Late Talker
Bilingual Kids

My late talker, bilingual three-year-old is now a little chatterbox. He impresses me every day 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. Learning two languages does not cause a child to have a language delay. Therefore, 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 think how I could encourage more Spanish expressive language. I had my husband try different strategies, and we found one that worked the best. Read more below.

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 quiz. You want kids to learn language as they play and live their fun, energetic lives! This was true for my bilingual son too.

When my husband speaks to my son in Spanish, my son answers him in English. 

So how to solve this....

It is SIMPLE! When my husband and son are playing, my husband speaks to him in Spanish. My son answers 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.

Low and behold...it 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 child):

  • Speak to your child in your strongest language
  • If your 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 his/her language use!

What NOT to do!

These are 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 motivated if the context of learning is natural. If you make learning a second language stressful, they won’t want to do it!

Need more information on late talkers?

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

Just use the tips described in the book in your strongest language!

Bilingual Articulation Resources

Before I jump into the resources, let me clear up the difference between language and articulation.

  • Language: Language refers to content (vocabulary, grammar, etc…). Click here for more information on listening skills and expressing ideas.
  • Articulation: Articulation refers to speech sounds and how the mouth is able to make each sound of a language. Click here for more information on speech skills. 

If you think your child has trouble saying sounds correctly, we have resources for you!


› Late Talker Bilingual Kids



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. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series