Late Talker
Bilingual Kids

My energetic, late talker, bilingual three year old is now a little chatterbox. He impresses me everyday with his vocabulary and grammar skills.. When he turned 2 1/2 years old, his language skills exploded. He quickly increased his vocabulary and started putting 2 words together. However, even though he understands it, he wasn't saying much of anything in Spanish. 

Bilingualism Bad For Late Talkers?

I know I have said this over and over and over so why not one more time? Learning two languages does not cause a child to have a language delay. Speaking only one language does not "cure" a late talker either. 

When my son started talking, most of his language was in English. He understood Spanish but wasn't speaking it yet. As a speech therapist and a mom, this issue was new for me.  I had to really can I encourage more Spanish expressive language? I had my husband try different strategies and we found one that worked the best.

How To Encourage Bilingual Language Development

Quick Review: Again, as I have said a million times, you want language instruction for toddlers to be as natural as possible. This means, you don't want to "drill" vocabulary words or constantly quiz. You want kids to learn language as they play and live their fun, energetic lives! This was true for my bilingual son. 

When my husband speaks to my son in Spanish, my son tends to answer him in English. So how to solve this....

This is how we do is VERY SIMPLE! When my husband and son are playing, my husband speaks to him in Spanish. My son tends to answer him in English. My husband will acknowledge his English response (a.k.a, keep the interaction going) but repeats what my son said in Spanish and then keep playing. The goal is that my son will repeat the Spanish "translation" and in turn, improve his Spanish expressive vocabulary eventually, just speak in Spanish as they play. Low and worked!!!! 

This pressure free way is a win win! My son is now speaking Spanish and it was fun and easy to do. 

Quick Review

Quick Bilingual Tips for Late Talkers (or any bilingual children):

  • Speak to your child in your strongest language
  • If you child responds to you in another language, repeat the response in the desired language and move on
  • Wait a few seconds to see if your child will repeat the "translated phrase"
  • If your child uses the desired language, praise them for their language use!

What NOT to do!

These are some things to avoid:

  • Pressuring a child to speak in the non-dominant language
  • Not continuing play or a conversation until a child repeats a word in the desired language
  • Quiz the child
  • Ask too many questions

You want to make language learning fun. It is fun and exciting already for little ones. They are inherently very motivated if the context of learning is natural. If you make learning a second language stressful, they won't want to do it!

Quick Reminder!

It is important to remember that when you are raising a bilingual child, you should always speak to your child in your strongest language. When a parent has correct speech, vocabulary, and grammar, that child will learn language the fastest and strongest. Learning another language with a strong language base is the best plan. 

Need more information on late talkers?

If you need more information on late talkers, please check out our eBook!

Toddler Talk: Easily Encourage Your Toddler's Language Development With Our Tips & Techniques! (Child Language Development Book 1)

Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference.

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