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What age did your bilingual child start speaking?

(23 Posts)
macaco Sun 30-Aug-09 14:24:36

Just wondered really. We live in Spain, DH Spanish and we speak to each other in Spanish. I speak English only to DS and DH only Spanish to him.
DS (17 months) can do various animal noises when he sees the animal (horse, cow, elephant, tiger) and brrm brrms at cars. He says no no no no when he doesn't want to do something or for example a door is closed that he wants open. Says ma ma ma ma at me and da da da da at DH. Says pu taaa at cats (meaning pussycat I think
I know they can vary greatly when they start and the bilingualism can complicate things but i was just beginning to wonder if he was a bit late for speaking?
Would love to hear other people's experiences.

sparkle09 Sun 30-Aug-09 14:33:03

i dont know about bilingual children but i do know that at 17months is too soon to worry too much about speech. both mine didnt really start saying clear words until there were after 2years old. after that it developed really quickly and by 2 and a half they were stringing sentences together and were becoming clear to people outside the family unit.

so just relax and talk to him loads he will soon pick it up. xxxx

macaco Sun 30-Aug-09 14:38:28

thanks. my mum worries me slightly cos she says I said my first word (shoe) at a year and by 19 months was saying a new word everyday. Obviously I wasn't being brought up in a bilingual house though.

DownandUp Sun 30-Aug-09 14:42:57

My nephew is bilingual - american father, chinese mother. They talk mostly chinese to him, BIl talks some english.

He started to talk at about 2, maybe even a little later. I recall BIL very concerned as our LO is just a few months older and talking since she was about a year. She was saying sentences before he could speak. He researched it and it is normal/expected for bilingual children to take longer, but when they do speak, they will be able to speak 2 languages with normal clarity. It makes sense really, double the input, figuring out when to talk one language or the other.

He is now almost 3 and talks very well in both languages.

sparkle09 Sun 30-Aug-09 14:44:24

babys will say words but i can be a fluke alot of time with there babble sounding like words we speak. it takes time for them to learn when to use words in context. but yeah he will learn alot of words in the coming months and it will be wonderful to see. xxxxx

macaco Sun 30-Aug-09 14:50:43

thanks everyone.
He's obviously communicating, what with the brrrm brrm and animal noises and obviously also babbles away to himself. He clearly understands a LOT in both languages too.

BonsoirAnna Sun 30-Aug-09 14:52:42

I cannot remember much about DD but I was aware that she didn't speak as early as her monolingual counterparts.

They do catch up later - in both languages - providing you give them plenty of exposure to both.

itwasntme Sun 30-Aug-09 14:56:58

Hi, I'm in Catalunya, so we have Catalan thrown into the mix too. My dd started talking early (before 1), and was communicating well in the three languages by 2.5.

However, my 21 month-old son is much slower... he only says a few more words than your son. It's normal, my brother didn't talk till two and only had English.

I know other bilingual children, and most start to really talk between 2 and 3.

gio71 Mon 31-Aug-09 13:06:41

we have a similar situation, live in Italy, DP Italian, we speak in Italian, I speak English to DS and his Dad speaks Italian. DS now 2 years 9 months and is saying a lot of words and starting to put small sentences together. So quite a way behind his peers who have 1 language. He didn't really start saying anything except Mamma and Papa until his 2nd birthday and progress for the following 6 months was slow. It seems to be really coming together now all of a suddens, he is parroting everything he hears and translates between the 2 languages depending on who he is talking to. I have had fun and games with FIL who is one big PITA,thinks we have made an horrendous mistake, DS will be ostracised when he starts school in Sept blah blah. I have spoken to DS's pedatrician about this and she says to ignore all the experts in the family, by the time he is 5 he will be the same as his peers-in 2 languages. She said that they actually start understanding at the same time as their peers but it takes them longer to process all they are learning and speak.

MmeLindt Mon 31-Aug-09 14:30:42

Don't listen to anyone who tries to put you off.

Our DC both started speaking late, around 2yo and were both behind their monolingual peers until they were around 4 or 5yo.

We are a German/British family, German home language, I speak English wiht them.

DS is now 5yo, DD is 7yo and we moved to Switzerland last year so adding French to the mix.

They are both doing really well with learning French. They understand lots and can speak pretty well. I think that they learnt French so easily as they were already used to speaking 2 languages (there is lots of research that suggests this).

moanieminny Tue 01-Sep-09 14:39:16

Hi Macaco,

I have exactly the same familly situation. DD is now 22 mths and has started to talk around now... Most words are spanish but she understands english and does say a few words in english.
I think the most important thing is to really stick speaking to her in eng. even if she replies in ES. It will stick and even if she doesn´t speak it, when she starts having english at school she will be ahead!

Where in Spain are you? I would love to hear of english play groups in Madrid area....

macaco Tue 01-Sep-09 15:34:12

Hi moaninminny. Glad to hear of someone else in Spain! I'm nowhere near you though, I'm waaay down south. Suffering in the heat! Just out of interest, does your DD go to nursery? DS doesn't and I'm hoping not to need to send him before "school" at 3 and a bit. I wonder if this will mean he'll speak English before Spanish?

moanieminny Tue 01-Sep-09 15:51:14

well, I work full time so DD is at nursery in the mornings (spanish nursery). I think every child is different. I think DD gets 50% each language mornings at school and afternoons with Grandma....
My mother tongue is english but I went to nursery and school in Germany (until I was 7). My preferred language is by far english but I still do math etc. in german! We spoke english at home and german at school.

I am sure they will speak both, but depending on who they are speaking with and the subject of the conversation they will prefer one language or the other!

Our kids are very luck - they are getting a headstart!
sorry - bit of a ramble! blush

noramum Tue 01-Sep-09 16:31:20

We are both German but DD goes to nursery 4 days a week. So home is German, outside world is English.

She started speaking with 1 year but only got into it from 18 month onwards. Now with 2 there are more and more words coming along and also two-word-sentences.

She speaks 50/50 German/English.

My friend's monolingual girl (same age) started a lot later, she now speaks but I would say less than my DD.

Summerfruit Tue 01-Sep-09 16:41:48

I'm french and dh is english. I'm working from home so always with dd (2.3). She does understand when I speak to her in french and same when dh speaks to her in english but she still doesnt speak, she does say some words, not properly and can do some animal noises. I'm not worried, I have the feeling that when she starts, there will be no stopping her ! I'm also looking after a little girl (I'm a cm) who is also half french, half english, 22 months old, she does say some words in french but not many (sometimes is better than my 2.3 years old) all depends of the child !

mopsyflopsy Tue 01-Sep-09 18:42:16

There is no evidence that bilingualism delays speech.

We are raising our children bilingually English/German and our dd started talking (properly) by 2 years, whereas our ds was almost 4 when he talked clearly.

So, it all depends on the child. Bilingualism has nothing to do with it.

BonsoirAnna Wed 02-Sep-09 10:35:45

mopsyflopsy - I don't know where you got your information from, but it is not commonly held theory. Bilingualism does tend to delay fluency in both languages, just by virtue of the sheer volume of vocabulary that children are having to contend with.

A common example is a monolingual child of eighteen months with a vocabulary of 50 intelligible words. A bilingual child of 18 months might have a vocabulary of 60 words, because he/she is more exposed to language, but there might be 35 words in his/her MT and 25 words in his/her FT. So not as great a vocabulary as a monolingual child.

BriocheDoree Wed 02-Sep-09 11:02:28

From what the bilingual speech therapists have give me to understand, you're BOTH correct. BonsoirAnna has a point that the child's vocabulary might not be as large, but Mopsyflopsy is correct that being bilingual should not affect the age at which a child starts speaking. Anyway, that's what I'm told by those who really should know! Neither of my kids starting speaking late but DD is severely language-impaired (a disorder similar to autism) and that certainly DOES complicate matters (hence this being a subject close to my own heart!). Anyway, 17 months is not late for speaking so I'd have thought the OP has nothing to worry about.

annasmami Wed 02-Sep-09 18:01:34

We too are raising our children bilingually, and all research I've seen indicates that learning multiple languages does NOT contribute to speech delay; rather, multilingualism tends to foster various cognitive benefits.

Boys often develop speech later than girls, so take that into account too.

But in my opinion, 17 months seems very young to be concerned. If you are concerned about your ds's speech, I'd look for a speech therapist that specialises/knows about bilingualism.

Bleh Wed 02-Sep-09 18:09:49

I think it totally depends on the child. My parents have friends whose daughter is trilingual. At around 20 months, she was able to make clear sentences etc. in all three languages, and spoken to the correct people (her DF speaks to her in Norwegian, DM in English and Hebrew, DB in English and Hebrew) and apparently started picking up French from the neighbour. My nephew, around the same age, could say some basic stuff but definitely did not have the same skills as her.

BonsoirAnna Wed 02-Sep-09 20:27:16

Bilingualism has indeed been show to foster long-term cognitive benefits, especially when there is a good balance between each language ie they are spoken, read and written to a similar level of fluency.

But that is not at odds with there also being the slight delay in early fluency (which is not the same as a speech delay) I described below.

LilianGish Wed 02-Sep-09 20:42:34

Neither of mine spoke til about two -English/French for dd, but English/German for ds as we had moved in the interim (dh and I are both English). Ds then started at a French school at two-and-a-half so added French while dd picked up German in the playground. We are now living in Blighty with kids at French school and what I do notice is that while mine are equally fluent in either language school friends with an English and a French parent tend to favour one or other language.

mummytosquidgies Wed 02-Sep-09 21:19:00

DS (2.4) started talking when he was about 18 months, though showed an understanding of both languages (English and Danish) well before then.
He now speaks perfectly well in both languages, though does say more in English than he does in Danish. Think that is more to do with the amount I talk to him compared to DH than his ability though!

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