While Prof. Emeritus François Grosjean was working on his wonderful book Bilingual: Life and Reality, he asked me to send him a list of questions that I felt weighed the heaviest on the minds of parents raising multilingual children. It is my honor to present both my questions and Prof. Grosjean’s answers here at Multilingual Living over the course of the next few weeks.
This the tenth of the eleven Q & A which originally appeared in The Bilingual Family Newsletter, one of my favorite publications for families raising children in more than one language (in addition to our own Multilingual Living Magazine, of course)! After each of of Prof. Grosjean’s answers you will find a list of the specific chapters from Bilingual: Life and Reality in which he addresses each question.
What should parents do when their children have been diagnosed with a speech impediment and they are told that their bilingualism / multilingualism is the cause? Should they go against what the speech therapist / school therapist may say and continue speaking a native language at home?
Bilingualism researcher and speech therapist, Susanne Döpke, states clearly that bilingualism is not the cause of language delay and language disorders. She insists that discontinuing the home language is not going to improve the bilingual child’s abilities in the majority (school) language; on the contrary, it may have other prejudicial consequences.
It is a widespread and erroneous idea, still conveyed by some professionals, that things will improve if parents revert to just one language. In fact, no change should take place in the language ecology of the family since retracting a language will not improve the disorder.
We also know that in children with specific language impairment (SLI), the deficit pattern in monolingual and bilingual children is the same.
Since there is no empirical support for what some professionals propose, that is to stop speaking one of the languages (usually the home language), parents who are bringing up their child bilingual should continue to do so.
This said, it is crucial that they adopt a well-established family strategy, that they be aware of the factors that will enhance bilingualism, and that they receive a lot of support from their family, friends as well as the professionals involved with their children, such as educators and language pathologists.
Relevant chapters in Bilingual: Life and Reality which address this question: chapter 14, 17 & 18.
Past Ask François Grosjean Q&A in the series:
- The first in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Are My Bilingual Children Getting Enough Exposure?
- The second in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What is the best method for helping children become bilingual?
- The third in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Can I Change From One Language Or Method To Another?
- The fourth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What Does Research Say About the Benefits of Multilingualism?
- The fifth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Is It OK for Parents to Raise Bilingual Children in a Non-Native Language?
- The sixth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What are the golden rules that bilingual families should follow?
- The seventh in the series is Ask François Grosjean: Is just a little bit of language exposure with a bilingual child worth it?
- The eighth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What About More Than Two Languages in a Multilingual Family?
- The ninth in the series is Ask François Grosjean: What Happens When Bilingual Children Start Going to School in the Community Language?