that every bilingual child reaches milestones of language development at his or her pace. However, failure to achieve the benchmarks, it becomes language delay. For this reason, it is key for a bilingual household to raise a child as a sequential bilingual rather than a simultaneous bilingual (Kelly, 2014). It becomes easier for parents to detect language delay and intervene early, and also to prevent any obstruction in social, behavioral, and cognitive development of the child.




The world is increasingly becoming multilingual. In Canada, 11.9% of the population can speak another language apart from the conventional English and French (Statistics Canada, 2007). In Toronto alone, 31% of the people can speak another alien language apart from English and French while at home. In the United States, 21% of the school-age children speak another language apart from English, and the number is projected to rise (Statistics Canada, 2007).

Globally, there are as many bilingual children as are monolingual children. Bilingual language learning is, therefore, a crucial tool for most children (Kohnert et al., 2005). The inability of the parents to speak the dominant language may reinforce it, and so they teach their child their mother tongue. The children learn the dominant language through socialization with the community or even at school.

A study at York University in Toronto (Genesee, 2009), suggests that exposing children to two dialects gives the toddlers a cognitive advantage over the monolingual children. In a study conducted on children (Paradis et al., 2011), bilingual children were noted to be more creative and also better at planning and problem-solving. The bilinguals were also better able to concentrate on relevant information and had superior capability to ignore distractions as compared to the monolingual.

According to the Cambridge Language and Speech Project (CLASP) (Burden et al., 1996), children that are growing up in a bilingual family set-up have a certain degree of mixing up the languages. It however decreases with growth of the child in language acquisition. Typically, the children become fluent in both languages at the age of five years. For a child to learn bilingual language, it is not a requirement that they seek guidance from a speech-language therapist unless in cases where the child experiences delays or difficulty in learning the primary language. The bilinguals should face assessments on language development using the same criteria as the monolingual children.

The stated incidence of language delay among children arrays between 2.3 to 19 percent among children that are between two to seven years old (Silva et al., 1983). Severe cases of language and speech disorder among the children can be detrimental to later educational achievement of the child even after intervention. Studies have showed that children with speech and language difficulty between 2 to five years of age have a lot of trouble reading at elementary school age. For those that the delay goes beyond five years old, have an amplified prevalence of attention and also social difficulties. If the problem persists past seven years to thirteen years of age, the children face the threat of having difficulty with writing skills. Others have deficits in punctuation and also spelling of words as compared to the children with normal development. According to a piece of research (Catts et al., 1999) 73% of all the second-grade students who have been identified to have inadequate reading skills. They also had difficulties with phonemic awareness or even spoken language at Kindergarten (Catts et al., 1999). As a result of this, SLPs are progressively and actively engaged in trying to find a remedy to reading and writing skills among children suffering from language delays or disorders.

A child’s reading and also writing skills may be affected by a delay in language in diverse ways. The child may experience difficulties with learning relations between letter and sounds, as well as differentiating sounds. Some have problems learning visual words, spelling, fluency in oral reading, organizing thoughts on paper and also forming of words and letters on paper (Burden et al., 1996). It is, therefore, very crucial that the parent pay close attention to the language development of a child. The parent should be keen from when they are toddlers to be able to identify any form of language difficulties or delays (See Table 1). If they suspect or notice any language anomalies, it is key for the parents to seek the intervention of a language pathologist. They are advised to seek therapy as early as conceivable so that they can receive treatment at an early stage of life (Catts et al., 1999).


The research method used are; personal interview as well as the academic journals as a source of information and data for the study. I talked, Kerry Ann Kelly a speech therapist from Long Island New York on January 29, 2014. Kelly is a speech therapist that has worked in the line for decades. The interview has worked with many families and offered their service to a series of multilingual, bilingual and also monolingual children. Therefore, she is informed and vast with the research topic (Kelly, 2014).

I also expand the scope of my research after the interview with Kelly to a series of journals available so as to get to study other published works by other professionals and researchers so as to draw a conclusion. I check the journals for any agreement, contradiction or arguments against or for the conclusions drawn from an interview with the therapist and also gather more information that I may not have drawn from the interview. Basing a conclusion on a vast scope of data, studies, and information and therefore made the research authentic.





Parents that raise their children as sequential bilinguals if they notice any delays in speech should agree on one language to introduce to the child (Kelly, 2014). It is however crucial that the parents stick to a language that they are comfortable with which is the primary language and will thus help the children learn better. Learning the home language is one primary therapy for bilingual children with delayed language so that a child may maintain the connection with the parents (Kohnert et al., 2005). It is also crucial that parents and also the therapists appreciate the fact that every bilingual child may experience delay in language development due to their unique factors. There could be internal or external factors that may lead to the delays, and so are handled differently. There is, therefore, no universal and definite way of approaching therapy to such children. The internal factors that may affect the child are: disorders such as specific language disorder and downs syndrome among other health complications. The external factors that may affect a child are: environmental factors such as the socialization with the parents and also external stress or pressure, the interaction with other children and also the parents who may be speaking so diverse languages to the level that it makes it unattainable for the child to learn the primary language. It is, therefore, fundamental that the parents and pathologist isolate the possible causes of the delay (Kelly, 2014).

Delays in language development depending on whether there are timely interventions may result in detrimental effects on the child. Such delays may lead to social, emotional and also cognitive problems in the future. It is, therefore, paramount that the parents be on the lookout for any anomalies in the language development of the child (Whitman & Schwartz, 1985).



Children raised in a bilingual setup may begin to speak comfortably later than their monolingual counterparts. It does not necessarily point to a delay in language development, but the parent should be keen so that the lag may not be so prominent or significant (Law et al., 2003). The children may also be heard mixing up the words that are usual in the early stages of development. It is however key that in a bilingual family the parents agree on what method to use if they want their child to be bilingual. They could employ the simultaneous acquisition of the language where they introduce the two languages at the same time (Law et al., 2003). The family should be well structured to know where and when to use a certain language. They could also employ the sequential acquisition where they introduce one language at time. They wait for the child to develop one language before entering another one to learn. It also needs a lot of patience from the parents since the child may experience doubts at times and so should be very supportive and not panic (Burden et al., 1996).

In the case of noticing delays in language acquisition, the parents should seek therapy immediately. It is important that even the parents undergo training and also treatment on how to handle the child for a full recovery (Whitman & Schwartz, 1985). Parents should be keen to notice any red flags showing abnormal development (See table.2). There is not sufficient evidence to emphasis on random screening for language development. However, in the case of a diagnosis of a child with language delay it is important that they undergo several other tests. The delay may be a manifestation of other physical or cognitive problems that a child is experiencing. For the children with just language delays or disorders therapy has proven to be effective (Law et al., 2003).

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