Understanding speech

(23 Posts)
Fazerina Sun 10-Feb-13 00:24:08

My DS is 21 months old and trilingual. We speak English together with DH and our own languages to DS when addressing him directly or when alone with him (I.e I speak my language to DS throughout the day and DH speaks his language to DS in the evenings when he's home from work and plays with DS and baths him).

It's really hard to remember to speak my language to DS and as we live in the UK, everything around us happens in English, so it's difficult to try and incorporate the other languages, but we try our best.

DS says probably around 30 or so words. Some of them are in his other 2 languages, but most of the words are in English. I am painfully aware of him being a bit behind his peers and I even have a friend, whose DS is also trilingual and is able to speak much more than my DS, albeit he is 4.5 months older.

I'm a bit concerned about DS's comprehension. I've noticed in toddler groups etc. That other children DS's age seem to be able to follow instructions and generally seem to understand much more than DS. Just today I asked DS to give me his cup from the table and he was just staring at me looking confused.

The speech and language therapist at our Children's Centre told me that multilingual children are no slower at learning language compared to monolingual kids, contrary to what was believed before. They don't really see it as 'learning different languages' at such an early age and simply learn to talk.. I'm not convinced and generally feel quite impatient and wish he would speak much more. I've never felt very happy speaking my language to him anyway and have now reached a point where I just think I should stop, as I feel it's just confusing to both of us.

louisianablue2000 Sun 10-Feb-13 00:36:12

My nieces are bilingual. They are teenagers now but the eldest was very slow at picking up language, she couldn't speak any English when she started nursery at three.

But anyway your child is only 21 months, 30 words is fine. At 18 months my monolingual daughter had 10 words, by 21 months it had gone up to 50 or so. By 30 months she was a chatterbox. I have a friend (again monolingual) whose DS had no words at 24 months. SLT was not concerned.

HellesBelles396 Sun 10-Feb-13 00:45:12

children in our family learn to sign as they learn to speak (deaf family member) and have tended to learn to speak slightly later but go on to be good speakers/readers/etc.

however, if you aren't happy using your native-tongue, and there is no overriding reason that means he must learn it, cut it out. it's up to you and dh - no-one else.

Fazerina Sun 10-Feb-13 09:33:45

Hi both and thanks for your replies! Most people I've spoken to also in RL have said not to worry and that he seems fine etc. I guess I'm just very impatient, as my mom always tells me how I was already speaking in sentences before I turned two.

I think the real concern I have is not so much the different languages, but rather how much he is able to understand. Should I be giving him instructions and asking a lot of questions etc.? For example, I read how it's a good idea to give them choices to avoid a tantrum. So when it's snack time I could ask him if he wants a sandwhich or a yoghurt and then when he picks one he'd feel like he's in charge. But the trouble is, I don't think he'd understand the question!

Also I've tried a few times asking him to bring me his shoes when I'm dressing him to go out, but he doesn't understand.

For me, it wouldn't be that bad if he didn't speak my mother tongue. It would mainly be an issue to my parents and relatives. For DH on the other hand, it's very important that DS speaks his language and he often comments on how he feels stressed about it, as he works long hours and there is no one else around, who speaks his language to DS.

HellesBelles396 Sun 10-Feb-13 10:00:22

Several issues there (hope you don't mind me saying this but) he's no-one's child but yours and dh's so how disappointed other family members might be is important but doesn't override your concerns. of you would rather concentrate on English for a while, do so.

how about using symbols for offering choices? just holding up the two options while naming them would work.

speech isn't usually delayed by understanding but from the physiological changes that occur in baby's mouth and throat (i don't know what these are). I gather that, neurologically, they're ready to speak at a much younger age than they physically can. what I mean is, ds might very well understand you but may ne unable to convey that.

Fazerina Sun 10-Feb-13 10:55:21

HellesBelles396, thanks for your reply. That's helpful to know about the developmental aspects, I hadn't actually thought about that for some strange reason blush. I actually realised I should try and read about speech development in general to really understand what's going on. I think it would help to reassure me. Thanks also for the tip to hold up the things I'm talking about. I do that already though, and DS mainly waves his hands, makes 'UH-UH-UH'-noises and tries to grab whichever thing it is he wants from me so he doesn't really try to repeat the words..

We live in London and most children we meet in toddler groups, parks, as our neighbours and everywhere really are either bilingual or multilingual. I often feel like it's just me, who's making it into such an issue, as the other parents I speak to seem to find it very easy and natural to speak their languages to their DC. I also try to remember that both myself and DH are multilingual and don't feel particularly confused smile. It's just difficult to get my head around how to support DS's language development.

We're going on a holiday to my home country in a few week's time and it will be DS's first visit there. I think it will be helpful for me, as it will give me an opportunity to really assess how useful it would be for DS to speak my language. I know it may sound silly, but at the moment, living in an English-speaking country, I find it hard to really see things clearly. I think we'll try and go to a toddler group when we're in my home country just to experience playtime in my language. I'm planning to make up my mind about which language to speak once we're back.

lljkk Sun 10-Feb-13 10:58:23

If he has 30 words already at 21 months he is miles ahead of all of my monolingual kids.

HellesBelles396 Sun 10-Feb-13 11:02:39

so he is showing his choice - that's Brill.

when ds was little and I worried about him signing rather than talking, I was reassured that the physical act of speaking is actually very complex so of course he would stick the signing. when it became convenient to him, he spoke smile

re languages - just use whichever language feels natural to you at any given moment rather than trying to plan it out - he'll do what he wants when it suits him anyway wink

Fazerina Sun 10-Feb-13 11:05:20

lljkk wau really?! See this is the reason I like to post on here. Talking to other parents in RL will often just leave you feeling inadequate, as people will generally try and make you believe their children are sleeping through at the age of 2 months, eating 5 square meals at 6 months and playing Sudoku at age 1 grin..

Fazerina Sun 10-Feb-13 11:07:50

Sorry, I didn't mean that to sound like I would have now thought my DS was very advanced, just that it's helpful to get a more truthful perspective through other people's experiences!!

Charmingbaker Sun 10-Feb-13 11:12:45

I had friends in similar position, but their child was probably around 2 1/2 ( he was picking up words but wasn't able to form sentences) They decided to focus on 2 languages for a time and this seemed to help, however they will never know if he just reached a stage in his development where his language took off or if it was reducing the languages he was exposed to.

matana Sun 10-Feb-13 11:32:48

Ds only speaks English and at 21 months didn't have as many as 30 words, so it sounds to me like your ds is doing brilliantly! Their language really begins to take off around 2 yo ime.

matana Sun 10-Feb-13 11:40:42

Oh and ds is now 2.2 and now has a wide vocabulary for his age.

Branleuse Sun 10-Feb-13 12:00:34

my two youngest are bilingual and they always had a stronger language.

They were no later to speak their first words in english than anyone else, but Id also say that since a trilingual child has times as much language to process and identify, then it WILL take longer, despite what ever changing guidelines and text books are now saying. Id also bear in mind that your ds is very little. Hes not even 2. He will still be well wihin the range of normal even if he is slightly behind his peers at first.

Branleuse Sun 10-Feb-13 12:03:25

I think youd be better both concentrating on your own mother tongues and not worry about english, or just do everything youre doing, and your ds will work it out in his own time. Your dps language WILL probably be the slowest if he is neither the primary carer or the community language, but he needs to perservere, and i think its important that you persevere with your mother tongue too. The community language will come naturally and will doubtless overtake when he starts school, so the better grounding you can give him in his parental languages the better

Ineedmorepatience Sun 10-Feb-13 12:26:39

I have worked with bilingual preschool children who often come to us with no spoken English. They speak and understand their home language first and then when they start attending a setting outside the home they learn English very rapidly.

As a monolingual adult who works in a multilingual environment I would keep up with his home languages, it is amazing how young children can cope with more than one language and I wish I had another language.

Good luck smile

Fazerina Sun 10-Feb-13 13:55:50

Hello all and thank you again for taking the time to reply. I've now watched a few ages old documentaries on youtube on language development and feel heaps smarter alreadysmile!

I've tried to identify why exactly I feel so awkward using my language with DS and I've realised it's because it's been years since I used that language in my own home. I've been with DH for about 9 years now and we've never used each other's languages at home and always spoken English. DH understands about 80 per cent of my language and also speaks it, but I don't understand much of his language let alone speak it. I think it mainly feels weird to all the sudden be using my language so much and to try and speak it to a small child, which I've never really done before.

Another parent once told me he used to feel quite self-conscious about speaking his language to his son when they're were among others (who didn't speak his language) and he said he felt it was "rude", as the others wouldn't understand what was being said. But then he said he realised, no one would really be interested to know he was saying 'the car goes vroomvroom' to his son in his language! I thought that was a pretty good piece of advice and I try to remember it when we're out and about with DS.

MariahHairy Sun 10-Feb-13 22:03:32

what kind of help did the speech therapist suggest? will you be getting regular speech & language therapy?

i have 2 DSs and we are trilungual houshold with a similar language set up as you.

DS2 is 26 months & his english is very advanced, speaking in sentences, we are having conversations snd he understands complex instructions. he is also speaking his other 2 languages but on a much lower level but ubderstanding is great.

However, DS1 was slow to speak, he is now 5 and still very delayed and has a dx of autism so that is another story all together.

what i would do - get a referral for a hearing test to rule out any underlying hearing problems.

Do you get SALT?

Do you have any other concerns other than his speech/language?

Fazerina Mon 11-Feb-13 00:01:08

Hi MariahHairy and thanks for your reply, interesting to hear from someone in a similar setting.

I just spoke to the therapist briefly during a playsession and didn't make a formal appointment for an assessment. The therapist gave a few suggestions when I asked for advice on how to react in situations where DS spontaneously says a word in English. I'm a bit confused as to which language I should respond in in such situations. She told me that if e.g DS points at something and names it in English, I could say something like "Yes, DS, a car" in my language. Fair enough, but I wouldn't want DS to think he's not saying the word correctly or something IYSWIM..

I'm also not sure really if we should both always address DS in our own languages even when we're all together. At the moment it feels very unnatural to me to be speaking English with DH and then turn to DS and say something in my language. I feel like I'm being 'rude' even though I know DH understands what I'm saying.

I don't really have any other concerns with DS's development and behaviour at the moment and I've never suspected autism. My only concern is DS's level of understanding and whether or not I'm/we're supporting this aspect in his development in the most helpful way.

You mention your DS2 is very advanced in English. Do you find this has happened despite purposeful and active efforts to encourage his learning the other languages or did you adopt a less militant attitude and spoke quite a lot of English at home with him?

MariahHairy Mon 11-Feb-13 07:24:01

you need to push for a full assessment by a Salt to pinpoint if/where your DS's difficulties are. Salt really should give youhelp and support regarding strategies to help your DS. the advise you received so far is a bit meh.

I found the book "it takes two to talk" really helpful. it is about £35 at winslow publications (just google).

keep your language short (instead of saying "oh, ds, shall we put our shoes on and go outside" just say "shoes on". when you ask him a question, give him time to process & to respond. reward any type of communication (be it verbal or nonverbal).

how is you son communicaying with you? does he point? also, does he bring you things to show you?

re DS2 - he goes to nursery 4 days/week. we are so busy with DS1, we dont really have the time to work actively on DS1's speech and language. he just picks it up so easily. suppose as nursery is in english anx DH and I use english, he is exposed to a lot if english (even though we do not use it with him) and it just falls into place for him.

oh, do not forget the hearing test :-)

MariahHairy Mon 11-Feb-13 07:30:39

we are not bothered that Ds1 mainly speaks enghlish. he understands the other 2 so the rest will come. and we use OPOL wih him (with DS1 we only use English now but his problems are very severe as is his autism. he cannot cope with english let alone 3 langusges - very different situation here)

MariahHairy Mon 11-Feb-13 07:40:04

we are not bothered that Ds1 mainly speaks enghlish. he understands the other 2 so the rest will come. and we use OPOL wih him (with DS1 we only use English now but his problems are very severe as is his autism. he cannot cope with english let alone 3 langusges - very different situation here)

Fazerina Mon 11-Feb-13 22:57:12

Hello again and thanks for the suggestions. I had a look at that book and while I can't really afford it at the moment I ended up on the Hanen website and found loads of useful tips on how to use language with your child/ren. I especially liked the bit about going to the shop and making a list and talking about the groceries etc., as DS really likes doing the food shop.

I see what you mean about your DS2 going to nursery and picking up English etc. A friend of mine is in a similar boat with her trilingual DD, who is 3.5. She used to only speak her parental languages, but now mainly English..

I think for me, I would be happy if DS would understand both our languages and when he spoke didn't have a noticeable 'foreign' accent. I think it's easy to build up the vocabulary, but it's more difficult to get the accent right and that's what will make you stand out as a 'foreigner' among native speakers. In my experience, if you sound native, you'll fit right in even if you don't know all the words..

I will ask the HV or a GP to get a hearing test, although quite honestly, I don't think DS has any issues with his hearing, although it is selective at timessmile.. I will also push for an assessment with SALT, probably when DS is closer to 2 and it might be more official that he may have a speech delay.

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