Exposure to Multiple Languages When a Child Does NOT Present with a Language Delay

Exposure to Multiple Languages

Does growing up exposed to multiple languages negatively affect your child’s language development? 

One of the most common questions we receive, is whether being exposed to more than one language as a child negatively affects a child’s language development or not. Living in such a diverse city, it has become quite common for babies to grow up in families with two or more languages. For years there have been numerous myths and negative connotations surrounding this topic, but we would like to put those myths to rest!

The most common myths

  • Children being exposed to multiple languages might:
    • confuse babies
    • impede their speech and language development
    • negatively impact their overall communication skills
  • Speaking two languages may result in a speech disorder
  • Parents need to be fluent in a language in order for their child to grow up speaking that language.


The benefits of raising your child in an environment where more than one language is spoken

Contrary to popular belief, it is quite beneficial for children to grow up exposed to numerous languages. It has been found that children from multilingual environments become better communicators and are better at interpreting a speaker’s meaning. These children also tend to demonstrate greater working memory, reasoning, flexibility, and problem solving! 

Researchers findings

  • A study was conducted from the University of Chicago where Psychologists found that young children who hear more than one language spoken at home actually become better communicators.
  • Children from multilingual environments excel at interpreting a speaker’s meaning as opposed to children who are only exposed to their native tongue.
    • e. being exposed to both French and English vs only exposed to English in an English-speaking household
  • Hearing different languages helps to improve brain development!


What you can do to help expand your child’s dual-language skills

  • Listen to music in multiple languages – this helps children to learn and understand the words, especially if the songs are catchy and played numerous times
  • If you do not speak another language, but your parents or friends do, have them speak amongst each other in front of your child.
  • Surrounding your child with anyone who speaks a different language from your child’s native tongue would be beneficial, as the more they hear the better!
  • Read books in different languages, pointing to the photos while reading will also help the child make that connection.
  • Pointing to objects or animals in your surroundings and describing them in another language is a great interactive way to familiarize your child with a new language.
    • e. pointing to a bird and saying “bird”, “oiseau” or “uccello”!


Recommendations When a Child Presents with a Language Delay and is Exposed to Multiple Languages

 In this case consistency is key. Its important to present ‘person’ and ‘place’ consistency. For example, the child’s mother can speak to the child in one language consistently and the child’s father can speak to child in another language consistently. You can also use consistency of place by speaking in one language at home and another language outside of the home. ‘Place’ and  ‘person’ consistency helps children with a language delay learn both or multiple languages in an organized way.

At Speech Therapy Works we are happy to answer difficult questions and provide recommendations based on your unique needs. If you would like to see if your child presents with a language delay, kindly email info@speechtehrapyworks.ca for additional information. 

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