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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Subject: Does my 7 year old bilingual child need a speech therapist?
Question: I am English, my husband is Italian and we are raising our 3
children in Italy. My eldest boy, who is in the second year of
elementary school, is slow to respond to questions, often looking
as though he is searching for the right word and his sentences
start with a lot of 'um's'. His Italian teacher has advised me to
take him to see a speech therapist as he has a very high capacity
for work and she feels that his inability to express himself is
holding him back. His first language is English and he only really
started to speak Italian properly 2 years ago, even though he
started nursery here at the age of 3. I would like to know if this
is a normal phase for a bilingual child. Thank you.

Reply: I agree with Madalena.

You need to establish whether he is hesitant because

(a) he hasn't yet got quite enough Italian, in which case the best help might be using more Italian and perhaps some extra tuition, or having more Italian-speaking friends;
OR
(b) whether he has a speech language problem, in which case he needs therapy.

What was his language development(in English) like? What is his English like now? If bilingual children have a speech-language problem, they will show it in all their languages.

It is a normal phase for a child who is being educated in a language other than their native one to be behind their native-speaking peers for a couple of years. They just need to learn more of the new language. Speech language therapy would not be the solution here. Mostly, time is what is needed.

However, usually a child who goes to kindergarten at 3 and has to learn a new language will catch up with the other children within a year or so. 3 year olds, of course, don't speak any language 'properly', as they are still learning, but I wouldn't expect a child who had been in kindergarten since the age of 3 to have different language skills from the other children at 5, 6 and 7.

Is he happy at school? Does he have friends? I do think you need to look into why the teacher thinks his Italian is not good enough to cope, but you might do some further thinking about his acquisition of English, his level of contentment, and his friendship patterns as well as following up the teacher's suggestion.

Anthea
Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
 
Date: 28-Apr-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Does my 7 year old bilingual child need a speech therapist?    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (25-Apr-2013)

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