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The affect of bilingualism on language in 2yo boy

(18 Posts)
SeaShellsHasSandInHerShoes Wed 15-Jun-11 13:48:28

hello! Ds is 2.8yo and being raised opol. Dh's language is the "foreign" language, and as he often works from home and we have cartoons etc in his language, Ds gets lots of exposure to this language as well as English.

Anyway, I periodically get concerned regarding his language as it seems behind his mates and wondered what the range of experience was here (given that I know no other bilingual preschoolers), I don't want to miss a problem if there one (Nor think there is one when there isn't)

Thanks smile

JemimaMop Wed 15-Jun-11 13:57:30

My DC are bilingual (Welsh and English). DS1 and DD were fairly early to talk, but they only spoke well in one language to begin with, the other got much better when they were about 3. DS2 was later to talk (almost 2 before he was putting words together), but when he started he was incredibly fluent in both languages and could switch from one to the other with ease depending on who he was talking to. He is now 7 and is praised in school for his ability to speak, write and read very well in both languages. So although he started later he is the most proficient of the three of them.

I know it is aimed at Welsh/English bilingual speakers but this website has a lot of information on bilingualism in young children

mopsyflopsy Wed 15-Jun-11 14:20:18

My DC are raised bilingually in German/English in the UK and I've read a a fair bit of research into bilingualism. Bilingualism does not delay speech (although the vocabulary may be more limited in each language) - children simply develop their speech at their own rate, some earlier, some later.

My dd was a very early talker (in both languages) and has always separated the languages very well. In school she does very well in English and French and speaks German well.

My ds, on the other hand, was a late talker, has mixed both languages more and still makes grammatical mistakes in both languages (he just turned 7). He has different strenghts smile.

So I wouldn't worry too much about your ds's speech but of course if you feel there is a problem and he needs some help then by all means seek it. But it wouldn't be caused by bilingualism, so do keep up speaking in both languages to him.

MIFLAW Wed 15-Jun-11 15:06:06

My own observation, backed up by that of others I know, is that boys are typically slower in linguistic development than girls. also, within any group (boys, girls, monolinguals, bilinguals) there will always be considerable variation.

My daughter (3y 4m, bilingual French/English) struck me as starting to speak slightly later than some other children. She is now extremely able in both languages (our method has been the same as yours.)

FWIW I also noticed that our daughter, who has been in nursery since the age of 6 months, is verbally ahead of some friends' children who have always been at home. This is NOT a plug for nurseries - I'm sure it all levels out when they get to compulsory school age - but I do think that having to make herself understood by strangers rather than indulgent parents made her a more effective communicator. If you are judging your son against children in nursery, that might be what is causing the perceived gap, rather than his bilingualism or their lack of it.

Give it time and try not to worry to much - as long as he is speaking at all, chances are he is well within the parameters of normal development.

But, as others have said, if you remain convinced that there is a problem, by all means consult a professional.

SeaShellsHasSandInHerShoes Wed 15-Jun-11 19:10:00

Thanks for all your thoughts smile

Regarding nursery, he has gone since he was 9mths, even during my mat leave with dd2, precisely for your reasoning MIFLAW.

It seems to go in bursts, so currently it is progressing well, but this is then followed by a lag phase.

he uses gobblegook alot, do your dc?

MIFLAW Thu 16-Jun-11 14:19:18

I don't know about gobbledegook because that means different things to different people, but my eldest daughter has never let not knowing a word get in the way of communicating if that's what you mean - when she wants to speak, she speaks and it's up to her listener to decide if it makes sense!

Also, I think that most of these things "go in bursts" - with her French, especially, it has been really noticeable that she has sudden "jumps" of level.

TBH it just sounds like one of those things - as I say, boys seem to be slower linguistically than girls in general, but soon catch up.

I think - and someone who knows will soon correct me if I'm wrong - that the real warning signs are failure to produce any sounds, just using grunts and non-meaningful sounds, appearing frustrated by his own abilities in language, that sort of thing.

MIFLAW Thu 16-Jun-11 14:20:48

I note, too, that you haven't really said what you mean by "behind" - is he just not speaking, or do you just mean he has a slightly limited vocab in one or both languages?

SeaShellsHasSandInHerShoes Thu 16-Jun-11 14:31:09

yes, just like yourdaughter, he is trying to have full conversations and just fills in the gaps with made up stuff.

When I say " behind" I mean that in both languages he is not with average or more advanced children, but he is not the slowest and is a keen communicator, hence why I'm asking mn and not my hv or salt-I'm pretty sure I'm being pfb about it all smile

MIFLAW Thu 16-Jun-11 15:22:43

PFB is harsh on yourself - but it does sound (happily) like you are worrying over nothing.

apparently I (as a monolingual man) barely spoke at all till I was 2.

Now I speak two languages fluently and rarely shut up in either of them ...

moonbells Thu 16-Jun-11 15:38:18

DS is being spoken to in English and German, though his English is very good and his German is as yet non-spoken (though he understands a lot more than he lets on - bit like an 18mth old). He's just at the stage where he is asking 'what's abc in German?' (this morning he asked what Good Morning was!)

But oh the gobbledegook! He comes out with the weirdest stuff! And a couple of years ago he and another boy at nursery had a private language going...

SeaShellsHasSandInHerShoes Thu 16-Jun-11 18:56:13

grin ds1's gobbledegook is hilarious, as he tries out his Norwegian sounds in addition to the common sounds.

The difference in comprehension vs spoken word is fascinating isn't it.

ewaczarlie Mon 18-Jul-11 13:52:43

ive had lots of worries about this too. my son is almost 2 and still speaks in single words and even these arent pronounced correctly (and only in english). i've been speaking to him in another language since he was born and he does undersrtand it (but less so then english). I've recently stopped speaking to him in the 2nd language to see what happens and his 'english' and general talking has increased dramatically. i'm now worried that if i stop the 2nd language he'll quickly loose comprehension (and eventually speach) of it and if i start it again he'll slow down with english.
everyone assures me it will all sort itself out and not to worry. I have seen kids that speak multiple languages from the beginning and ones that pick up languages as they go. Either way works as long as there's consistency.
I'm going to give the 2nd language a break till he works out proper sounds in english (the 2 languages sound quite different at times) then pick it up again in a couple on months and see where we get to.

MIFLAW Tue 19-Jul-11 13:43:42


Entirely your decision but I think you are mad to drop the second language.

He will work out the proper sounds in both languages, and use them consistently - he just needs time. You dropping Polish (?- just a guess from your user name) will make no difference to his English sounds, but will make his Polish a lot worse.

If you are in England, especially if he is at nursery or with other children a lot, his English will probably always be stronger than his Polish, whether you speak Polish to him or not - his sudden spurt may just be a coincidence related to his age.

Lots of children your son's age are like your son in English, EVEN WHEN ENGLISH IS THEIR ONLY LANGUAGE! The Polish will have nothing to do with it. And have you considered how weird he must be finding it that you have suddenly changed your whole method of communication, with no explanation? He doesn't yet "understand" that there are two languages, just that there are two ways of speaking - and you've changed yours!

If it was me I would resume Polish immediately.

Just my opinion, though - you must do what you think is right for your child.

Kveta Tue 19-Jul-11 13:54:27

this is interesting to read - DS is 21 months but just starting to join up words in english - he's still at the stage in DH's language of using single words. His whole life except for DH is in english, and he doesn't watch any cartoons with language in them yet (only Timmy time/pingu, which are largely non-verbal), so we're worrying that he'll never speak his 2nd language with any degree of fluency. We try and read to him in both languages, but my czech is pretty bad, so as I do the majority of the bedtime routines, he gets even more english from me. He talks so much though, it's a real shame we haven't got a clue what he's saying most of the time!!

nursery and his childminder have asked if his gobbledegook is actually czech though, which is grin (and a wee bit insulting, I guess!!)

it's good to know that we shouldn't worry unless there is a clear problem observed though! and that generally he seems normal for a bilingual family.

ewaczarlie Wed 20-Jul-11 10:28:01

MIFLAW - good pick up on the Polish! Yes that is the other language. And you're probably right that its a waste for me to drop it but i just see the difference in him when i speak english (he understands me more and is more engaged with me then when i speak Polish). I'm off to see family in poland next week and we'll be speaking only polish for a week so hopefully this will be a good time to re-introduce it. I'm thinking of doing a Polish day or a Polish time when all we do is speak/read in Polish. Mind you my neices have grown up speaking Polish and started learning English in kindergarden and they speak it quite well so i'm not too worried in starting up the language a bit later on. I really do worry about his English as he's just not progressing well with sounds (maybe i should get him tested?).
god its all so stressful being a parent :S

cory Fri 22-Jul-11 08:24:22

I'm not sure I would be worried because a child who is almost 2 has not crossed the bridge of forming sentences. As I remember it, dd was 23 months when she first put together two words into a sentence, but she was extremely verbal by the time she got to age 3, and is now predicted A*s for her English- her Swedish is also excellent. Children do develop at different paces and it may not matter in the long run.

Thusnelda Sat 27-Aug-11 10:32:50

ewa, I'm with the others, keep up the Polish and keep worrying to a later date! (if at all)
My daughter is 23 months old and doesn't put words together either. Her eight or so words are mainly German and not perfectly pronounced either but she understands loads in both languages.
Of course I am a little concerned and just wish she'd speak a bit more but I was a late speaker myself and have certainly caught up since...

macaroonie Tue 30-Aug-11 14:06:58

I have a 3-yr-old (Italian-English) who is a right chatterbox now in both languages but at the age of 2 had more limited speech, based mostly on a wide range of vocabulary but not a lot of phrases. She's been at Italian nursery 3 days a week since 9 mnths and I really try to input a lot of English. She's prob about average in her communication now but she mixes a lot, which I believe is normal. I've never really worried about it tbh as I've always had faith that it would work itself out (I'm an English Lang teacher ;)).
I now have a baby boy too and will be observing his speech with interest. MIFLAW I remember reading that the delay in boys' speech might be because people don't 'talk' to them the way they do with girls, but I can't remember where I read that!
EWA don't give up!

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