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What age did your bilingual children start speaking?

(13 Posts)
Nicolaeus Tue 14-May-13 14:22:12

DS is nearly 20 months hows did that happen? and although he babbles loads there are almost no real words, and the occasional word that he does say (basically no and dada) are not used consistently and are incomprehensible to anyone outside the family.

Recently he has started sounding like he's talking (making lots of different syllable sounds and having longer and shorter words, as well as putting emphasis on some sounds, e.g. do dah DER whilst pointing at something) but still no actual words.

He understands English (me and his grandparents) and French (DH and the rest of the country grin ) really well although his English is better (e.g. he can point to more body parts in English than in French).

He also makes different babbling sounds if he's "talking" to English-speakers or French-speakers.

I know that children raised in bilingual households tend to talk later but still, this feels really quite late, especially as he's been babbling for over 10 months now, and I see other monolingual children saying words way younger than he is.

NomDeClavier Tue 14-May-13 15:38:45

9 months but I'm coming to the conclusion that DS is a freak. DH was apparently also a very early talker.

I would start to be concerned if there aren't recognisable words and get his hearing checked. It's possible that sound production is being held up by poor hearing but he knows enough to imitate the rhythm and emphasis, and decipher words which don't involve minimal pairs and that are familiar to him. Bilingualism is often touted as a cause for children speaking later and they may seem to because their competence is spread over 2 languages. If you look at the milestones a 2 year old is expected to have reached and apply them to both languages as a global ability (so if it says knows 10 words and they know 5 in each language) then a bilingual child should be not too far out from a monolingual counterpart.

GoodbyePorkPie Tue 14-May-13 15:49:04

DD is 22 months and only just starting to speak now. However, she has understood the basics of two languages for quite some time now and can follow instructions in both. I know there is no evidence that 'proves' bilingual children start speaking later BUT weirdly, all her bilingual peers are also starting to speak fairly late.

I disagrree with Nom: if he understands what you are saying then i would guess there are no problems with hearing.

CarpeVinum Tue 14-May-13 15:57:01

Speak actual sentences that everybody understood ?

At least five. But I wasn't truely within my comfort zone for his speaking until he was six.

Until then it was words and sentences that were Italian and English sort of shoved together.

I had many wobbles, aided and abetted by the people fainting in horror at the grave ill I was doing my son by making sure he had my language as well as his father's.

Now of course the world and its mother tell him he is lucky he speaks English and doesn't have to struggle with it at school. Luck my left arsecheek, that was blood, swest, tears and some threatened nervous breakdowns when I was convinced my child was virtually mute compared to everybody elses.

He is now nearly 13, fluent in both langagues, all four skills. Living in Italy, going to school in England (it's an online independant secondary school, I don't jet him there and back daily grin ) and on track for having another two additional languages to add to his skill set in the vain hope there might be some employment available when he is big and the language thing will give him an edge.

It was a whole lot harder and more emotionally charged than I had bargined for. But worth it.

SnoopyLovesYou Tue 14-May-13 17:00:33

Do not worry! He will be perfect. He's just computing everything! Give him time & space. Sometimes boys take longer (with my boy and girl there was a massive difference in speech at least.) If he's still not talking in a year, check out glue ear & autism etc but don't even worry about those things unless he's still not talking at 3. 2 languages is a lot to compute for a little brain. :-)

SnoopyLovesYou Tue 14-May-13 17:05:13

My son only formed his first (barely recognisable) sentence at 23 months. His speech now at 6 and since he was 3 really has people in disbelief. His vocabulary is astounding and he speaks incredibly clearly for a boy of his age. Some of his friends I can hardly make out when they talk. He had a small foreign language element, 2 very different English language accents to compute and plus we talked to him with adult vocabulary v early. I think that's why he was a bit of a late starter.

Nicolaeus Tue 14-May-13 17:09:38

Thanks everyone.

His ears are checked regularly (French health system!!) and there seems to be no blockage, although the one proper hearing test they did didn't work because he refused point blank to move his head to look at the toys being squeaked behind him. His hearing seems fine as he can hear the lift doors opening and shutting when we're in our flat (and toddles off to see who's at the door).

He understands instructions in both languages (when he wants to and it isn't me telling him to stop doing something he's enjoying!) but he just seems incapable of creating the words.

I suppose it's also me getting a bit frustrated at being grunted at and cried at if I don't guess immediately that he wanted the pen not the sippy cup the pen was next to and he was pointing to confused

calendula Fri 17-May-13 21:17:26

ds1 spoke 2 languages recognisably at 12 months
dd started speaking at 15 months - complex sentences in 2 langs at age 2
ds2 didn't really say anything recognisable until nearly age 3. now speaks both langs fluently.
Oldest 2 are both interested in and good at languages and music. ds 2 is more interested in science amd technical stuff.
Am bilingual myself and fortunately had enough confidence not to freak out when ds 2 was so slow to speak compared with the first 2.

snowcone Sat 18-May-13 08:20:50

DD spoke a handful of random words from two languages by 1. It was progressed slowly and she was only stringing together a few words in English and (I was told) German by 2, and they were not complex or grammatically correct sentences. "dd want juice" etc.

Then there was a relatively big leap after 2y and at 2.5 now I would finally call it 'talking' rather than just speaking or repeating words. She has recently begun to understand that there are two languages and different words for the same thing in each language, and the babbling (which I call stream of consciouness!) is starting to decrease. She will still mix up words from both languages in the sentence, but usually where she doesn't know the word in one language or where they are similar common words e.g. my/mein, that/das.

From what I can see the two bilingual children the same age living on either side of us are developing at about the same pace. One speaks less of the language that is not the home language, but spends less time being immersed in it that my dd and he seems to understand it perfectly well just not verbalise much. In his home language is speaking at least as well if not better. So I think she and they are all pretty normal/average.

Have you tried songs with your ds? My dd has always been much better at pronouncing words clearly in song. I used to take her to singing groups and at the nursery they bombard them daily with all sorts of local songs (that I have no idea about!). She could sing the whole of twinkle twinkle with recognisable words before 2y. Obviously it was only reciting not actually understanding the words and meaning, but my uninformed opinion is that it seemed to help her with with pronouncing words and sounds. However her friend next door also goes to the same groups and gets music at home but has shown less interest in singing, so it doesn't work for everyone.

pinkhousesarebest Sat 18-May-13 19:51:12

Ds said his first sentence at 3.1. Dd at 15 months. We were very concerned about ds, as he was also appallingly badly behaved . Nicolaeus the grunting and crying drove me nuts, but I could see that he understood well and could run rings round us in every other way, so that helped.

He is academically stronger by far than dd (French system), but prefers English while dd switches seamlessly from one language to the other. She is also very musical whereas he is not.

If only Mumsnet had been around ten years ago. I remember feeling very isolated, as all around me other bilingual offspring were chatting away.

CuntAlors Sat 18-May-13 19:55:57

Ds spoke English clearly at 2 and French clearly at 3.5. Dd is nearly 5 and both languages are lacking. She's stopped muddling the two in one sentence but her sentences aren't constructed correctly in either language. Sh didn't put a full sentence together until she was over 3.

CuntAlors Sat 18-May-13 19:57:51

I should add that we're an English family living in France with both the kids at French school do the languages are very separate.

meerkate Mon 20-May-13 11:18:58

I grew up in multi-lingual Brussels and still have friends there - many of whom say their bilingual (if not trilingual) kids started talking significantly later than their monolingual peers. Made not an ounce of difference in the end, though smile

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