The concern of correlation between bilingualism and language disorder by immigrant families

Language is a crucial tool to convey information, share ideas, and great friends smoothly. Some people believe that language disorder in children is related to speaking two or more languages. However, there is no scientific evidence that corroborates this correction. There are neurological tests that show bilingual children controls a smaller vocabulary than monolingual do, clinical assessments bilingual language acquisition is an effortless, efficient, and successful as monolingual acquisition (link).  

Parents may wonder why their child’s vocabulary knowledge comparing with his/her monolingual peers is lower and may wrongly associate with language delay. Ans this concern is mainly prevalent among immigrant families for their kids are exposed to home language and to additional languages simultaneously or sequentially. There are instances where it is difficult to discern language difficulties at early ages with a language disorder due to limitations of assessment tools which mainly conducted by monolinguals. According to (link) language in bilingual children develops in the following  four steps:

Silent period: this is a period where a child will not seem to talk both at home or school, and it may take her/him an average of 6 months to adjust to new environment. 

Interference and code-switching: This are a period where bilingual children have interferences and code-switching phenomenon while translating to become effective communicators that takes one and a half years, on average.

  Basic social communication: This is a period that normally takes two years after a bilingual child has been exposed to an additional language, where she develops basic social communication to interact with peers.

Language proficiency: This is a period that takes 5-7 years after a child has been exposed    to a new language.

In summary, bilingualism does not cause language disorder. Vocabulary differences between bilinguals and monolinguals are only a transitory thing that will narrow down later in their age. According to  CDC Children have language and speed delay only when they have difficulties both in their home language and the new language after they pass through a rigorous assessment test. Hence, the negative view about bilingualism has no scientific foundation. Clinical research shows bilingualism has a significant impact on a positive cognitive functioning of children’s’ brain. Researches show bilingual children have equivalent or better performance than their monolingual counterparts.  So, it is imperative to discern the issue of language disorder in early symptoms of language developmental issues observed in bilingual children with language or speech impairment.

Published by

Kassahun Endeshaw

I was born and raised in Ethiopia, a small village in Northern Wollo. When I grew up education was a privilege only for a few lucky. As a result, I started school at 11 years old. To compensate for the missed opportunity, I always work hard in my school. Though my parents did not afford to send me to college at the time, I used all the opportunities available to do my BSc and MSc in my home country. I moved to the United States at the end of 2015 looking for better opportunities, however, the job markets were no so inviting with my experience and education due to curriculum mismatch and culture and language barriers. Hence, I had to become a cab driver for a while. While I was working as a taxi driver I met several immigrants from my home country who have Ph.D. So, I decided to go to school here in the US. I chose the EMBA program at the University of Nevada, Reno. I am also lucky I got at the College of Southern Nevada as a Math and Statistics tutor. But there are still many immigrants who are aspiring to get the job they are happy to do. And I believe using my experience and business education would help immigrants by sharing the ups and downs I went through and inspire them to live their dreams.

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