From my research review of bilingual speech therapy, I realized we know a lot and yet we don’t know much at all!
We DO know that children who enter kindergarten who have delayed expressive language and emergent literacy skills are at risk for academic difficulties especially ELL students!
1. Therapy In Primary Language
The best practice for bilingual speech therapy is to provide therapy in both the child’s strongest language usually the first language (L1) as well as the second language (L2).
That sounds great, let’s do it! Oh, wait...I don’t speak Urdu, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Polish, Tagalog, or the many other languages in the world.
2. Therapy In English and Bridge To Primary Language
Another option is to provide therapy in the therapist's primary language (English for me) and support the child’s first language (L1) with a bilingual home program as well as using vocabulary bridging techniques during therapy if possible. This is more feasible for me. I will continue with this bilingual speech therapy option.
There are MANY reasons to support a child's primary language.
To start, there are negative social and emotional implications if the primary language is lost. The children need to know their primary language in order to be part of their community/culture and build relationships with family members.
Also, a strong first language will help the development of the second language.
Not to mention, there are MANY benefits of knowing 2 languages. Read more about this here: benefits of being bilingual.
Shared reading is one of the best techniques for monolingual AND bilingual students. However, it is a must do for bilingual speech therapy.
Advantages of Shared Reading:
How To Do Shared Reading:
**Talk the students through your reasoning**
Vocabulary Bridging To Primary Language
This isn't really a separate technique but something to add to the shared reading activity.
Vocabulary bridging is providing rich expansions of a new vocabulary word in English and the child’s first language. Bilingual children need lots of exposure across varying contexts to associate all semantic features of words in one language to another language.
This is feasible for me to do with Spanish speaking students as I speak Spanish. More brainstorming needs to be done for my other bilingual students.
Another Caveat.....There is some research that says if a child has been speaking English for more than 2 years, vocabulary bridging isn't as necessary. It is not harmful by any means, just not as helpful!
Tips for Parents at Home
My son is a late talker and he is also bilingual. For a personal account of what has worked for us, please read more at Late Talker: Bilingual Tips