Advanced search

2.5 year old bilingual daughter - understands everything, speaks hardly at all... advice?

(56 Posts)
tichey Sat 28-Feb-09 20:07:51


I have been reading some of the general posts on speech delay and some people suggested I should post here as you all have great advice.

My daughter is nearly 2.5 years old. She is being brought up in a bilingual household and has a speech delay.

She has been assessed by two speech therapists - one privately in December and again on the NHS this week. Both have confirmed that her understanding in english (her second language) is beyond what they would expect for her age and I would say that her french understanding is even better as that is her first language. However her receptive language is far behind her peers.

Until about one month ago, she only had about 10 words (all french). Over the last month, she has gone up to about 30 words (nearly all french) but they are all one syllabal words. Over the last few weeks, she has begun to say the first syallabal of lots of words, but won't complete a word and won't say more than one word at a time. She also cannot say certain letters / sounds at all i.e. l, v and f.

She walked at 12 months, but only crawled when she was two. She is not physically confident (cannot jump or climb up play equipment easily on her own) but has very good fine motor skills and in all other respects seems absolutely fine.

Both speech therapists have said that she has an expressive speech delay but cannot say the cause of this. Do any of you recognise these characteristics? Should we be worried or is she just taking longer to speak because her focus has been so much on the understanding up until now?

I am worried that maybe she may have a speech disorder such as dyspraxia, although I know it is a bit too early to diagnose this..

Grateful for any advice...

thank you

TheApprentice Sat 28-Feb-09 20:19:30

I was under the impression that acquiring speech late was the norm for bilingual children, although they greatly benefit later on of course. Certainly my nephews, who are half Japanese, did not start to speak until they were 2.

I'm afraid I don't have any specific advice for you, but wanted to bump the thread for you in case someone else can help.

tichey Sat 28-Feb-09 20:23:00

thank you - that's really kind of you. I am hoping someone else will recognise these characteristics in their sons / daughters and provide reassurance....

tichey Sat 28-Feb-09 20:23:02

thank you - that's really kind of you. I am hoping someone else will recognise these characteristics in their sons / daughters and provide reassurance....

EldonAve Sat 28-Feb-09 20:28:00

Some children speak later than others
Bilingual children are processing more words so it may also take longer

How old were you and your OH when you spoke?

It's totally normal to just say the first bit of words to start with
Some letter sounds come later than others
Did the SALTs give you any info to take away?

Dottoressa Sat 28-Feb-09 20:28:43

I recognise them in my children's bilingual sort-of-cousins (complicated family). The older one didn't really talk until he was well into being three, though obviously understood both languages perfectly. He's now four, and speaks both languages with very few problems.

gigglewitch Sat 28-Feb-09 20:29:44

My friend who lives in France has brought her daughters up as bilingual French / English speakers, and they were also slightly later in talking. At almost 6 & 4 now they are now happy to chatter away in both languages; the eldest was a 'listener' rather than a talker til she was 3.5, the younger one was speaking (mostly french) at 3. Again it seemed that they were deciding which words were for which language, but they apparently never make any errors and switch between the two. They're incredible. They speak mostly English at home and French out of the house, if that makes any sense.

I don't know anything about the possibility of a language delay, hope this works as a bump for you too smile

tichey Sat 28-Feb-09 20:36:37

thanks everyone for those encouraging messages.

Neither of us were particularly late speakers, or had any other speech problems. The speech therapists have given us exercises and activities we can do with our daughter, although it is not always easy with a toddler!

I've been a bit worried about the one syllable thing especially as although I was expecting her to speak maybe a bit later than others, I thought that once she did, she might come out with full words, rather than just the beginning of two or three syllable words!

I don't really mind what language she speaks - I just would quite like her to start speaking!

gigglewitch Sat 28-Feb-09 20:44:50

I had to do speech therapy as a child. rather than sitting and making the 'sound' work a chore, we used to do them when out and about, especially in the car [b-b-b-b-b] and out on a walk - like "look the digger goes d-d-d-d-d" (err, guess which ones stuck in my head for thirty years) these were my weakest sounds but thanks to this lot I got them sorted.

ilovemydogandMrObama Sat 28-Feb-09 20:50:17

I knew a family where the mother was Dutch, the father Irish, they lived in Germany, and none of the kids spoke properly until around 3. And then they all spoke suddenly and perfect grammar...

Amazingly, they never mixed languages hmm

tichey Sat 28-Feb-09 20:59:37

what a lovely story - hopefully that will be my daughter too! It would be a dream to wake up one day and she is speaking fully - I think probably a dream though....

Interestingly, my daughter definately understands the difference between the two languages. When she is speaking to me, for example, and wants to show me a star, she will say eh for "etoile" but then will turn to my husband and say st, st, for "star" and she does this with other words too, although for difficult ones, e.g. yellow (which she cannot say because she cannot do the "y" sound), she'll just say "jau" for "jaune" (yellow in french) to both of us...

Pitchounette Sat 28-Feb-09 21:13:06

Message withdrawn

MmeLindt Sat 28-Feb-09 21:30:21

My children are being brought up in a bilingual household (English/German) and both of them started talking later than their peers.

DD at 3yo was speaking mainly English when she started going to German Kindergarten, I can remember being worried if she would cope. She very quickly switched to speaking mainly German, even at home. When she was 4yo she had speech therapy (which was pretty hopeless and with hindsight unnecessary) as she could not say some of her letters.

At the time her kindergarten teacher said that she was pretty sure that she would grow out of it and indeed she has.

She will be 7yo in April and is now learning French as a third language since moving to Switzerland last October. She speaks German most of the time but her English has also improved as she has a few English friends here.

DS is now 4.5yo and he was similar in that he was late to speak and also was recommended speech therapy last summer. We moved just after the paediatrician recommended seeing a SALT so we have put it off for now.

It sounds like she is having what I always called a speech explosion, where within a couple of weeks the child seems to learn 2 new words a day. I would wait a bit and see how she gets on in the next couple of months.

btw, DD never crawled, she bumshuffled, walked at 14mths. Some children just don't crawl.

There are a couple of SALTs on MN, Moondog in particular has lots of experience with bilingualism. You could put up a shout for her, she can give you some good advice from a SALT pov.

georgiemum Sat 28-Feb-09 21:32:29

I know quite a few bilingual children - yes they do talk later although they are understanding language and catch up pretty soon. All of a sudden you won't be able to keep her quiet. Be patient - it is not a problem.

Fatastic for you bringing her up like this!

tichey Sat 28-Feb-09 21:44:16

It would be lovely to have her talking non stop - I cannot wait! - at the moment, she compensates by getting us to talk her through everything - I am exhausted at the end of the day!

It is so great to hear all the stories of your sons / daughters doing so well and speaking normally when they are older. I have been quite worried that my daughter may never catch up with her peers and always be at a disadvantage...

I have tried to contact moondog by hijacking a thread where I saw her name in an earlier posting, but I am not sure if that is the right way to do it - am quite a mumsnet novice! anyway, fingers crossed!

MmeLindt Sat 28-Feb-09 21:46:27

I am sure she won't mind you hijacking a thread to catch her attention. She gave me some very good advice a few years ago when I was worried about DD.

Nighbynight Sat 28-Feb-09 22:07:25

dd2 was brought up with 3 languages. She didnt really speak at all until she was nearly 4. Dont worry yet!

tichey Sun 01-Mar-09 10:17:55


I'm back again. I'm emailing again to hopefully get myself back on the list of posts in case moondog is around and can offer any advice. I am feeling much less worried now after all your lovely messages above and will try not to get too frustrated with my daughter (which I was a bit yesterday after we saw a 17 month old who was speaking more than she is....)

mejon Sun 01-Mar-09 13:18:30

DD is 2.5 and is being raised bilingually (Welsh and English). She was also quite late in talking and even now only says single words rather than two or more word sentences though she is learning new words each day and comes out with some quite off-the-wall words that we've no idea where she would have heard them. Strangely though, me being the Welsh speaker and I only speak Welsh to her and she spends most of her time with me, the majority of her words are English ones but her comprehension in both languages is equal and very good.

DD has had a speech therapy assessment (at the GP's suggestion - I wasn't particularly worried) and she was assessed as being slightly slow in putting words together.

I too have felt a little... hmm... when I see others of her age (and younger) who are speaking in sentences and have been doing so for ages, but I know it will come in time and I'm sure your DD will too.

MmeLindt Sun 01-Mar-09 15:55:33

Another thing to remember is that often parents are asked how many words the child is saying. If she is supposed to be saying 20 words at a certain age then bilingual children are often saying these 20 words in both languages, so are really saying 40 words.

Try not to compare your DD with other children, even if it is difficult. My friend gave birth to her DD a day after DS was born. She was stringing whole complicated sentences together before she was 2yo, when my DD was just saying auto and ball.

I could hear her in the background when I spoke to my friend saying, "There is an airplane. There are people on the airplane. The pilot is flying the airplane" I sat with my mouth open listening to her.

Her DD was (and still is) very articulate. Saying that, DS can climb better than her and learnt to ride a bike earlier. Children develop at different rates.

Pitchounette Sun 01-Mar-09 17:19:07

Message withdrawn

CoteDAzur Sun 01-Mar-09 17:41:28

DD is trilingual (English, French, and Turkish) and didn't say much until she was about 2 1/2 or so. Now at 3.7, she speaks in sentences in all three languages, although with many errors.

She walked at 18 months if I stood her up, bum shuffled, and couldn't get up on her own until 22 months. She wasn't confident at all re climbing, jumping, etc for the longest time, but now all is fine. Not that I think any of that is related to the languages.

Shitemum Sun 01-Mar-09 23:58:21

DD1 was never a very physical child, didnt climb onto a chair till she was at least 2 but loves to dance now, she is 5.5. DD2 is 2.5 and much more physical, all over the place.
Both started fulltime Spanish nursery at 2 yrs old having been in an English speaking home environment till then.

I have to say they had no delays in speaking. Quite the opposite even.
They both still speak better English than Spanish tho...

Get her checked out further if you are concerned but it's still early. They change quickly at this age.

sc134 Mon 02-Mar-09 11:24:48

My DS (2.10) is also bilingual. Like your DD, he is probably better with one language than he is with the other, and I would say his receptive speech is better than his expressive speech.
If I had to summarize the problem, it's that he CAN put together 3- and 4-word sentences because he does that on occasion (usually to say that he doesn't want to do something), but he won't do that regularly. He CAN greet properly, but he won't do it when you ask him. And so on.
I wish I could tell you something more concrete, but we are still waiting for assessment. I think bilingualism makes the whole question of speech delay more complicated to assess, because 1) a lot of SLT (unlike Moondog smile) don't have a lot of experience of it, 2) it's not just the language, is it? Having a 'foreign' parent, and I speak like one, makes a difference in a lot of other ways: the food they are used to eating, the body language, the social niceties. Perhaps bilingual children have to switch not just linguistic, but also social, 'taste' codes, which makes settling into nursery, for instance, potentially more complicated.

Sachertorte Mon 02-Mar-09 20:05:25

MOONDOG will hopefully be along with some advice soon, I think it´s important to have the viewpoint of a SLT with experience of bilinguaL children.

Having said that, I don´t have the impression that your daughter is significantly different from other children in her position, and in your place I wouldn´t be panicking just yet! She clearly has good comprehension skills and will speak in her own good time! I´ve known children of 3 going on 4 whose previously poor verbal skills suddenly blossom. I would be tempted to wait another six months and note progress made. In that time period she may just turn the corner anyway..

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now