Bilingual Options


Dr Susanne Dopke


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Speech and Language Pathology

The child speaks in very short sentences and makes grammatical mistakes.

Children's grammatical development typically follows a predictable order. As grammar develops, the child's sentence become longer. For an overview of the order of grammatical development in English click here.

Limited utterance length and ungrammatical sentences are an aspect of language delay. There can be many reasons for why a child's grammatical development does not proceed.

*             limited hearing;

*             limited memory capacity for words;

*             difficulties forming sounds.

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A speech pathologist will be able to assess whether your child's language is appropriate for his/her age and how big the development gap to typically developing children at the same age is.

Depending on your child's language profile, a speech pathologist may do one of three things:

(i)     re-assure you that everything is alright;

(ii)    give you some strategies to use for a while and suggest a review in 3 to 6 months time;

(iii)   recommend therapy.

The developmental order grammatical forms and sentence structure can be quite different from one language to the next. If you speak a language other than English with your child, the speech pathologists will ask you very specific questions about the sentence length and sentence structure of your child's sentences in that language. You may also be asked to write down sentences your child has said during the consultation and provide a word-for-word translation. Alternatively, an interpreter may need to be called into the session.

In most cases the speech pathologist will compare what you reported about your child's home language with what is known about the development of that language by children in your home country. If your child has similar developmental difficulties in both languages, it must be assumed that there is an underlying language disorder which may best be addressed with the help of a speech pathologist.

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For typically developing children, being bilingual does not slow the grammatical development down. Occasionally children may experiment with grammatical structures across languages. By and large this indicates children's active participation in the learning process. If  children get stuck with structures from their other language, parents can employ some very effective strategies to redirect their children. For more information on raising children bilingually click here.

More comprehensive information on raising children bilingually can be found in the [Consultancy] section.

In most cases grammatical interference is temporary and not cause for language therapy. For more information on bilingualism and language disorder, click here.

For special considerations of the treatment of bilingual children, click here.

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     Last updated: November 3rd 2007