How To Handle A Toddler Speech Delay In Your Bilingual Child

Wondering how to handle a toddler speech delay when you're teaching your child two different languages at the same time? Check out our parenting tips!

So many more children these days are learning to speak two languages.  You might be wondering, if I’m dealing with a toddler speech delay, could the fact that I am teaching him two languages be the problem?  The answer is no.  You are actually doing your child a huge service by expanding his brain and language skills by introducing more than one language!  So how do you handle a toddler speech delay in your bilingual child?

 How To Handle A Toddler Speech Delay In Your Bilingual Child

Bilingualism is not the problem.  Many people think that if a toddler learning two languages is delayed in speech development, then the problem is that they are trying to learn more than one language and they are getting confused.  The truth is they would still have a speech delay if they were only trying to learn one language.  Bilingual children are not learning the same word in both languages at the same time.  What I mean is that when he learns the word for cat in English, he doesn’t simultaneously learn it in Spanish as well.  If you are the one in the kitchen cooking and teaching your child Spanish, he will be learning those words related to cooking and food in Spanish, before he learns them in English.  Unless of course you are also doing the same thing in English.

If you are concerned, you can talk to your child’s pediatrician.  He can make a recommendation for your child to see a speech therapist.  However just be patient.  Give your child a little more time to learn words.  It is easy for us as adults (who know the answers) to give the answers when we see our child struggling.  Do not do this.  Give your child time to respond and learn the words.

If you have other children, be sure to get them involved as well!  It can be easy for a child to not use words when we are always responding to their needs when they express them in their own way, without words.  We see children do this all the time when they want to be picked up.  They stand in front of us and raise their arms and make sounds to get our attention.  We know they want to be picked up, so we do.  Be sure to tell your child to use his words, in whichever language you choose, but remind him to use his words.  By responding to your child when they do not use words while they are learning them, you are hindering their use rather than encouraging it.  Encourage them to use that sweet little voice!


What have you done to help your child with a toddler speech delay?  Are you teaching more than one language in your home?  What has been your experience in doing this?  How have your children responded to learning more than one language?  Post your stories below!

18 thoughts on “How To Handle A Toddler Speech Delay In Your Bilingual Child”

  1. I went through a speech delay with my own toddler although she’s not bilingual and I spoke to her every single day. She got speech therapy and it really did help.

  2. My little man had a speech delay. We discovered that after big sister wasn’t around to talk for him he started to speak up more. We also took speech therapy for awhile to bring him up to speed

  3. Bilingualism is such a great gift to give your child! I’ve never personally dealt with a speech delay with my kids but know the importance of teaching them to use words instead of giving in to the grunts of a capable, vocal child.

  4. Robin Hutchinson-Looney

    The United States is the only country that I know of that primarily teaches children to speak only one language. In Europe, children learn to speak 4 and five languages. Also, I have noticed a prevalence of giving children what they want without making them use their words to ask for it. That being said, I don’t believe that a speech delay would be caused by learning multiple languages, but rather, by not forcing children to speak when one knows that they are able. Please do not misunderstand me, there are children who truly have speech delays and a doctor can diagnose the cause.

  5. My son is not bilingual. Although he loves to try to speak Spanish & German 🙂 BUT, he did have a speech delay and worked with our local infants & toddlers community resource. It all worked out in the end and now he talks my ear off. But I love it!

  6. I wish my children were bilingual. There is a Spanish immersion school in our area that teaches both Spanish and English. Wish I had started them learning earlier.

  7. The Early stages are the best times to teach a child a Language. Being Bilingual does not cause speech delays .. this can be due to a number of factors. If a child takes longer than age 2 to talk .. see a speech therapist. Great Post btw

  8. I think it’s wonderful to be able to speak two languages when a child is learning. My middle had a bit of a delay, but it turned out to be hearing related. Thankfully, it was found and he caught up in no time!

  9. My kids are not bilingual, I have tried to introduce them to Spanish, but since I am not bilingual it did not go much past learning to count to ten and say a few words we learned together on Dora the Explorer. However, I do know about speech delays. My oldest daughter went to speech therapy because of her delays and difficulty with certain sounds. And my youngest didn’t start talking until he was over three, he could, he just didn’t. Then when he did start talking, it was in full sentences.

  10. I grew up speaking two languages and so will my children. Having worked with children, it is a huge misconception that learning a second or third language will delay speech when, in fact, the benefits are huge. Thanks so much for sharing this artcle.

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