Will learning more than one language delay my child’s language?
No, research tells us that children who learn more than one language will not experience language delay. When considering the number of different words your child can understand or say, think about the words they use in both languages. Their total vocabulary across languages should be similar to children learning just one language. If your child is experiencing a delay in both languages, have a chat to your child health nurse or GP as support from a speech pathologist may be recommended.
What if my child is starting at child care and doesn’t speak any English?
Do not fear, your little one will use much more than words to communicate their needs and desires in this new setting. It can be a great idea however, to teach your child a few key words in English (if this is the language spoken at the childcare) so that they can communicate some important needs (e.g. eat, drink, toilet, mummy/daddy, play, book).
Likewise it is also a great idea for childcare staff to learn some important words in your child’s first language. This helps to break down the communication barrier and tells your child “Hey I belong and can be understood here”.
Will my child struggle to learn at school?
No, absolutely not. Research tells us that children who learn more than one language have better long-term academic outcomes, a strong sense of identity and also a fantastic skill that opens up opportunities later in life.
In general, children go through a similar pattern as they begin to learn a second language. This includes the following phases:
- Uses their first language in the new setting
- Becomes quiet and goes through a silent phase as they learn the new language
- Imitates simple, short phrases in the new language
- Beings to construct and use their own sentences as they become more proficient in their new language
This may take a period of up to six months as your child learns this new language.
Once your child is proficient in the new language they may decide to stop using their first language at home. Do not dismay, even if they go through their school years no longer speaking their first language, as long as you continue to expose them to this language they will always understand the language and will have the opportunity to return to it later in life.