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
My child’s speech-language therapist is telling me that I should switch to just one language. What are some questions I can ask to find out why this is being recommended?
Ask your therapist for references to scientific studies which support this recommendation by providing evidence that a) multilingualism affects language disorders or other disorders; and b) language disorders or other disorders do not affect monolinguals, or affect them less than multilinguals. There are no such studies.
A scientific study is based on a fair sample of data. Fair samples which are used for the purposes of comparison control all the variables that are irrelevant to the comparison in question. For example, if we want to find out whether boys and girls prefer specific colours, we make all other variables except the child’s sex the same. We choose boys and girls of the same age, socio-economic background, number and order of siblings, level of education, and so on.
If we want to find out whether switching to monolingualism with a multilingual child helps that child fight a language disorder, we look for studies where a fair sample of disordered multilingual children improved their condition or recovered from it through the use of a single language.
The reason why there are no such studies is that there cannot be such studies. We cannot compare disordered multilingualism with healthy monolingualism in the same child because language disorder, or any other disorder, has no relation whatsoever to the number of languages in a child’s repertoire.
If a multilingual child does have a disorder, switching to monolingualism will simply create a monolingual child with a disorder. It will not address the disorder itself.
Specific reference for the above topic:
- Kohnert, K. J. (2007). Supporting two languages in bilingual children with primary developmental language disorders. In Language disorders in bilingual children and adults. Plural Publishing.
Article URL: www.speechpathology.com/articles/pf_article_detail.asp?article_id=324
Book URL: www.pluralpublishing.com/publication_ldibcaa.htm
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