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Hello multicultural friend,
We are a bi-cultural couple. I’m from South America and my wife is from the USA (Midwest). We live in the US so we speak English most of the time, but my wife speaks Spanish with almost no accent and we try to speak it, about 20% of the time. We just had our first son, and we have the “first time parent jitters”. My son just turn one year old and we are kind of worried because of his delay in the area of communication. Basically, we were looking at some child development charts, , and he is right on target on all areas (motor-skills, problem solving, mobility, social, etc) except on Language and Communication. He only says one word -“dada” -to either of us, where she should already say at least three… he doesn’t clap, he doesn’t wave bye-bye, and when ask to play peak-a-booh, he is clueless…. I guess I should mention that she is a Pediatriacian so we are overloaded with information and studies and stuff but it’s difficult not to think the worst. She thinks that he has a mild delay of about 2 months… I know that bilingual kids are slower to learn how to talk, but that early? I don’t want to stop our special spanish bonding time and all the spanish baby-talk and my wife singing Spanish nursery rhymes… and we are lucky that our Pediatrician support us in our efforts since she also comes from a bilingual family and is raising bilingual kids (vietnamesse-american), but how much should we worry? Any experiences would be useful. Looking for symphaty in KC, Miguel
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Hello, Miguel. I was born in the United States but raised strictly bilingual (no English allowed in the home) and am currently in the tumultuous throes of raising my daughter (4.5 years old), also so far successful bilingual (English w/ father, Latvian w/ me, and Chinese immersion preschool). Language acquisition rate and production, I’ve found, is so varying. My daughter had no speech delay. My cousin’s children, however, (raising children also in Latvian in America) in a home where both parents speak only Latvian to the kids, had severe language delay. So far, two of the four are speaking, the other two being still in diapers. A peculiar thing… neither older sibling really spoke, at all, until suddenly at age three began their verbal expression! I don’t remember their being concerned (but I’m sure they were), but I do know that when those children began speaking at AGE 3 it was in sentences, not words, as if they were learning and absorbing, but only choosing to speak when able to express themselves more complexly. I believe that this is not terribly uncommon, and I am suggesting that there isn’t really a “standard” behavior with language acquisition by which to judge, and I am not convinced that monolingual/bilingual/trilingual plays really any or much of a role in this. I could be wrong, however, in my own experiences and those of people around me, I have found it is more really something out of our control. My partner’s sister has a child with a rare but serious disorder and she is not capable of speaking, outside of creating just sounds. She is already a preteen and her family is strictly monolingual. When she was about a year old, the concern for her began, but it was based more on other physical and psychological characteristics rather than her inability to produce cognizant and recognizable sounds. Finally, I recently worked in a classroom with autistic children and one of the boys spoke Spanish at home, yet he attended the local, public school in America. I recognized his sounds as primarily Spanish (I don’t know the language) and was informed by one of his regular teachers that indeed it was. Although I didn’t hear him produce such English sounding sounds, he seemed to have no issues coming when called, following direction, doing his work, which was all instructed to him in English. As difficult as his life may be, I was very impressed by him. It sounds as if your son is on target in all other areas and so I suggest giving his language development some more time, and certainly don’t give up on the Spanish. Adios.