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Does Speaking More Than One Language Cause Language Delays?

Myth: Children who are bilingual talk later than children who are only learning one language.

Truth: Children who are bilingual or multilingual should hit the same developmental milestones as children who are only exposed to one language. These milestones include saying one word by age one, and using two word phrases by age two.

What is normal for bilingual or multilingual speakers?

It is normal for children who are exposed to more than one language to mix up the grammatical rules of the languages for a period of time.

If a child has only been exposed to one language, and then another language is introduced at a later time, that child may go through a "silent period" for several months while he or she is learning the second language.

What if my child has a language delay?

Research supports children learning multiple languages, even children with delays. However, there are a couple of ways you can expose your child to multiple languages which will help them avoid confusion:

1. Separate the languages by person (for instance, Mom speaks one language and Dad speaks another, or parents speak one language and nanny speaks another).

2. Separate the language by activity (for instance, today bath time will be in one language and lunchtime in another).

Did speaking more than one language cause my child's language delay?

No! There is no research to support that speaking more than one language causes delays.

Jessie Ginsburg is a speech-language pathologist and CEO of Pediatric Therapy Playhouse, a multidisciplinary clinic in Los Angeles.

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