The topics in this Multilingualism & Disorders series aim at clarifying the misconceptions that associate multilingualism with disorders.
Each topic offers a brief introduction to common questions, and includes one token reference, which either marks watershed findings or otherwise addresses points which are perhaps less known within research on multilingualism.
This condensed format is deliberate, meant to invite discussion, thoughts, and more queries. Only with your help, as engaged readers, can we make this series the useful tool that we hope it will become.
— Madalena Cruz-Ferreira
How can we know the difference between normal multilingual language development and when we should see a speech-language therapist?
There are so far no norms devised for multilingual development. Extant norms are based on monolingual development, that is, on typical development in different single languages. Since multilingualism means differential use of different languages, monolingual norms can only be of limited use in the diagnosis of speech-language disorders among multilinguals.
As parents, we can check for signs of language disorder in the same way that we check for other signs of disorder in our children.
We do this by comparing the child to itself. A child who is less lively than usual may be running a fever; a child who is using fewer words than usual or has settled down to use just a reduced number of words altogether may be having language problems.
A language disorder affects the whole of the child’s linguistic repertoire, whether the child speaks one language or more than one. For multilingual children, this means that language disorder will affect all of the child’s languages.
Having fewer words in one language rather than another, or preferring to use one language rather than another in specific situations or with specific people is typical of multilingualism and is therefore not a sign of linguistic disorder.
Specific reference for the above topic:
- Stow, C., & Dodd, B. (2003). Providing an equitable service to bilingual children in the UK: A review. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 38(4), 351-377.
Abstract URL: www.ingentaconnect.com/content/apl/tlcd/2003/00000038/00000004/art00002
Journal URL: www.ingentaconnect.com/content/apl/tlcd
General references relevant to core issues in the Multilingualism & Disorders series.
- Cruz-Ferreira, M. (2010). Multilinguals are …? Battlebridge Publications. Book URL: www.battlebridge.com
- Grosjean, F. (2010). Bilingual. Life and reality. Harvard University Press. Book URL: www.hup.harvard.edu
- Cruz-Ferreira, M. (Ed.). (2010). Multilingual norms. Peter Lang.
Book URL: www.peterlang.com
- Genesee, F., Paradis, J., & Crago, M. (2004). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning. Brookes Publishing.
Book URL: www.brookespublishing.com
- Grosjean, F. (2008). Studying bilinguals. Oxford University Press.
Book URL: ukcatalogue.oup.com