The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

Features of the development of children with bilingualism: what is worth knowing and something to forget

Elizaveta Lubleva

Doctor of Psychology


Bilingualism is a natural, constant human use of two languages. Children born in a family where parents belong to different cultures and speak different languages ​​are commonly called bilinguals. This group includes children who came to another country before 6 or were born in it. Hearing the speech of parents from birth, they begin to speak not in one language, but in two at once.

Фото: Depositphotos

The speech development of a bilingual child has its own characteristics. These kids on average start talking later. The situation is most described when one of the parents speaks one language and the other speaks the other. It is believed that early bilingualism, if the principle of “one language - one person” is observed, should emerge relatively well outwardly, which in practice is not always true. But this situation is not symmetrical either: since usually the mother is with the child more often than the father, the mother’s language is more likely to dominate. If the principle of “one person - one language” is not maintained in a family, then children cannot single out the principle of the use of words of both. Some bilingual children develop stuttering (in a very small percentage of cases, usually in combination with some other developmental factors).


The stock of words in each of the languages ​​is usually less than that of peers monolinguals, but the sum of dictionaries is greater than theirs (for 3-4 children of years). The concepts behind the concepts in each of the languages ​​are different. For example, the items used by the mother, have names in her language, and fathers - in papinu. Accordingly, with the doll presented by my mother's friend, it will be necessary to speak in my mother's language, and in the room where the father works, only in my father's time. Children get upset if established principles are violated.

With inadequate access to the studied language, some children do not assimilate individual grammatical phenomena. For example, if only one mother speaks one of the languages ​​with the child, then he will not be using verb endings or interjections typical of male speech for a long time. An only child growing up among adults who speak a language that does not coincide with the language of the environment will think that children do not speak his language :-). It happens that the child understands the speech addressed to him in one of the languages, but always answers to the other, often with children of immigrants.

Many bilingual children go through a stage in their development when the word of one language “clings” to the word of another language. An example of such a pair is from a child speaking French and English at the same time: car - auto, which means car in his language. In general, the child’s language mixing strategies may be different: either the end of another is joined to the roots of one language, then in normal grammar there is no correct pronunciation, the child chooses all words from both languages, where, say, stress falls on the second syllable or sounds less. Many errors are due to the structural features of the two languages, and the child cannot avoid them.

Other types of behavior are associated with the psychological characteristics of the development of a bilingual child. For example, a child stops responding to parents in one of the languages, although he understands the speech addressed to him. Or the child refuses to speak with strangers in one of the languages. Many children themselves advocate the separation of languages ​​and prohibit adults to mix languages ​​or speak each other's language. A child can identify with an adult of his own sex and speak, respectively, in the language of "men" or in the language of "women."

Sometimes a child decides to try speaking to all strangers in one of the languages; or chooses his interlocutors for some external signs (by hair color, clothing). These strategies usually act for a short period of time and change with age.

So, 3-4 children of years distinguish who speaks what language, are able to accentuate by ear the peculiarities of the speaker's pronunciation, distinguishing his speech. 4-5- summer bilingual know from experience, in what language how to organize the game, intuitively correctly choose what to say in what situation. Older preschool children ask questions that indicate the development of their metalinguistic abilities: they compare language phenomena, highlight the general and the particular, talk about who speaks what language. As a rule, they are also interested in what other languages ​​exist in the world, and they declare that they want to learn them.

The development of the second child’s speech in the family is influenced not only by the speech of adults, but also by the incompletely formed bilingualism of the elder sister or brother. The second child summarizes not only the linguistic phenomena that he hears in the speech of adults, but also the mistakes made by his sister or brother. If he wants to be like his older sister or brother, he will try to behave the same way they are, that is, to play the language that older children play with their peers.

And since it is usually the language of the environment, the younger children automatically receive more dominant (dominant in the environment) language than the older ones. But this situation can also change: becoming independent, the younger child chooses his own line of behavior, manifests his own character. He begins to understand that in his family bilingualism is the norm and takes as an example not individual manifestations of speech ability, but all of it as a whole.

In bilingual children, two languages ​​are sometimes at different stages of development. This happens, for example, if a child is stuck in his knowledge of one of the languages ​​at a lower level, when learning conditions change (transfer to another school, parents' divorce, moving to a different language environment).

The first crisis in mastering speech comes in 6 years or when going to school, when the authority of the teacher and the language of schooling begin to play a significant role, and speech gets written form.

The second crisis is in the 12-14 years, when there is an awareness of its independence, and the teenager decides what is more important for him at this moment in his life. And the third crisis - when entering into an independent adult life, when professional interests begin to determine language priorities. At each of these moments, the individual's inner attitude toward his bilingualism may change.

There is an opinion that a bilingual child must have speech development problems.

The kid already has to learn to talk, to understand his native language, and in this situation everything mixes up into one “mess”. However, speech development experts argue that there is no objective evidence that bilingualism is the cause of delayed speech development.
The child’s mastering of two languages ​​simultaneously occurs unconsciously. Therefore, it is very important that parents approach with attention the development of speech in children. To achieve the result it is necessary to devote a lot of time to the process, to build a certain tactic of behavior.

In the absence of problems of speech formation, bilingual children do an excellent job with the situation. However, if the child has any speech disorders, they should serve as a pretext for seeking expert advice. You should not "blame" everything on two languages.

Forming a child of two languages ​​at the same time is a complex process that requires certain conditions. Therefore, parents need enough attention and effort to ensure that the development of their children takes place in the age norm.

Фото: Depositphotos

Speech therapists recommend:

• Do not allow language mixing. Sometimes parents, freely communicating with each other in different languages, do not themselves notice how they go into conversation from one to another. The child must hear the right speech. In one sentence - only one language.
• “Secure” the tongue behind the carrier. In the case of a family, this means that the mother speaks the same language with the child and the father speaks the other. In this situation, children do not have problems with understanding (at an early age - intuitive), to whom in which language to speak. Another approach may involve communication in different languages ​​in different situations. For example, at home - on one, in the kindergarten (school) - on the other. It is important that parents themselves do not create confusion. Do not go with your child to a foreign language at home, be sure to continue to speak your native language.
• Create the right environment. In order for the language to become native, you need a full "immersion." Like a monolingual child, bilingual children need to devote time for fairy tales, songs, lullabies and children's games, but in two languages.
• Avoid pressure and stress. Bilingualism itself is not the cause of speech disorders, but it can be an aggravating factor in case of any problems. Speech negativity is caused by excessive expectations of parents and increased demands. Dealing with this may not be so easy.

The formation of the child’s speech is greatly influenced by Wednesday. For full-fledged development, it is necessary not only the perception of oral speech, but also the development of grammatical forms, the ability to read, write and correctly construct complex speech constructs.

For example, if in one language there is communication only with parents, and on the other - in a team (kindergarten, school, on the playground, with friends), then that balance will be outweighed, which will offer a more active development of speech.

Sometimes, in order to preserve a second language, parents have to put additional efforts - to engage in grammar, to take their child to special language courses and events.

Bilingual children do not confuse languages

Another horror story for parents - their child will speak in an incomprehensible language, mixing in a bunch of "horses and people." In fact, it all depends on the environment. That is why it is important that close people speak correctly, without confusing the child in this way.

Children act and understand within the same language culture. However, the use of a word in another language in a sentence is quite possible. This is due primarily to the desire of the child to be understood. It is ridiculous, substituting the word instead of the forgotten or unknown into everyday speech, he simply tries to convey his thought to the adult. Also asking a clarifying question. Understood or not.

This can be overcome only by expanding vocabulary and general luggage of linguistic knowledge.
So such a replacement is more common only at an early stage of speech development. Subsequently, such phrases will be pleasant memories along with the childish pranks of a child.


  • Bilingualism - the cause of mental retardation
    Sometimes parents deliberately set aside for their child the development of a second language for fear that it will become an unbearable burden for him. Let it be better to first learn the first.
    In fact, a small child from birth is surrounded by such an abundance of new information that he must master that the second language is by no means a noticeable complication of the situation. In addition, it is important to remember that nature itself has laid in the child the skill of mastering speech. Constant interaction with other languages ​​allows you to learn it naturally.
    Experts say that bilingual children have better developed abstract thinking, memory, and a more developed outlook. For young children, learning different languages ​​is the best exercise for the brain.
  • Bilingual children start talking later
    And this is quite a dangerous fallacy! It stands in the same row as the traditional "neighbor Vasya spoke in 5 and everything is in order," "he is a boy, and therefore he will speak later." Everything has its reasons.
    It is not necessary to deny that a bilingual child may need some time to get comfortable with two languages, so to say, “put everything on the shelves.” Mastering two language systems requires some mental work. Most often bilingual children begin to speak the first words at the same age as their peers monolinguals. But the formation of coherent speech may be slightly delayed. This is due to the need to accumulate "double" lexical luggage.
    However, if the child has other signs of delayed speech development, you should know that bilingualism has nothing to do with it. The sooner you ask for help from a speech therapist, the better!
  • Bilinguals do not need the help of specialists
    This misconception arises from the opinion that a child growing up in a bilingual family naturally absorbs the linguistic systems of both carriers. However, we have already said that for the successful development of speech it takes a lot of effort.
    The characteristic problems of bilingual children can be:

• Limited vocabulary.
• Simplify verbal constructions.
• Violations of the grammatical structure of the language.
• Incorrect sound response.

In addition to these typical violations, parents need to monitor the pace of development of the child - both verbal and mental.

Speech therapy classes will help your child cope with speech problems and prepare for a successful life in society. In addition, it is important to understand that only a specialist will be able to accurately determine whether a child really needs only extra time to “talk”, or there are real difficulties.

I can confirm all this with my experience. Therefore, dear mothers and fathers, do not be afraid, your baby will learn a foreign language much faster than you yourself. All changes in the child are cumulative in nature and are not manifest according to your desire. Soak time and you will be surprised at the result. Most importantly, keep your native language in your family, do not substitute it for you!

I wish you all good luck !!!

Your consultant in the world of psychology, Dr.Liza

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