Many children around the world communicate in more than one language.
Children who are bilingual (use two languages) or multilingual (use two or more languages) learn to communicate at the same rate as children who only speak one language.
On this page:
- Should I speak to my child in more than one language?
- What can I do to help a child learn more than one language?
- Does learning more than one language affect speech and language development?
- Multilingual handouts
- More information
Should I speak to my child in more than one language?
Whether you speak more than one language to your child is up to you. Language forms an important part of culture and identity. There are benefits to learning more than one language, including:
- Forming relationships with other people who speak your home language, such as family members and people in your community
- Education and learning benefits such as attention, memory, and problem solving skills
- Career opportunities in later life
How can I help a child learn more than one language?
Children often learn additional languages more easily than adults. A second language can be learned at the same time (simultaneously) or after your preferred language (sequentially). You can help a child to learn more than one language by:
- Talking to your child often in the language you are most comfortable with
- Giving your child lots of chances to hear and talk in both languages through play, stories and books, and in your daily routines
- Having a plan of who talks to your child in each language. This will depend on what works best for your family. A “one person, one language” model is where one caregiver speaks only one language to your child, while the other speaks another
language. A “heritage language” model is where you speak your heritage language at home. Your child will hear and learn the second language (e.g., English) at school and in the community.
Does learning more than one language affect speech and language development?
Learning more than one language does not cause children to have communication difficulties. Some children have difficulty with their speech and language skills regardless of how many languages they speak. These difficulties will appear in both
(or all) of the languages they use. Contact a speech pathologist if you have concerns regarding your child’s communication development.
Information in other languages
Here are some handouts in different languages with information about visiting a speech pathologist and helping children learn about books and print.
Visiting a speech pathologist: what to expect?
Learning about books and print
- Farsi: فارسی
- Burmese: ဗမာ
- Swahili: Kiswahili
- Arabic: العربية
- Dari: داری
- Tamil: தமிழ்
- Nepali: नेपाली
Click on the links below to find out additional information regarding children learning more than one language.
- South Eastern Sydney Local Health District has a video on helping your child learn two languages
- Raising Children Network has tips and information on
raising bilingual children
- Professor Sharynne McLeod’s website has information on multilingual children’s speech
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has information about learning two languages
- Speech Pathology Australia – look under the “Resources for the Public – Factsheets” section and download “Raising Bilingual Children”