As a bilingual speech-language pathologist, I frequently meet bilingual families who are advised to speak only English in their households due to the dangers of bilingualism. This advice comes from doctors, teachers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and other related professionals. While these professionals are well-meaning in their advice, the advice is not backed by research. Sadly, because of this poor advice, many families abandon their home language, which causes children to lose a portion of themselves, their language, and their culture. The purpose of this blog post is to debunk myths about bilingualism that are perpetuated day after day.
Although these myths couldn’t be further from the truth, they continue to be spread like wildfire. Why they continue to be spread is unclear, but it bears repeating that these myths are not in any way true or supported by evidence. So, you may be wondering, what is the truth? What does the research say about bilingualism?
The key takeaways here are that:
1. Families should be encouraged to use their native language at home because it is advantageous to their children’s speech and language development, as well as their cultural and linguistic identity.
2. Learning more than one language does not cause confusion or delays. With this in mind, the next time you meet a bilingual family in your professional or personal life, make sure that you are educating them on the benefits of bilingualism rather than continuing to perpetuate myths that have been unfounded for decades. I promise you that those families and their children will benefit from your sound advice.
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Bosch L, & Sebastian-Galles N. (2001). Evidence of early language discrimination abilities in infants from bilingual environments. Infancy, 2, 29–49.
Genesee, F., Paradis, J., & Crago, M. B. (2004). Dual language development and disorders: A handbook on bilingualism and second language learning. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Hoff, E., & Core, C. (2015). What clinicians need to know about bilingual development. Seminars in Speech and Language, 36(2), 89–99.
Kremer-Sadlik, T. (2005). To be or not to be bilingual: Autistic children from multilingual families. Paper presented at the 2003 at the ISB4: Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism. Retrieved from www.cascadilla.com/isb4.html
Perozzi, J. A., & Sanchez, M. C. (1992). The effect of instruction in L1 on receptive acquisition of L2 for bilingual children with language delay. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 23(4), 348–352.
Courtney Caruso, M.S., CCC-SLP is a bilingual (English/Spanish) speech-language pathologist and the owner and founder of Liberty Speech Associates LLC, a speech therapy practice located in Hackettstown, NJ. She is also the co-author of the book From Meals to Milestones: 35 Delicious Dishes to Encourage Child Development. For more information about Courtney, visit her website at www.libertyspeechassociates.com.