Hi Aodrenn, you are a speech therapist and you offer consultations in French in New York. Could you tell us about your background?
I have graduated from the Haute Ecole of Liege, Belgium, in “Logopedie” hence “orthophonie” or speech therapy. I’ve worked few months in France before coming to New York. I do speech therapy only with the francophone population of New York.
We often hear that bilingual children start to speak later. Do you share this opinion?
Saying that bilingual children have a delay in language development is a myth. Simultaneous bilingual children, meaning they have learnt English and French before the age of 3, do develop exactly in the same way as monolingual children do when it comes to language.
Do bilingual children present some specificities regarding language acquisition, without these being worrying?
We can observe that vocabulary, if evaluated in only one language, will be poorer than the one of monolingual children. But in fact, if we consider both languages, English plus French, a bilingual child will have as much vocabulary as a monolingual child. Maybe even more. Another specific phenomenon about bilingual children is code switching. Parents will often say that their children mix both languages. In reality, they act like we adults, do when we use a word that comes out more easily in another language. Maybe we are talking in French and an English word comes out more easily. When it comes to children, it’s even more frequent since their vocabulary is not as deep as ours.
Would you have a message or a piece of advice for the teachers who are, with parents of course, in a close position to observe any delay or issue?
Teachers have generally a good comparison point with the other children of their class. If they evolve in a context where all children are bilingual, they can compare to the other bilingual children and realize that bilingualism is not the problem to spot. For other teachers, working in an environment with few bilingual children, they will sometimes say that a child’s problems are due to bilingualism and that he or she should focus on English. Since we live in the US, let’s focus on English and leave the mother tongue for a while. This is not to be advised. First the mother tongue carries emotions an feelings. Next, for the parents, it is the best linguistic model to give since it’s the language they speak the best. It’s very important to keep it. It will help to the development of the local language so it shouldn’t be an issue.
Thank you Aodrenn!