'Arabic / FYI / Kidz / Uncategorized

Q/A: Bilingual Toddlers & Delayed Speech

kidsHere’s some positive advice from parents of bilingual toddlers.


Source: The Baby Center

qa1My 2yr old is not talking yet? Is it because we speak two languages?


A: My daughter, like many other people who have posted, is raised in a bilingual environment. My own education (MA in Applied Linguistics) has encouraged me to do so. All of the literature and research that I’ve read clearly indicates substantial advantages to early exposure to multiple languages. In terms of vocabulary, you will find that children frequently have smaller vocabularies in each language, but a larger total vocabulary as there may be words they know in one language but not the other. The onset of speech itself may be delayed if the child is having trouble telling the languages apart. What I mean is that its preferable to have each of the parents use only one of the languages to prevent confusion. As long as the doctor has not highlighted any medical conditions or there are no other developmental delays, your child may just be a late bloomer. Encourage as much communication as you can, but there’s no need to be overly concerned at this stage.


A: Oftentimes kids do talk a bit later when learning 2 languages. Great point to remember is that if they seem to be comprehending, that is more important than exactly what they’re expressing (or how many words, etc) right now. Are they having frustration? If not, they are probably just “soaking in” language all the time — and that takes work/energy! So, talking on top of all that energy is just too much sometimes. I also agree that narrating *everything* you do throughout the day (as well as playing) is the *best* way to build language skills. It’s also fun and bonding for your LO. Have fun!



Speech Pathologist


A: I do not believe the two languages are responsible for the delay in talking. I wouldn’t worry, but just ask your doctor about it. All children develop at different rates, and in my experience this seems to apply to children in multilingual households, as well. I assumed, when my husband and I decided to teach our son 2 languages, that it would take him longer to sort out the languages and he would end up speaking later than average. That is what I had heard. It wasn’t the case with him, though, so I think it just depends on the child. (In my son’s case, he started speaking in clearly understandable words at 15 months. And at now, at 2 years is speaking clearly understandable sentences in English with articles and prepositions, and very short phrases in French.) Again, just ask your doctor. He/she knows better and will tell you if there is cause for concern.


A: Don’t worry too much about it. Remember that understanding the words is equally important. Your toddler may understand a lot more than you think and he may not be ready to pronounce them yet. We’re in a trilingual household too and my 13 months old has about 80 words! and I am not kidding, he talks all the time and we communicate very well. Of course the pronunciation is not perfect. but for me, as long as I understand his word, it’s counted as a word. For example he says “mah mah” for “fromage = cheese” so he has kept one syllable from one of the languages he is talked to. Who cares, he can ask me for cheese and that is considered a word. So don’t underestimate every little sound they make. A lot of them are imitations of words, intonations. Talk to him as much as you can, listen to him. I tell my son about everything I do, every time I change his diaper I tell him what I am doing. I’ve done this since day one. I repeat the words he mispronounces. Just talk and talk.


A:  Speaking two languages is excellent for your little one. I wish my son were exposed to more than one language at this young age… this is THE best time to introduce languages to children. That said, is your child saying any words? My friend’s two-year old does not talk, but he does say a few words. He babbles a lot. It sounds like he’s speaking his very own language. Like everyone else says, I don’t think there is anything to worry about. Your LO is a sponge, right now. But as with anything, if you are concerned, ask your pediatrician. They know signs to look for concerning developmental delay, if there is a problem. Good for you, using both languages around your LO. I would suggest continuing to do so.

14 thoughts on “Q/A: Bilingual Toddlers & Delayed Speech

  1. As Salaamu alaykum

    all of my children are bilingual- Mashaállah. None of them have had delayed speech – Mashaállah. They are actually very verbal and as early as 2 yrs old knew who to speak to in what language.

  2. assalamu alaikum, my son will be 3 in may and is still not talking. he DOES have a very short vocabulary but not clear, he calls his brothers and sisters by nicknames, like my daughter he says meenah short for thameenah and dullah short for abdullah , he says ” i wanna eeee” for i want to eat. his been this way for more than a year now, but he understands 100%, theres nothing he don’t understand Allhumdulillah. I took him here in Kuwait for testing, they said Allhumdulillah he don’t have any medical problems preventing him to talk and they cant look at it as a problem until he is at least 3 years old and still not speaking. they said that two languages in the house dont have any impact on it, that thats not the problem at all he may just be late, then his father took him to american and got him checked again by americans and they said absolutely no medical problems but they said that the only thing they can think of is the billingual speaking in the house. but he is my fourth and none of them had this problem all of them speak two languages but everyone speaks english to him except for the maid who would take care of him while i was at work and his fathers wife speaks arabic not english, so i really dont know. i dont know what to do. its strange it almost seems like he knows how to talk but he’s refusing to talk. is this possible? i am a teacher in a school and i have witnessed students of mine who are older in grade 4 and up who are A students they can speak but they refuse to they will only whisper in your ear. im not sure if this is his case or not, but no one seems to have an answer now its going on 2 more months and he will be 3 subhanAllah. if anyoone knows anything let me know please
    jazakum Allahu kulli khair

  3. Salam alaikum. Can you provide me with any feedback on stammering and stuttering? Any cures or remedies from the Islamic perspective?

  4. Wa ‘alaikumus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh.

    ~ Yasmeen, may Allaah aide you! I really don’t know what to tell you, ‘afwaan. Maybe an experienced mom will post helpful tips for you bi idhnillaah.

    ~ Maa Shaa Allaah Tabaarakallaah @ Umm Adam.

    ~ Interesting article Elizabeth. Thank you very much for sharing.

    ~ Faisal, the only remedy that comes to mind from an Islaamic perspective is the du’aa of Moosaa (‘alaihis salaam), see web site.

    There are many sites dedicated to helping children with this. I’ll post some later on In Shaa Allaah. If you are in Jeddah, try talking to someone at Jish.

  5. Salamu alaikom sisters,

    Okht Yasmeena the challenges your currently dealing with is similar to challenges I have faced the last 3 yrs, the only difference is that my son is turning five soon and alhamdulillah he has started to speak more fluently. He still has trouble with his speech, lik consonant cluster problems, which is difficulty pronouncig cl/fl or br sounds. He’s improving tho slowly and his comprehension has progressed termendously. We are bilingual family as well and I will be the first to tell you tht your son’sspeech delays is NOT due to multiple languages in the home. We thought this, so we stopped talking him in his dad’s mother tongue. It didnt make a difference, he still progressed slowly, now I regret that decision because I see he is picking up arabic at school now.

    Also, it does get better Okhti, pray to Allaah much, mention him constantly in your supplications. I know how it feels to see your child throw himself to ground because he has realized Mommy doesnt understnd what he said, or cant read his verbal cues. I stopped attending functions, meeting up wth sisters because he would find it difficult to relate and got frustrated easily.

    Read, read as much about this topic on the internet as you can, not every child who has speech problem is autistic or developmentally delayed. I once thought my son had a touch of autism, I thought that because of his delayed speech however I knew judging from his creative nature and love of making things that he was intelligent and not retarded. So I checked his hearing, the test came back excellent. Then, I visited JISH ( the Jeddah institute for speech and hearing) they ruled out autism but said it might be other develpmental delays and lack of school. At the time I was homeschooling my oldest son. I was not satisfied so I waited until I got a chance to travel back to my hometown and seek out specialist for both speech and to check for autism. The waiting period took ages but walhamdulllah it was all worth it. They told me that autism and other developmental disorder are the least of my worries and that he seems fine but is delayed verbally. They told me he will grow out of it, and that we as family, need to communicate with him and make corrections slowly.

    Some children develop differently thn others and sometimes as mothers we tend to expect our children’s developmental growth to be similar with that of their siblings. If that is the case, I advice you try not to compare him with his bros/sis, it will only make you feel miserable. I have a toddler and seven yr old who are very verbal, so I constantly compare them, not fair. I really do wish to get in contact with you and discuss furthermore because I understand your pain and worries. May Allaah make it easy on your family and son, may He remove the knot from his tongue.

    Do you live in Jeddah? I’ll give you my email if you need to reach me…

    salamu alaikom

  6. Assalamu alaikum, jazaki Allahu khair for your response, subhanAllah 5 years old and still difficulties, that makes me not feel so bad , Allahu musta’an! May Allah make it easy on all of us ameen. The more I observe him the more I’m growing accustomed to the things that he says, he little sounds. He can’t make clear sounds. So he tries to say things and the funny thing his brothers and sisters understand him, they translate baby talk….lol mashaAllah. He talks as if he’s only a year and a half. So it seems that he is just very slow in speaking. He mumbles a lot like he’s talking to himself, he doesn’t seem slow at all,. not that I see, but his non Muslim grandmother (who doesn’t seem sane herself) said he looks slow. I do not see it at all. He seems perfectly normal other than he’s super shy around anyone other than his family, and he’s just not speaking clearly. I will inshaAllah look it up on the net. I have a friend whose daughter is autistic and he doesn’t seem that way at all. He’s not doing anything in patterns, or doing very strange things. He does freak out and fight a lot with his brothers and sisters but just over toys and things out of jealousy. Hopefully inshaAllah he will grow out of it. He’s picking up more but just slowly and not so clear Allhumdulillah
    jazaki Allahu khair masalama

  7. Wa salam wa rahmatulah

    Wow, that sounds just like my son back couple year ago, stages in his speech development that he’s gone through.

    It was only my oldest son and I who could make a sense of the things he was saying. His father, on the other hand, had no clue and relied on us to translate for him.

    In addition, I remember that he mumbled a lot too, talked to his toys in his own special language… It use to bother me tho a lot because I considered it strange that a child approaching the age of 4 still used baby language. Well this gets to show you that Allaah has his own plans as to how and when his slaves reach developmental milestones.

    What’s more, he was shy around people, didn’t like body contact, and would only try to talk to us (his family). For me, at the time, dealing with it was not easy. I had to cancel sisters invites because he’d want other kids toys, didn’t understand why he couldn’t have it, and when instructed to give it back, he freak out & throw tantrums.

    These behaviours is what made me consider autism as I said in my previous post. You see, autism has lots of spectrums including asperger. Some aspergers are very verbal, intelligent but are unable to deal with others socially. I can recall a documentary created by BBC, filmed from school in London for autism kids. Among the kids in the school was an asperger boy, who talked eloquently, knew far more things than his peers, but showed behaviour difficulties that stemed from his inability to develop friendship, as well as show empathy to others. SO not all autistic kids are retarded. Some still function in society eventhough they are austics, they manage well due to therapy and medications.

    For my family, it was after my son turned 4 that his behaviour improved steadily. Perhaps it was because he was finally able to communicate a little better which was a huge relief subhana Allaah… because I really struggled with everything. Things like brushing his teeth before bed time, grooming, eating ( he still is a very picky eater). Then, all of sudden, Allaah has removed a knot from his tongue and he started to conversate, construct 5 & 6 word sentences, like four yr ol should be.

    Lastly, with regards to others views on the situiation, in my experience, I tried not to let it bother me and see it as a sound advice. This is a difficult situation as it is and most people don’t understand there are kids who never talked until they turned 8 and WERE not retarded lol. Perhaps his granny feels saddned by the situation, walillahil hamd. In anycase, seek comfort and relief from your spouse.

    I would rather have my situation than to deal with real autism or other sickeness that are prevelent in today’s society. Some mothers are struggling as we speak, yet are greatful to Allaah for having a child, others are making duaa to make it easy for them to deal with their situations…. I ask Allaah to help us all and give us tawfeeq in our struggles…

  8. Question: Next question is about Ruqyah for a child. Can there be ruqyah for a 5 year old child who is suffering and he has lack of ability to speak?

    Answer: Yes you can do ruqyah to this child as ruqyah is one of the treatments, and it is one of the best treatments. But, beside that you need to see the medical doctor for maybe this baby or child has a medical problem. But yes, you can do ruqyah. Muslims should always practise the ruqyah.

    Answered by: Shaykh Muhammad al-Maliki
    Title of lecture: Question & Answer Session
    Date answered: November 25th, 2006

    Question: My aunt has a daughter who is about 5 and can barely speak and recently started walking. The doctors said there isn’t anything physically wrong with her and she is just slow. Some claim that she has ‘ayn (عين – evil eye) on her and someone suggested that she read Surah Ikhlaas X number of times and she will start walking and talking. My aunt did this for a while and my cousin started to walk. However, I was trying to explain it to her if it was practised by the Sahaabah, but she says, “It is a surah from the Qur’aan and Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says it’s a book that cures, then what’s wrong with me reading it?” The questions are:
    i. How do I explain this issue to her?
    ii. Is there any ruqyah from Qur’aan and Sunnah that I can give her and tell her to do on her daughter?

    Answer: About the question, as I understand it this lady is reading suratul-Ikhlaas and she said inshaa’ Allaah in suratul-Ikhlaas there is a cure. We should know that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says in the Qur’aan:

    وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلاَ يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إَلاَّ خَسَارًا

    {And We send down of the Qur’ân that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe (in Islâmic Monotheism and act on it), and it increases the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers) nothing but loss.} [Al-Israa 17:82]

    This cure includes the cure from doubts, cure from physical illness and also from the illness of the soul i.e. shak an-nafsiyyah (شك النفسية – doubting of the soul). So the Qur’aan is a shifaa’ (شفاء – cure). We know this, and we know that there are special surahs that the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه و سلم has guided us to, and some aayaat, and we know the Qur’aan as a whole is ash-shifaa’ (The Cure). When you read Qur’aan Inshaa’ Allaah with the intention of shifaa’, and knowledge (understanding), it is shifaa’.

    There are special surahs and aayaat like al-Faatihah, and the beginning aayaat of surah al-Baqarah, and ayatul-Kursi, and suratul-Ikhlaas, suratul-Kaafiroon, the muwaddataan (Surah al-Falaq and an-Naas). There are verses which Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم tells us that if you read them on a sick then Inshaa’ Allaah they will be cured. There is also a saying of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم that I think she can find it in the Sunnah book (Hisnul Muslim) and if she asks her Imaam, he will guide her to it like: Place your hand at the site of the pain and say: Bismillah ‘In the name of Allaah’ (three times) Then supplicate seven times:

    أَعُوْذُ بِاللهِ وَ قُدْرَتِهِ مِنْ شَرِّ مَا أَجِدُ وَ أُحَاذِرُ
    A’oodhu billaahi wa qudratihi min sharri maa ajidu wa uhadhir.

    ‘I take refuge in Allaah and within His Omnipotence from the evil that I feel and am wary of.’[6]

    Also from the Sunnah of Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم is to recite:

    أَذْهِبِ الْبَاسَ، رَبَّ النَّاسِ، وَاشْفِ أَنْتَ الشَّافِي، لاَ شِفَاءَ إِلاَّ شِفَاؤُكَ، شِفَاءً لاَ يُغَادِرُ سَقَماً

    Adhibilba’s Rabbanaas wasfi antashaafee laa shifaa’a illa shifaauka shifaa’an laa yughaadiru saqamaa[7]

    So the Qur’aan is shifaa’ and there are special surahs that we can say on the sick person, and he can read them himself. However, specifying a special surah or special aayaat that the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم did not mention, is wrong. There is nothing that specifies this and specifying a number of times to read this surah also does not come from Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم, and the Sahaabah رضي الله عنهم did not do this, so we should follow the way of using the ruqyah shar’iyyah (الشرعية الرقية – permissible incantation). He should not be very harsh regarding this. She is reading Qur’aan and surah al-Ikhlaas has special meanings in it, so I think it is okay to read the Qur’aan but not specific (parts); it is better to read the whole of surah al-Faatihah, Ayatul-Kursi, suratul-Baqarah Wallaahu A’lam.

    Answered by: Shaykh Salaah Muhammad Aali Shaykh
    Title of lecture: Question and answer session
    Date of lecture: 20 January 2007

  9. “Being bilingual seems to make the brain more flexible.”

    The researchers tested 44 12-month-olds to see how they recognized three-syllable patterns — nonsense words, just to test sound learning. Sure enough, gaze-tracking showed the bilingual babies learned two kinds of patterns at the same time — like lo-ba-lo or lo-lo-ba — while the one-language babies learned only one, concluded Agnes Melinda Kovacs of Italy’s International School for Advanced Studies.

    While new language learning is easiest by age 7, the ability markedly declines after puberty.

    “We’re seeing the brain as more plastic and ready to create new circuits before than after puberty,” Kuhl says. As an adult, “it’s a totally different process. You won’t learn it in the same way. You won’t become (as good as) a native speaker.”

    If you speak a second language, speak it at home. Or find a play group or caregiver where your child can hear another language regularly.

    “You’ll be surprised,” Kuhl says. “They do seem to pick it up like sponges.”

    Full article..

    Additional Info…

    Bilingual Language Learners

    Many professionals including pediatricians, teachers, psychologists, special educators and speech language pathologists are often confronted with the question of how to know when a child’s speech and or language is delayed when they are raised in bilingual or multi lingual environments. Many parents and adoptive parents also wonder if their child is acquiring English as a second language in a proficient manner. Below are some of the key points from Dr. Kohnert’s presentation that may help answer some questions you may have regarding children learning more than one language.

    Children in a bilingual environment (bilingual in this case indicates presence of two languages, not the mastery of two languages) should meet speech and language milestones for their primary language at the same developmental age as monolingual children. “Onset of first words, early core vocabulary, and 2 word combinations are attained at the same age as monolinguals”… in normally developing bilingual children. A delay in reaching these milestones is considered a red flag for language impairment. Typically, by the age of two years, a child should have a minimum of 50 words in their speaking vocabulary and should be starting to combine words into short phrases.

    In bilingual children, both languages should be supported in the presence of an identified language delay. It was previously thought that it would be better to support only the dominant language of the community at large to avoid confusion for the child i.e. English. This is no longer the view among the experts. The home language is needed to “maintain and promote family connections, cultural links, and the self identity that are necessary for positive social-emotional development and well-being. English is needed to develop and maintain positive interactions with the majority community to maximize educational and vocational opportunities and success.” Also, it is important not to ignore previously acquired knowledge, rather to continue building on knowledge in both languages.

    By age 3-5 years, at least one language should be equivalent to monolingual norms in normally developing bilingual speakers. At some point there will be a shift in dominance from the child’s home language to the language of the majority community. This is a natural shift and should not be artificially encouraged at a younger age than it would normally occur. The timing of this shift is dependent on many variables.

    An underlying language impairment will manifest itself in both languages in bilingual children. A bilingual child with language impairment does not have more severe deficits because of the presence of another language as compared to monolingual peers. Bilingual children with language impairment are capable of learning two languages equally as well as their monolingual language impaired peers. Most importantly, there are many ways to support language impaired children with a single minority language, even if the care provider does not have knowledge of that language.

    Kathryn Kohnert, Ph-D, CCC-SLP, both a researcher and associate professor at the University of Minnesota recently presented a seminar at the Children’s Hospital titled “Intervention with Bilingual Children with Primary Language Impairment”. Dr. Kohnert has conducted extensive research in this area and has an upcoming book titled “Language Disorders in Bilingual Children and Adults”.

  10. Two readers shared their personal views of Jish. One stated that it was overpriced, not of much help. The other stated that the services are geared towards ‘Arabic speaking children (Saudis in particular). Allaahu Aa’lam.

    Markaz ar Ri’aayah al Mutatawwurah is a possible alternative. Please see the recent entry on classes for children with special needs.

    All natural honey and salt recipe for treating stuttering/stammering.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s