Frequently Asked Questions by Parents of Bilingual Children

1. Will speaking in two languages confuse my child?

This used to be a common belief; however, recent studies (1; 2; 3; 4) show that speaking in two languages does not confuse your child with a language impairment but is actually beneficial for your child. Children who are bilingual (speak two languages) perform just as well as children who are monolingual (speak one language).

2. Should therapy only be in English if I want my child to speak English well?

It is best to have therapy in both English and your native language. A study by Perozzi and Sanchez (1992) had one group (Group A) receive instruction in English only and a second group (Group B) receive instruction in English and the child’s native language. Results showed that Group B learned more English vocabulary than Group A. Therefore, your child may learn more English when receiving therapy in English and your native language as opposed to therapy in English only.

3. Should one parent speak English and the other speak our native language?

It is currently believed that parents should speak to their children in English as well as their native language instead of having one parent speak English and the other speak their native language. An article by Elin Thordadottir (2006), states that it is more natural for parents to speak both languages to their child. It was further stated that speaking only one language to bilingual children may actually confuse them because they do not understand why one parent only speaks to them in English and refuses to speak to them in their native language. Hence, it is better for both parents to speak both languages to their child.

4. Will it confuse my child if I use both languages in one sentence?

According to Elin Thordadottir (2006), speaking to your child in both languages within one sentence (code-switching) will not confuse your child. Code-switching is a natural way for individuals who are bilingual to speak and therefore is not seen as confusing to your child. It is natural for children to code-switch as well as they learn both languages. This is not because they are confused. They may still be sorting out the two languages; however, even after they can distinguish between the two languages, they may choose to code-switch to emphasize a point.

5. What are the benefits of being bilingual?

Besides being sought after in the job market because of their knowledge of two languages and being able to speak to family members who only know their native language or only English, an article by Faroqi-Shah, Kaushanskaya, & Sheng (2009), states that bilingual children develop an understanding of taxonomic relationships (a classification arranged in a hierarchical structure) earlier than monolingual children and adults who are bilingual are better at learning new words than adults who are monolingual. Furthermore, bilingual children obtain better meta-cognitive skills (awareness of their own knowledge) than monolingual children.

6. Why did my child who used to say some words stop talking?

This may be a result of what researchers call “the silent period.” Many children who are learning two languages stop talking for a brief period and just listen because they are sorting out the two languages. This is not because they are delayed. The child often starts talking in both languages after this period of silence and he/she has grasped a better understanding of the two languages. If your child has stopped talking, it is recommended that you talk to a SLP as your child may have stopped talking for other reasons (i.e., children with Autism have also been known to stop talking as their language skills regress).

  1. Kay-Raining Bird et al., 2005
  2. Paradis, Crago, Genesse, & Rice, 2003
  3. Perozzi & Sanchez, 1992
  4. Thordardottir, Ellis Weismer, & Smith, 1997
  5. Elin Thordadottir (2006),
  6. Faroqi-Shah, Kaushanskaya, & Sheng (2009)