Does Speaking Multiple Languages in the Home Affect a Child’s Language/Speech Development?

by Rose Marie Paul, Help Me Grow — Long Island Bilingual Family Resource Specialist

Have you found yourself wondering if you are doing a disservice to your child because multiple languages are being spoken in the home? Feel guilty? Anxious? Well, you are not alone!

Help Me Grow — Long Island (HMG-LI) recently hosted a Books, Balls, and Blocks event at the Port Washington library. At these events, children get to play while caregivers have the opportunity to receive an age appropriate screening from us and observe their children as they play. Once a questionnaire has been completed, we score the screening then discuss results with the caregiver. At our latest event, a mother that I handed a screen to expressed a concern for her child given that both Thai and English are being spoken within the home. She was worried that he would score low and that it may be affecting his communication development. After reviewing the results of the screen with her, she was surprised to find that her son was doing well across all domains, including communication. She was relieved to know that despite her son living in a bilingual home, his language is developing at the same rate as his peers in monolingual and multilingual homes.

According to the Linguistic Society of America,

Children are incredibly sensitive to the different ways people speak. Even when they only hear one language, they learn very quickly about differences between the way men and women talk, the difference between polite and impolite ways of talking, and so on. For children, the bilingual situation is just a matter of another difference between people!

The article goes on to say, “Bilingual development sometimes results in slightly slower language development than for some monolingual children.” Sometimes, is the key word. Even if there is a delay, it’s not permanent and a child often “catches up” with peers.

As a Family Resource Specialist at HMG-LI, I take pleasure in being able to provide relief to a questioning caregiver; in being able to guide them when completing a screening, and most of all in helping them orient themselves and understand the next steps they should take, if any.

Are you wondering about your child’s communication development or general development for that matter? Click here to read more about HMG-LI and to here to access free developmental screens.

Rose Marie Paul works at Docs for Tots as a Bilingual Family Resource Specialist for Help Me Grow  Long Island. She received her Bachelor of Science from Queens College in 2017, where she studied Psychology. In her previous position, Rose served the community as a Bilingual Care Manager at Hispanic Counseling Center for over 2 years. She was responsible for assisting developmentally disabled individuals and their families with accessing a variety of resources and services to meet their needs. As a Care Manager, Rose was able to provide advocacy for children in need of speech, physical, occupational, and behavioral therapies at CSE meetings. 



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