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How do delays affect your bilingual home education?


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#1 deanna1ynne

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Posted 25 January 2017 - 07:51 PM

I have a toddler with significant delays (particularly in speech - though we're still in the evaluation process, so are not completely clear on exactly what's going on). It's already been suggested to me that we quit speaking German with her so that her English can develop. I feel like it's codswallop, since I have three other kids who learned both (and one other had delays early too, though not speech delays). But part of me wonders (or fears?) that there's something to the suggestion and maybe I'm holding my kid back by continuing to expose her to both languages. They already tried to write off her speech delays by saying that it's because we speak German at home, and all I could think of was all the research showing that's not actually true (and that my mama instinct says that this is my fourth child who I've spoken German with, and there's something more going on than just that we speak German with her).


Honestly, now that my three older kids talk to each other in English all the time, they don't get near as much German as I'd *like* anyway and the idea of giving it up completely is super discouraging. My oldest *just* started reading in German, and it was such an exciting moment for both him and me.


Does anyone have experience to weigh in on this?

#2 Arcadia

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Posted 25 January 2017 - 08:34 PM

Can she understand but can't speak well or won't speak? My oldest boy and my youngest niece do not like to talk. They understood two languages though but my niece was considered "non-verbal" until after 18 months old when she decided to be chatty. So going monolingual won't have any effect on those two. When their pediatricians were complaining, they gave their pediatricians the look. When I told my niece (then toddler) off for fun, she gave me the stink eye.

My brother however have pronunciation issues that was better after braces. His English still sounds much worse than Chinese despite being in a bilingual education system since he was three. In his case, my parents had to pay lots of money for English speech lessons since it wasn't bad enough for speech therapy after he had braces. His listening comprehension is not an issue.

What we had to do for my brother was hours of speech practice daily. Which means that after school and school holidays speech practice was all for English since all his core academic subjects were in English.

I don't think you need to stop German. However she might need a lot more hours to master either English or German. My kids pronunciation for German is actually better than for English.

I would wait on the full evaluation on the root cause for her speech delay before going monolingual with her.

#3 deanna1ynne

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Posted 25 January 2017 - 09:20 PM

 

Can she understand but can't speak well or won't speak? My oldest boy and my youngest niece do not like to talk. They understood two languages though but my niece was considered "non-verbal" until after 18 months old when she decided to be chatty. So going monolingual won't have any effect on those two. When their pediatricians were complaining, they gave their pediatricians the look. When I told my niece (then toddler) off for fun, she gave me the stink eye.


She's 20 months and doesn't say anything, and doesn't respond to much of what we say either. It's improved a bit just in the last 6 weeks, but her receptive language is still very poor, and she doesn't even respond to her name a third of the time. On the plus side, we started supplementing with signs at Christmas time, and she's picked up on those extremely quickly! :)

#4 Arcadia

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Posted 25 January 2017 - 10:07 PM

Has her ears been checked? My oldest had a kindergarten classmate which had ear tubes inserted in K because of frequent middle ear infection and fluid. Her response to signing makes me guess ear wax or fluid causing her to not really hear well. My husband and DS12 can't hear when their ears have ear wax, luckily only one ear is clogged at a time so they could still hear with the less clogged ear and walk home safely. I had to shine a flashlight into my husband's ear once because the ear wax was so in, he got the ear wax flush out at urgent care because it was too in for me to risk doing it for him.
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#5 deanna1ynne

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Posted 26 January 2017 - 07:47 AM

Has her ears been checked? My oldest had a kindergarten classmate which had ear tubes inserted in K because of frequent middle ear infection and fluid. Her response to signing makes me guess ear wax or fluid causing her to not really hear well. My husband and DS12 can't hear when their ears have ear wax, luckily only one ear is clogged at a time so they could still hear with the less clogged ear and walk home safely. I had to shine a flashlight into my husband's ear once because the ear wax was so in, he got the ear wax flush out at urgent care because it was too in for me to risk doing it for him.



Yes, I'm sorry I didn't mention that. That was the first thing we did when we started to have concerns about 6 months ago. Her hearing is totally normal.

#6 luuknam

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Posted 26 January 2017 - 09:05 PM

She's 20 months and doesn't say anything, and doesn't respond to much of what we say either. It's improved a bit just in the last 6 weeks, but her receptive language is still very poor, and she doesn't even respond to her name a third of the time. On the plus side, we started supplementing with signs at Christmas time, and she's picked up on those extremely quickly! :)

 

Not sure in that case. My oldest had issues with receptive and expressive language at that age, rarely made eye contact, rarely would look where we were pointing, wasn't good at pointing at stuff himself, etc (ended up with an autism label). But, he didn't get signs either (obviously, since he lacked the whole joint attention thing which is necessary for sign language to work).

 

In his case, we did drop Dutch and focused on English only, and, at 9.5yo, he *still* needs speech therapy (the school gives him 2 hours of that per week). We did eventually pick up Dutch again about a year ago, so at 8.75yo or so (actually, we tried at 7yo as well, but that was a little too early). I don't regret dropping Dutch for him at all. I regret not doing more Dutch with his younger brother at a younger age though.

 

How soon will your son get more evals to determine the causes of his speech delay?

 

ETA: one of the things that helped my son (I think) was to have the subtitles on on the TV (in the same language as the spoken text). Normal hearing tests test whether you can hear sounds at certain volumes and pitches. Kids can also have auditory processing problems, where the brain hears sounds but can't make them out right.


Edited by luuknam, 26 January 2017 - 09:07 PM.


#7 Dust

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Posted 26 January 2017 - 11:17 PM

Does she try to say things? Makes sounds and point, etc.? My DS was like that, didn't really make recognizable sounds in either language until after 24mo. Not sure when exactly. He didn't have other delays though. 

 

I'd trust my instincts that something might be wrong, but wouldn't give up the second language. 



#8 deanna1ynne

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Posted 27 January 2017 - 08:09 AM

Thanks, all. We are meeting with someone next week to talk about her more. She makes noises to imitate us half the time, but they basically always sound like "ahh." The other half of the time, she just stares at us. I was worried things were really bad, but then she responded overwhlemingly positively to signing and I feel a lot better about her situation (and that it's probably just a speech thing that will get rectified pretty quickly). But I think we'll get her evaluated anyway. I think I just wanted some input on how open I should be to the suggestion of quitting/taking a break from German. I think in *some* cases, it does seem like a reasonable thing to do. But I also think a lot of stuff is "blamed" on a second language that really shouldn't be, you know? So I wanted to get just a little perspective before our meeting so that I'm mentally prepared. :)

#9 Arcadia

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Posted 27 January 2017 - 11:14 AM

How big is the German speaking population where you are? I think evaluators sometimes go by the main caregiver's hours in a day divided by number of kids. If I reply that I talk to my kids when they were toddlers for an hour a day, the pediatrician would be asking who else talks to them. When I say that the seniors in my complex would chat with all the toddlers in the morning and late afternoon for almost four hours per day, the pediatrician response is different. My DS12 just do not like to talk, preferring to observe and listen. The pediatricians thought we never bring him out of the house when he was toddler age so little interaction with other people. Strangers label him shy which to us and anyone who has taken care of him was funny, he is just picky about who he chats with.

I find pediatricians tend to swing to spending the bulk of the main caregiver's time on teaching the common language in your area. We have many Germans and Chinese here so the chance of my kid talking to someone in language other than English is high. The chance of us hiring a Chinese babysitter at that time was high so it was just as essential for my kids to understand Chinese even if they won't speak.

#10 SarahW

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 05:26 AM

Babypants recently got a diagnosis of Specific Language Impairment (which is what your dd sounds like to me, but I'm not a professional). SLI isn't well understood. There's a general sense that it's harder for people with it to learn a new language, but I think that's usually referring to taking high school FL classes or the like. Not being brought up bilingually.

 

The speech therapist here in NL is fine with Babypants being bilingual, not just because of the English factor (having native level English is highly respected) but because she doesn't see it making a real difference in Dutch acquisition if the parents speak a different language, words are words. Language is language.

 

Now, with SLI the difference is that I am having to invest a lot more time in Bp's language development. The therapist is using the program "It Takes Two to Talk" and it's not magic voodoo rocket science stuff. With Crazypants I never bothered much his language development, we talked, we read books sometimes, whatever, it all turned out fine. But with Babypants we have to be very intentional about using language with him, repeating words, making opportunities for him to use words, etc. I do it in English. DH does it with him in Dutch. Whatever, the point is to get him comfortable communicating verbally.

 

The speech therapist's goal is to bring his expressive Dutch vocabulary into "average" range by the time he turns 4. Since he has Dutch spoken in the home (Dad), goes to Dutch preschool 9 hrs a week, watches Dutch Nick Jr., and plays with his Dutch cousins regularly, she thinks that that's more than enough (plus her intervention) to meet that goal. The English interaction he has with me doesn't really make a dent in those things.

 

We're only a few weeks in, but it seems to be working. His Dutch lags behind his English, but they both bump up together. So, before he would use one Dutch words, or combine two English words, he's now combining two Dutch words and making three-word English sentences.

 

A few points:

 

1. How is your English? If it is still pretty accented, then speaking English to your dd would hinder her more than German, I think. The speech therapist has forbidden me from trying to speak Dutch to Babypants. Even if my Dutch gets better (it's still pretty awful) that's the #1 thing she tells immigrant families she sees "Do NOT speak to the child in bad Dutch." If the child has issues articulating sounds, hearing bad, or even just different, versions of the phonemes is horrible for their progress. 

 

2. Are you in America? American's understanding of bilingualism is codswallop, yes. But I think part of the issue may be in identifying "mother tongue." In Bp's case, it was clear. His mother (me) speaks English, he was born in an English speaking country, his speech delay also exhibits in English. The last part was crucial for identifying SLI and receiving services. Now, if your dd is almost completely non-verbal, it's hard to determine her "first" or "preferred" language, which makes it hard to determine if the issue is persistent. Now, if she's speaking NO English and NO German, despite generous exposure to both languages, then OF COURSE it's persistent. But I suspect that the people you talked to are stuck on the first thing, and want a clear mother tongue (literally) so they can determine persistence across language boundary.  

 

3. Supposing you are pretty good English, what language does your dd feel comfortable with receiving communication from you? Meaning, if she likes "Mommy's special words" and has positive connotations with them, having you switch to English could be upsetting. I have nursery songs and little phrases that I use with Babypants, and I can't imagine being asked to suddenly cut all those things off. She needs to be comfortable making attempts at verbal communication, and I don't think a language upheaval will do that.

 

4. If your instinct says it's not a bilingual problem, then it's probably not. If she is consistently not using words, making muddled noises when she tries to speak, or shows frustration at her inability to communicate, then it's a speech problem, not a language problem.

 

5. The sign language is a good sign! I wonder if you can use that to test her bilingual vocabulary? Like, if you make a sign and say the word in German, is she able to make the sign if someone asks her about the same thing in English? That could be something that shows the evaluator that the issue isn't a double-vocab problem.

 

6. In the evaluations and testing you have done so far, was it done twice, once for English and once for German? The initial evaluations for expressive and receptive vocab we did double (English and Dutch), for the tests the therapist only did them in Dutch (since she's going to retest again and use it as a part of a recommendation if he needs special services in school or additional therapy). 


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#11 deanna1ynne

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 06:42 AM

Babypants recently got a diagnosis of Specific Language Impairment (which is what your dd sounds like to me, but I'm not a professional). SLI isn't well understood. There's a general sense that it's harder for people with it to learn a new language, but I think that's usually referring to taking high school FL classes or the like. Not being brought up bilingually.
 
The speech therapist here in NL is fine with Babypants being bilingual, not just because of the English factor (having native level English is highly respected) but because she doesn't see it making a real difference in Dutch acquisition if the parents speak a different language, words are words. Language is language.
 
Now, with SLI the difference is that I am having to invest a lot more time in Bp's language development. The therapist is using the program "It Takes Two to Talk" and it's not magic voodoo rocket science stuff. With Crazypants I never bothered much his language development, we talked, we read books sometimes, whatever, it all turned out fine. But with Babypants we have to be very intentional about using language with him, repeating words, making opportunities for him to use words, etc. I do it in English. DH does it with him in Dutch. Whatever, the point is to get him comfortable communicating verbally.
 
The speech therapist's goal is to bring his expressive Dutch vocabulary into "average" range by the time he turns 4. Since he has Dutch spoken in the home (Dad), goes to Dutch preschool 9 hrs a week, watches Dutch Nick Jr., and plays with his Dutch cousins regularly, she thinks that that's more than enough (plus her intervention) to meet that goal. The English interaction he has with me doesn't really make a dent in those things.
 
We're only a few weeks in, but it seems to be working. His Dutch lags behind his English, but they both bump up together. So, before he would use one Dutch words, or combine two English words, he's now combining two Dutch words and making three-word English sentences.
 
A few points:
 
1. How is your English? If it is still pretty accented, then speaking English to your dd would hinder her more than German, I think. The speech therapist has forbidden me from trying to speak Dutch to Babypants. Even if my Dutch gets better (it's still pretty awful) that's the #1 thing she tells immigrant families she sees "Do NOT speak to the child in bad Dutch." If the child has issues articulating sounds, hearing bad, or even just different, versions of the phonemes is horrible for their progress. 
 
2. Are you in America? American's understanding of bilingualism is codswallop, yes. But I think part of the issue may be in identifying "mother tongue." In Bp's case, it was clear. His mother (me) speaks English, he was born in an English speaking country, his speech delay also exhibits in English. The last part was crucial for identifying SLI and receiving services. Now, if your dd is almost completely non-verbal, it's hard to determine her "first" or "preferred" language, which makes it hard to determine if the issue is persistent. Now, if she's speaking NO English and NO German, despite generous exposure to both languages, then OF COURSE it's persistent. But I suspect that the people you talked to are stuck on the first thing, and want a clear mother tongue (literally) so they can determine persistence across language boundary.  
 
3. Supposing you are pretty good English, what language does your dd feel comfortable with receiving communication from you? Meaning, if she likes "Mommy's special words" and has positive connotations with them, having you switch to English could be upsetting. I have nursery songs and little phrases that I use with Babypants, and I can't imagine being asked to suddenly cut all those things off. She needs to be comfortable making attempts at verbal communication, and I don't think a language upheaval will do that.
 
4. If your instinct says it's not a bilingual problem, then it's probably not. If she is consistently not using words, making muddled noises when she tries to speak, or shows frustration at her inability to communicate, then it's a speech problem, not a language problem.
 
5. The sign language is a good sign! I wonder if you can use that to test her bilingual vocabulary? Like, if you make a sign and say the word in German, is she able to make the sign if someone asks her about the same thing in English? That could be something that shows the evaluator that the issue isn't a double-vocab problem.
 
6. In the evaluations and testing you have done so far, was it done twice, once for English and once for German? The initial evaluations for expressive and receptive vocab we did double (English and Dutch), for the tests the therapist only did them in Dutch (since she's going to retest again and use it as a part of a recommendation if he needs special services in school or additional therapy). 


Wow! That's so much good stuff to think about!! We live in the US in a totally non-German speaking place. I grew up completely bilingual (German-English) but spoke primarily English after age 15 and so my German is definitely weaker than my English. My accent is fine, my grammar is good but not perfect, but to compensate, we listen to lots of audiobooks and audiodocumentaries and I study a lot to improve the little mistakes I make. I speak roughly 70% German to the kids when dh is not home (occasionally I lapse into English just because my older three are all speaking English) and we speak English when my husband is home since he knows no German. So my kids are used to getting a mix from me, and comfortable with that, I believe.

The evaluation we had done so far was English only. I doubt I could find someone to do a German evaluation.

I'm going to go think more about these other points you made, because they're so good. Thank you so much!

#12 SarahW

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 07:56 AM

Wow! That's so much good stuff to think about!! We live in the US in a totally non-German speaking place. I grew up completely bilingual (German-English) but spoke primarily English after age 15 and so my German is definitely weaker than my English. My accent is fine, my grammar is good but not perfect, but to compensate, we listen to lots of audiobooks and audiodocumentaries and I study a lot to improve the little mistakes I make. I speak roughly 70% German to the kids when dh is not home (occasionally I lapse into English just because my older three are all speaking English) and we speak English when my husband is home since he knows no German. So my kids are used to getting a mix from me, and comfortable with that, I believe.

The evaluation we had done so far was English only. I doubt I could find someone to do a German evaluation.

I'm going to go think more about these other points you made, because they're so good. Thank you so much!

 

Oh, by evaluation I meant the initial checklist of receptive and expressive language. Have they had you do that? It just some pages with words, one set for words she understands, one set for words she uses. The therapist just gave us two copies of both sets, with "English" written across one of each. So, he doesn't say "hond" but he does say "dog" so we left "hond" unmarked on the Dutch page, and marked it on the English page. We thought he did understand that the word hond meant a dog, so we marked that on the Dutch page for receptive vocab.

 

According to most professionals, both lists together form the total vocab of the bilingual child (trilingual children would need three sets, etc.). If the total (of all languages together) fall below the age norm, then there's a problem. So I was just wondering if a therapist has calculated her receptive and expressive language in both English and German. The therapist doesn't need to know any German for that, just give you another set of the forms.

 

Actually, while we're talking about it, sign language is another set of vocabulary. All the signs she understands, and the signs she uses, are also indicators of receptive and expressive language. This is obviously separate from her verbal expression issue, yet it is worth pointing out that she communicates only in a THIRD language. Her issue with speaking English and German does not persist to sign language. Which is good! So no, I don't think it's a language problem per se. 


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#13 deanna1ynne

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 08:28 AM

 

Oh, by evaluation I meant the initial checklist of receptive and expressive language. Have they had you do that? It just some pages with words, one set for words she understands, one set for words she uses. The therapist just gave us two copies of both sets, with "English" written across one of each. So, he doesn't say "hond" but he does say "dog" so we left "hond" unmarked on the Dutch page, and marked it on the English page. We thought he did understand that the word hond meant a dog, so we marked that on the Dutch page for receptive vocab.
 
According to most professionals, both lists together form the total vocab of the bilingual child (trilingual children would need three sets, etc.). If the total (of all languages together) fall below the age norm, then there's a problem. So I was just wondering if a therapist has calculated her receptive and expressive language in both English and German. The therapist doesn't need to know any German for that, just give you another set of the forms.
 
Actually, while we're talking about it, sign language is another set of vocabulary. All the signs she understands, and the signs she uses, are also indicators of receptive and expressive language. This is obviously separate from her verbal expression issue, yet it is worth pointing out that she communicates only in a THIRD language. Her issue with speaking English and German does not persist to sign language. Which is good! So no, I don't think it's a language problem per se. 



Hmmmm. We didn't get a checklist. I think maybe we only did an initial screening? They did ask what she says and we gave them four different lists of things she says unprompted, signs unprompted, repeats verbally with prompting, and repeats in sign with prompting (she'll repeat a few things that she never says/does on her own initiative, like signing for cheese). Short lists, granted, but we kept them separate in anticipation of being asked what she can say. We didn't distinguish between German and English for this part, and we didn't do any test of receptive skills other than to ask her to point to a few things in a picture book.

#14 SarahW

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 12:55 PM

Yes, that sounds like an initial screening. I hope you got more help than just the advice to drop German. Maybe the upcoming appointment will be more helpful?

 

The checklist just had items around the house, things in the yard, animals, tv characters, and those sorts of things. Also a few verbs and abstract nouns, I think.

 

I would go ahead and start documenting any receptive and expressive language ability she has in German. Even if your current therapist is a dullard who doesn't care about it, maybe some day you'll get an enlightened person who will want to see how she progresses in German. But, usually these therapist's main goal is to prep kids to be mainstreamed into public school, hopefully as a regular student, but perhaps with a light IEP. So you should be prepared to get a "I only care about English" attitude.

 

I had a thread on the LC board a few weeks ago when we first started speech therapy. I should go back and update it now that I have some test results. There's some good points made there by others. Some I think I've already repeated here (lol, I learn a lot from these forums!). But no anti-bilingualism around there, either.


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#15 deanna1ynne

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Posted 28 January 2017 - 03:31 PM


I had a thread on the LC board a few weeks ago when we first started speech therapy. I should go back and update it now that I have some test results. There's some good points made there by others. Some I think I've already repeated here (lol, I learn a lot from these forums!). But no anti-bilingualism around there, either.


I'd love to read that! I wasn't really sure where this thread belonged (here or in LC board). :)

#16 deanna1ynne

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 10:24 AM

Well they said that at this point, she's not delayed enough to do anything except encourage her to speak more and wait and see how things are in 4-6 months. They gave her a test (DAYC-2?) that covered communication, but wasn't language specific, and said she scored just fine on it. They wanted everything between 85-115 and she scored between 85-93 in all areas, so she "passed" for now (but it makes sense to me why I've been concerned, since she scored low in all areas, with her lowest scores being right at that 85 cusp in language). So I guess we'll see what happens and perhaps reevaluate in six months or a year. They did say that, while her delays right now aren't "too" far behind, they definitely wouldn't want to see those gaps increase.

#17 YsgolYGair

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 01:32 PM

I can only relate what happened with our oldest.

 

He was fully 2 years old, and not yet speaking at all. He was completely in his own world, and did not respond with pointing or anything. He never told me when he wanted anything, and he started banging his head on the floor. Obviously, this was very alarming, so we started him in speech therapy. Around 2.5 he began saying "mama" and such. We spoke to him predominately in Welsh, but with some English. At 3yo years old, he spoke Welsh and learned to read Welsh, and as a side note, put his first 300 piece puzzle together. I think it took less than 48 hours. At 4yo, he spent two weeks in the US and came back speaking well in English, he began learning to read English that year, and he put his first 1000 piece puzzle together. At 6yo, he spent 9 months in France, and came back speaking French to a fair degree of fluency; he also learned to read French that year. He also learned to solve the Rubik's cube in under a minute. Now at 7, he speaks all three languages well, reads all three well, writes to his age level in Welsh and French, and is beginning to write in French. He's currently putting together a model of a V8 engine, and has completed numerous puzzles of 500-1000 pieces, usually in a pretty short time frame - even by adult standards.

 

I have given these particulars to show that a child who is late speaking is no indication of anything wrong with the child, and based on the experience I have with one child, can be an indication of giftedness. But for the child's sake, speech therapy can make a world of difference!

 

As far as stopping German, based on my limited experience, again, I think that's ridiculous! If I did feel it was necessary to stop speaking one language, I would stop speaking English, as the culture will teach that for you.


Edited by YsgolYGair, 30 January 2017 - 01:34 PM.