Parents
& Carers

Bilingual Children

Do bilingual children start to speak later than children speaking one language?

Not usually.  The evidence shows that all children start to speak around the same time and that young children learn two languages as naturally as learning one.

Will learning two or more languages cause my child to have language difficulties?

No- being bilingual does not cause language difficulties.  However, if your child is having difficulties learning to use their home language, then they will also have difficulties learning and using English.

Should we stop speaking our home language and switch to just English to help our child?

No- it is important that you carry on using your home language with your child for many reasons:

  • You will be more confident and relaxed using your home language and so your child will be exposed to good language models
  • Your child needs to keep developing their home language skills to give them a strong foundation for learning other languages.  This will then help them to go on and develop their skills in understanding and using English
  • Your child may lose their home language and then be unable to communicate with family and community

My bilingual child mixes up the two languages- are they confused?

When children are learning two or more languages they often switch between languages- this is called code-switching.  This is typical in bilingual children.

Children will use words that they know rather than not say anything at all. For instance, if a child knows the word for 'ice cream' in one language and not the other they will use the word in the language they know rather than not ask for ice cream at all.

How can I tell if my child has language difficulties?

If your child has language difficulties they will be finding it difficult to understand and/or speak in their home language.  They may find it harder to understand instructions and/or may not speak as much as other children the same age.

How long will it take my child to learn English?

This will vary from child to child.  There is no exact answer but recent research suggests that it can take a child up to two years to learn enough English to get by socially and in the playground.  It can take five to seven years to develop their skills to GCSE level.

My child only wants to speak English at home- what should we do about this?

Children quickly find out that English is the most powerful language in our society and they often pick up the message that other languages are less valuable. Schools and family can help by emphasising the importance of the home language.

Parents need to keep speaking their first language, even if their child answers in English. Children will understand what has been said and continue learning the language. Parents can also tell stories and sing songs with their children or borrow books in their language from the library.  Visiting family back home gives children a strong motivation to communicate with extended family and friends.

Useful websites

Some useful websites for parents of children learning more than one language.

 

National literacy trust - understanding bilingualism

National literacy trust - Tips for developing language given in your home language

 

Local Initiatives

Early Years Initiatives

Our Early years team are currently working together with the Assosciation of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) to work to ensure the children in Salford have the best chance to be "school ready"

This includes a rollout of language screening of children at 18 months, 2 years and 3 years  using Wellcomm tool.

School Age Initiatives

This is an area currently under development. There are a number of exciting developments to look forward to in the upcoming months in regards to how we work in schools.

 

 Enhanced Services initiatives

 

The Enhanced Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) Service offer input across a range of Specialist and Mainstream Education settings in Salford and the surrounding area. We tailor a bespoke service for every setting based on specific requirements. This might involve universal input to all Nursery and Reception children, 1:1 and/or group interventions for children and young people in Key Stages 1-4 along with supporting schools to develop communication friendly environments and delivering bespoke training. We also work with other professionals and parents to support the development of communication skills in children. The SALT Enhanced Service is available in addition to the Core NHS Service at a cost. We work closely with schools to identify needs for that setting and measure outcomes of the interventions in place. For further information, please contact Fiona Taylor – fiona.taylor@srft.nhs.uk

 

I have found working with the speech therapist very beneficial. She helps me to set achievable goals for the children by coming into the nursery and interacting with the children and getting to know them. She talks to us on a regular basis and updates us on what targets she would like the children to achieve next. She teaches us new strategies to use with the children which we find really useful, we try to incorporate this into everyday activities. Parent’s often comment on how much they appreciate the advice from our therapist. They also comment on how much progress their children have made since visiting her. We don’t know what we would do without her!

Anneka Williamson, Children’s Centre Practitioner

“It brought different activities to his usual routine which he enjoyed and encouraged him to participate”

Parent

“I have two children who are supported by the speech and language therapy service. The therapists have lots of patience with my children. Both Christipher and Marcus have come on a lot. Marcus now has lots more confidence and he talks much more in the classroom. Christipher isn’t as stressed anymore, his therapist has taught me exactly what to do. If I need any help, she is very easy to approach. Before I try new things with Christipher I can check with her first. The therapist knows him very well. She has worked wonders with him. Without her, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

Nicola, Mum of Christipher and Marcus

"My son Lewis has been attending speech and language for a few years. He has come on briliantly and is more confident. His speech is so much clearer now. He also enjoys the sessions. Jean gives me loads of ideas about how to continue helping him at home. He gets work sheets to take home which also he enjoys doing. Lewis has a short attention span and can find it difficult to concentrate for long, but Jean makes it very interesting for Lewis and different every session."

Tracy, Lewis

"I am Megan’s mum. Megan was identified as having speech and language difficulties when she was at primary school. Since this time she has been supported by the Education Inclusion Service Speech and Language team. This has made a huge difference to the development of Megan’s speech and language. Not only do they support Meg, they also support the staff at the school in delivering the programmes that Megan needs. The team are also there to answer any questions that I may have and will send us regular information on Megan’s target’s, what they are and if she has achieved them. Megan enjoys the sessions that she attends at school and they are delivered at times that try not to impact too greatly on her daily school life."

Hayley Robinson, Megan

EPs and SALT frequently work together during Multi agency meetings to Clarify individual concerns and strengths. We develop joint objectives, that are regularly reviewed And evaluated to improve outcomes for children and YP. Parents and teachers comment that this work is effective and helps to increase their Understanding and knowledge. Jointly we increase schools capacity, through conversations and training, to meet the needs of their pupils.

Joanne Snee- Educational Psychologist

“I couldn't be happier Grayson has come on so much in these 6 weeks. It has helped 100%. Thank you so much”

Parent of Grayson