This means the ability to speak, read and communicate in more than one language. Not all these skills have to be excellent in order to be called bi-lingual. Being bi-lingual is considered an advantage as such children tend to have good listening skills and this is helpful to all aspects of communication and learning.

There are many reasons why a child learns a second language. Examples are:

  • There may be more than one language spoken at home e.g. a French mother and an English father.
  • Parents may move to live in a different country and therefore the child is exposed to their mother tongue and the language of the new country.

Children living in bi-lingual situations can develop speech, language and communication difficulties just like any other child and this is not related to the fact that they are exposed to or use more than one language. This is why if there are any concerns regarding the speech, language and communication development of a bi-lingual child, then both languages (and all languages) should be assessed.

A speech and language therapist may need the help of an interpreter or a community co-worker in order to assess a child’s difficulties in all languages.

A speech and language therapist will be aware of culturally appropriate toys and materials as well as any available culturally appropriate assessments. However, a full in depth speech and language assessment may not be possible as many tests and assessments are only available in English. In such cases the therapist will use knowledge and experience to establish strengths and weaknesses and give advice and treatment accordingly.

The therapist will:

  • Assess speech, language and communication difficulties in all languages.
  • Advise on therapy and play activities to help develop communication skills.
  • Advise on the use of different languages at home
  • Liaise with nursery and school staff in order to promote good language skills in the school setting.

Last updated: January 29th, 2018