Bilingual Options


Dr Susanne Dopke


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Speech and Language Pathology


Special considerations for the treatment of bilingual children.

A true language disorders expresses itself in both (or all) of a child's languages. Stopping one of the languages does not improve the child's language. For more information on bilingualism and language disorder, please follow the links.

There are various options for treating language disorders in bilingual children:

*             A bilingual speech pathologist can provide treatment in both of a child's languages or in the language preferred by the parents.  There are a few bilingual speech pathologists in Victoria who are happy to treat your child in your home language.  The Victorian Branch of the Multicultural Interest Group of Speech Pathology Australia maintains a register of bilingual professionals. Susanne is happy  to provide therapy in German. For inquiries about the availability of a speech pathologists speaking other languages, please contact info[AT] [please note that email address has been modified to disallow machine reading]

*             Many aspects of language intervention transfer between languages.  Thus intervention in English can be quite successful for both of a child's languages.  In any case, intervention in English is better than no intervention at all.

*             Legitimate treatment options include direct treatment and indirect treatment. Direct treatment means that the speech pathologist teaches the child. Indirect treatment means that the speech pathologist teaches the parent how to teach the child.  Either one or the other may be chosen by any speech pathologist treating monolingual children.  For the treatment of bilingual children indirect treatment can successfully influence the development of the home language.  Indirect treatment can be delivered irrespective of whether the speech pathologist shares the home language of the client.  

*             Another alternative is a combination of direct and indirect treatment.  For this, the speech pathologist treats the child in English during the clinic sessions.  The parent or carer is present and effectively learns from the speech pathologist how to continue the language stimulation at home in the home language.

*             Goals for the home language intervention can be set on the basis of what is known about the stages of language development in the child's home language.  For many languages these are accessible to professionals through research publications even if the professional does not share the child's home language.  (By the way, just because professionals are able to speak a particular language does not mean they know about the developmental path of that language.  All professionals need to get this information in self-study.)  Together with the families, the professional then designs a program which enhances the language development of the child in both languages.

*             If parents have difficulties understanding the speech pathologist, it is important that an interpreter be involved at least in the early stages of assessing the child and setting goals.  It might be possible to fade the interpreter out as the parent becomes comfortable with the professional and the routine of learning language teaching strategies in English and transferring them to the home language.

Parents or professionals involved with bilingual children who would like references to back up the above assertions may contact info[AT] [please note that email address has been modified to disallow machine reading]

Groups interested in presentations on these and other issues related to bilingualism, please check through the available talks or consult the resource pages.

last updated: September 26th, 2007

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