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When did your bilingual baby/toddler start speaking?

(9 Posts)
fraktion Wed 06-Feb-13 10:19:40

Some bilingual children speak later but that's often more to do with the circumstances surrounding bilingualism (or multilingualism) than just that they are bilingual. We adhere fairly strictly to OPOL because in my experience children in an environment where languages are clearly separated get on with it better. Equally the amount of communication, real communication, has a hige impact.

Also there can be an appearance of a delay in terms of breadth of vocabulary but if you plotted the words you may find they know about the and number of words but they know cat in L1 and elephant in L2. That's 2 words but assessing in L1 you'd only get one.

My trilingual 21m can count well in all 3, uses 3-4 word sentences in English and 2-3 words in DH's language which is also the community language. His third language is still at the odd word/repeating stage. By 2 I would expect any child to be at the lower end of the range of normal for a monolingual child in at least one language. This is a good poster to illustrate the stages.

surroundedbyblondes Sun 03-Feb-13 20:11:18

Also agree that bilingual children don't necessarily speak later. Both DDs had a few words at 18 months and could have v simple conversations at 2 years. I have never found them to be out of step with their peers. They are both significantly stronger in the local language (which they also speak with DH). Their English is much more basic though, as they only speak that with me or their DGPs, but we're fine with English being their second language.

LadyMargolotta Sat 02-Feb-13 08:02:41

I agree with MrTumbles.

I have three children, two of whom were delayed in speaking, and it is very frutrating to have your fears fobbed off, with the excuse being that the children are bilingual.

My dd1 didn't say her first word until the age of 18 months, and she was four before we finally discovered that she had a hearing problem. With grommets she could hear better and started speaking better, but even now, at the age of 8, language is not her strong point. She is bi-lingual but struggles to remember more complex words.

DD2 was normal.

Ds has been another matter entirely. Again, it tooks months to get anyone to listen to me, because I knew that he had speech problems not related to his bi-lingualism. In fact his vocabulary and understanding are normal. He is now four and been diagnosed with two speech disorders.

Keep an eye on your dd, and if you are worried, then don't hesitate to get her help.

nextphase Sat 02-Feb-13 07:55:52


Saw this a couple of days ago, and then something happened and I didn't reply!

We live in the majority language country, but DH speaks his mother tongue to the kids (OPOL).

DS1 had very few words aged 2, and then suddenly got it, and started talking in short sentences around 2y3m. DS2 is currently 20mts, and has a reasonable vocab already (tho only I and his brother understand most!).

I'd say DS1 has better language skills than many of his peers now (3y8 mths)

ClairesTravellingCircus Fri 01-Feb-13 12:22:54

Hello Juanca

I have two bilingual dds, they both spoke quite late, close to two.

Juanca Thu 31-Jan-13 23:03:41

Thanks MrTumble, I will check out that board. Like I said in my OP, I am definitely not worried! I am just curious to know whether it is a 'fact' that bilingual children start later. There is another little girl in the nursery DD goes to that is two months younger and she hasn't started talking either. Not really a conclusive study I'll grant you.

Thanks galaxydad, too.

MrTumblesBavarianFanbase Thu 31-Jan-13 21:03:06

There is a bilingual board on MN, but tbh I haven't visited it often. I think the up to date research suggests that bilingualism does not usually play a significant role in delaying speech development, and gender and then birth order are both a lot more significant, so its a bit of an urban myth that bilingual children talk late.

All my 3 are bilingual and have talked earlier and thier language has developed more quickly than most of their monolingual peers locally (but I have a bit of a theory that people in our immediate, local, rural area don't really "chat" to toddlers in the same way Brits do, they just coo at them and issue instructions, which probably has more to do with the difference than my kids being early talkers...) My kids also haven't been in childcare early on, plus we use English as a family language, so they have had English as a very dominant language initially rather than a more genuinely 50-50 experience (although toddlers groups, language out and about, extended family, and for the younger 2 friends of older siblings who are in and out of our house most afternoons, is all German or dialect) so they have spoken mostly English to start. My 21 month old speaks in "toddler sentences" (3 or 4 word sentences mostly) in English and also has probably somewhere between 30 and 40 German words, and responds to being addressed in German in a way that shows he understands even if he doesn't reply. He is about the same as his brother at the same age and a bit behind where his sister was at the same age.

19 months isn't really late though, bilingualism aside. There are loads of children who don't start talking much til closer to age 2. If she clearly understands and can follow simple instructions in her mother tongue, and uses babble and mimics words you are very unlikely to have any reason to worry. I don't think it makes any long term difference whether children start talking early or "late", just as whether they take their first steps at 8 months or 18 months makes no difference by the time they are 3 smile I wouldn't be concerned unless she is still at this stage in 3 or 4 months time, and as you know toddlers change and develop almost beyond recognition in a month or two at this age.

galaxydad Thu 31-Jan-13 20:30:54

Our oldest started around 18 months but he generally speaks the one language, he fully understands both but is more comfortable with one.
Our second is 19 months and hasn't started speaking yet, not real speak anyway.

Like you said I wouldn't worry about it too much, not yet anyway.

Juanca Thu 31-Jan-13 19:29:28

We moved days after DD's first birthday. Now she's 19 months and I'm still waiting for her to start speaking. She repeats stuff (mama, daddy, baby) but only if we say the word first.

In the local language (she goes to a nursery four days a week) she can say a couple of words but again, only when prompted.

I'm not worried at all, I know it will come. But I've heard that bilingual children can take longer to start speaking than non bilingual children, so I'm just curious to hear if others have found the same thing.

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