I take back everything I said or believed in about toddlers and speech delays.

AS - posted on 08/15/2012 ( 2 moms have responded )




Because of both my children learned to talk "late", (talk = expressing ideas and wants, not first word or sentence) as teachers would say, I could not figure out why they were late talkers other than the fact that most of my family talked at around age 4. Most of my family is bilingual.

I didn't give much thought to when kids should start talking until the public school systemn assessed my younger child as having a speech delay.

I recently came to understand two very important terms: simultaneous dual language learner and sequential dual language learner. Children who learn 2 languages at the same time are simultaneous, and children who learn a second language after mastering a first is sequential. The development path dual language learners take will vary by age and by child. All dual language learners go through a Period of Silence that many teachers take as "speech delay".

Dual language learners starting to talk at age 4 is NORMAL. (Talk = ability to express ideas and needs in a conversation. NOT the first word or sentence.)

Bear in mind that the number of languages (some kids are learning 3 or more languages), the type of languages and the amount of exposure to each language all play as factors. There is no KNOWN way of figuring out when your toddler will start talking.

Head Start has also noted that the number of children who are dual language learners are increasing.


Massachusetts has defined policies towards dual langauge learners.


There is more research on how bilingual children acquire English. This article would apply to any child learning any second language, not just English.


There are research out there that say dual language learners should start to speak exactly when monolingual children start to speak. However, that group of dual language learners have EQUAL exposure to both languages: anywhere between 40% and 60% of either language. Take into account media, nannies, grandparents, day care, preschool, etc, and it becomes very difficult for a parent let alone a school to know if your child has equal exposure to both languages.

When a school assesses your dual language learner toddler as having a speech delay, ask the school how the child is being assessed.


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