The term ‘bilingualism’ means the ability to understand and/or use two or more languages. Individuals can be considered bilingual, regardless of the level of proficiency they have in either language.
Children/young people who have English as an additional language (EAL) should not be regarded as having a speech and language difficulty. Being bilingual does not cause or contribute to speech, language, communication or feeding and swallowing disorders.
However, some children/young people who are bilingual may have speech and language difficulties in their heritage or home language.
Bilingual Speech and Language Therapy Service
Bilingualism is an advantage and does not cause speech and language difficulties.
Families should always be encouraged to continue to use home language with their children without the fear of affecting their communication skills in English.
Isn’t it better for parents to speak English instead?
It’s very important that parents use the language they know best and feel most comfortable in. This is how they can help children develop language, talk about ideas and learn about the world. A child benefits from learning a language from their parents if the parents are confident in that language. A child who develops good use of mother tongue is more likely to develop good English. But if parents use English instead, children will lose their mother tongue. Neither language will progress and the child will have problems in both languages.
How long does it take for a child to learn English when they start school?
The process of adding an additional language can take years. It takes approximately 3 months to begin to understand the language, about 2 years to be able to carry on a basic conversation, and 5-7 years to become confident in using the additional language, to able to think in the language and to gain proficiency in the language.
However, not knowing English does not mean the child has a speech and language difficulty!
If their skills are fine in their home language, they just need time and exposure to English.