How Does Bilingualism Affect Speech?

How Does Bilingualism Affect Speech?

There have been countless studies on bilingualism and how it affects language development, and the research agrees that mastering multiple languages is incredibly beneficial for brain development. There is also some mixed information out there, between experts, about the effect of bilingualism on the development of language. The truth is, that bilingualism has no negative effects on speech and language development, but can enhance and strengthen these skills and this area of the brain significantly. 

While it is true that those who speak two (or more!) languages only get a portion of the exposure for each spoken language, research has shown that they develop at the same rate as those who only speak one language. Speech therapy can be a highly valuable resource for developing language skills and improving overall communication skills, even for those who aren’t struggling to communicate. Speech therapy can also be beneficial to those who are learning a second language, are struggling to be understood due to their accent, or just need a little extra support. Getting started is as easy as scheduling your free introductory call today! 

What are the Benefits of Bilingualism?

Improved Focus – People who are Bilingual are better at focussing their attention on relevant information and ignoring distractions.  

Increased Creativity – Those who speak more than one language have shown themselves to be more creative and better at planning, organization, and problem solving than those who only speak one language.

Slowed Aging of the Brain – Research has shown that among bilingual adults, the effects of aging on the brain are diminished. One study revealed that the onset of dementia was delayed by more than 4 years in bilingual individuals relative to dementia among monolinguals.

More Opportunities – The truth is, individuals who are Bilingual have better access to people, careers, and resources. Research has shown that bilingual adults earn up to 40% more in their careers than those who only speak one language. 

Cognitive Benefits – There are many cognitive advantages of bilingualism. The most commonly recorded cognitive benefits of bilingualism are improved attention span and focus, better problem-solving skills, and better organization and planning skills. 

How Do You Learn Another Language?

The bilingual acquisition of languages can take place in one of two ways: 

Simultaneous Acquisition refers to when a child is raised speaking two (or more) languages from birth, or when the second language is introduced before the child turns three years old. Whether a child is learning one language, or more than one, they go through the same developmental stages. In some cases, a bilingual child may start speaking a little bit later than a child who is only learning one language but is still developing within the normal range. From the onset of language development, bilingual children learning through simultaneous acquisition are acquiring two different languages. These children are able to identify the two separate languages early on and can alternate which language they are speaking depending on their audience. 

Sequential Acquisition refers to when a second language is introduced after the primary language is already well-established, usually after the age of three. Many children who have emigrated from another country where a different language is spoken will experience sequential acquisition. Sometimes sequential acquisition occurs when a child speaks their heritage language exclusively at home and doesn’t begin to learn the other language until they begin school. You can learn more about how language acquisition works and how bilingualism affects speech and language skills by scheduling your free introductory call today! 

Does Bilingualism Cause Speech Delays?

There are some people who believe that when a child is raised in a bilingual household, they are at an increased risk of developing a speech delay or ‘silent period’ where they may not speak at all. While speech and language delays can occur in children who are bilingual, bilingualism itself is never the cause. 

Parents who speak two (or more) languages should not default to only speaking English as a ‘quick fix’ attempt to remediate a possible language delay. It is important to remember that learning two languages as a child does not in any way result in confusion or a speech or language delay. 

This idea that bilingualism causes delayed communication skills in children is a long-running myth in North America. Studies have disproven this theory time and time again, and research has shown that children who learn more than one language are able to learn and develop at the same pace as those who are only learning one language and are just as likely to achieve academic success

What is Bilingual Speech Therapy? 

If there is concern about the speech and language development of a bilingual child, an experienced speech and language pathologist can help to identify potential challenges and improve speech and language skills in both spoken languages. They can also help to establish whether the child has a speech or language disorder through a thorough evaluation. 

The speech therapist will then provide a custom treatment plan that will help to promote strong speech and language skills in all the languages that the child is learning. SLPs are experts when it comes to working with families from different cultures who speak different languages. The speech-language pathologist will be able to determine whether the child has a true speech or language disorder or they are simply presenting a language difference as a result of their bilingualism. 

At Great Speech, we make finding a speech therapist easier than ever. With our speech therapy appointments occurring online, connecting with the best therapist for your needs is always simple. Get started on the path towards improved communication skills by scheduling your free introductory call today!