Bilingual Children

By Carol Burleigh - 25/09/2019

With more families than ever before relocating to new countries, it’s becoming more common and necessary for people to be bilingual. Children growing up in non-English speaking families must quickly learn English to assimilate at school and beyond.

But what about their native language?

It’s common for parents to struggle with the decision on whether to teach their child two languages when they are young. The fear for most is that the child may become confused or not learn either language properly. Thankfully, studies have shown this is not necessarily the case and bilingual children can benefit greatly socially and academically in the long term.

When to start teaching your child?

As their primary carer from birth, it’s best to start speaking to your child in more than one language from day one. While your baby may not be able to speak, they can hear your words and the sounds are forming in their brains waiting for the moment they make it into words. Young children who hear more than one language will quickly be able to separate the two through recognising the different sounds.

How to introduce bilingual learning in children?

The best way is to be consistent. It’s best to speak the language you are most comfortable speaking at home. For a lot of families, that is the native language. Some parents will choose to have one parent speak in their native tongue while the other parent speaks to the child in English. This gives good exposure to both languages and the child will learn to differentiate between the two through consistency.

It’s considered the best practice to speak your native language if, as a parent or carer, your English is poor or broken. Children learning broken English could suffer more as they are not learning to form complete sentences.

Will my child be behind other children in their speech?

Children who are learning two languages can be a little behind monolingual children at the same age. But as children learn and develop at different rates, this shouldn’t be considered an issue. By the age of 10, the speech level of a native English-speaking child to a bilingual child has generally caught up.

The reason is a bilingual child is hearing two languages in their communications, whereas a monolingual child is hearing one. So, the time spent hearing, learning and speaking a single language compared to a monolingual child is less.

Some parents have concerns their child will mix languages up or confuse words. This will most likely happen in the early stages, but they will quickly adapt and learn to differentiate between the two.

Why teach your child to be bilingual?

The main reason is for family continuity and stronger ethnic identities. Families who maintain their primary language retain their culture, heritage and communication lines with family members who are not fluent in English. In most families, grandparents may not speak English at all in which case teaching your child your native language will help them build relationships with other family members.

It’s been proven that bilingual children have a stronger cognitive brain function and can achieve higher academic results than children learning a single language. They may also find it easier to learn other languages which can open employment opportunities later in life.

Tips for raising bilingual children

  • Make it fun - Kids love to learn through play. Try teaching your child games in your native language or read books with them so they can see and hear the words together.
  • Socialise with others - Spending time with others who are speaking the same language can help reinforce the learning process. Arrange playdates with family and friends and speak the language you would like your child to learn.
  • Exposure to English - If you are not speaking English at home, make sure you allow your child plenty of opportunities to learn English through play centres, childcare or arrange playdates with English speaking friends.
  • Keep your child interested - Try and keep your child’s interest in learning both languages by visiting cultural centres linked to your heritage or showing them pictures from your home country. Explain to them why they are speaking two languages and how it will help them later in life.

What if my child is struggling?

If you’re finding your child is struggling with their speech or overall communication, a speech therapist who specialises in bilingual and multilingual speech should be consulted. They will assess your child for any speech impediments, taking into consideration the learning of two languages. For optimum results, it’s ideal if you can locate a speech pathologist who speaks your native language so they can communicate with your child in the language they feel most comfortable.

Fortunately, the benefits far outweigh any perceived negatives when it comes to teaching your child two languages at once.


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What is a speech pathologist and how can they help?

By Savi Hamal - 18/08/2019

When people think of speech pathologists, the immediate train of thought is speech conditions such as stutters and slurred speech. But speech pathologists can help people with many varying communicative conditions improve their quality of life and regain the importance of speech.

What is a speech pathologist?

Speech Pathologists specialise in improving the communication barriers that can be present in adults and children. These barriers could be problems with speech, language, communication or even voice. Speech pathologists can also help with issues relating to swallowing.

Speech pathologists also help with communication relating to argumentative or alternate communication to find better ways to communicate effectively.

Speech pathologists are university qualified and most also hold an accreditation with Speech Pathology Australia.

So, what does a speech pathologist treat?

Speech pathologists can help with speech and swallowing difficulties in children and adults. These could be learning delays in children, speech impediment from stroke or illness, intellectual disability, hearing loss, dementia or brain injury to name a few. Some speech pathologists will also work with people of a ‘complex need’, who suffer communicative disabilities through cerebral palsy or autism.

Most speech pathologists will specialise in the following areas of treatment:
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Deaf and hard of hearing
  • Language/Learning (child & adolescent)
  • Literacy
  • Social Communication
  • Speech sound / Articulation disorder
  • Stuttering/Fluency
  • Developmental delays
  • Learning difficulties
  • Brain injury
  • Intellectual disability
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • other conditions that affect speech and language
  • Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC)

Speech pathologists will provide a calming, non threatening environment to treat the individual. Children will also participate in play based treatment which can help alleviate stress and anxiety that can be experienced. Play based treatment for children is very effective and can help with children’s ability to play with others as well as social skills.

Do I need a referral to see a speech pathologist?

The good news is no, you don’t need a referral to see a speech pathologist. In some cases however, a referral from a GP may be assigned under the Disease Management Plan which could receive assistance from Medicare.

Some private health insurance policies also cover speech pathology, check your health care plan to see if you’re covered by your private health insurer.

Fees and costs differ from clinic to clinic. It’s best to contact your local provider to find out more about their fee structure.

How do I find a provider in my area?

There are many speech pathologists in Australia qualified to help you or your child. Please search the SPA website to find a suitable provider. Once you’ve found a provider, we recommend contacting them and discussing your needs to determine the fit and fee structure as all practices differ.

Some providers will also offer a mobile service. Our team at Speechify offer mobile speech pathology services in the Parramatta region and surrounding areas. Mobile services can treat people at their school, kindergarten, home, nursing home, hospital or medical facility.

If you would like to know more about speech pathology or to arrange an appointment with our team, please feel free to Contact Us. Our clinic rooms are at 23 Albion St, Harris Park, 2150. At Speechify we have therapists that speak Nepalese and Cantonese. We’re here to help open the door to communication barriers.

I’m interested to find out how I become a speech pathologist?

Speech pathology is an accredited undergraduate or entry level masters degree. The course is held at many universities in Australia. To find out more go to Speech Pathology Australia - University Programs page.


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The Best Developmental Activity for School Readiness is Child’s Play

By Carol Burleigh - 10/10/2018

When it comes to children, there are a lot of factors that contribute to their overall growth and development. Of course, health, nutrition, education and family life play a large role in how our children grow. But, another important link to childhood development that can sometimes be overlooked is play. Play also helps children prepare for school and, it can be argued, is more valuable for school readiness than being able to count.

There are thoughts out there that play should be limited and more focus placed on academics for school readiness. Whilst academics is certainly important for overall development and success, play is just as, if not more, important in contributing essential lifelong skills. In fact, research has shown young children who play and socialise with their peers in both structured and unstructured play environments are more likely to succeed at school and later in life than those who don’t.

Types of play

Play can vary from structured rule based play to the more free flowing impromptu play that drives imagination. Whether your child plays on their own or plays with others, both encourage the development of differing aspects of growth. Different types of play can include:

  • role playing i.e. Playing doctors and nurses
  • imaginative play i.e. making “pretend” money to use in a shopping game
  • playing with others
  • making fun creations using everyday materials - such as making pet rocks or cubby houses from sheets and dining chairs
  • Arranging or sorting objects i.e. placing all yellow numbers in one pile and red in another
  • discovering how things work and
  • quiet play like solving puzzles or building things by themselves. i.e. playing with Lego

Children who can play on their own demonstrate comfort within themselves and the ability to drive play through imagination. They may be having conversations with themselves, pretending to do the shopping or driving cars around a car mat. Children who play with others develop instrumental skills in socialisation, negotiation, decision making and sharing. Both aspects of play are important and both provide important life skills and improve overall school readiness.

Benefits of play in direct correlation to school readiness

When children go to school, they learn how to read, write and count as well as other knowledge areas like history, geography and science. All these teachings are important in order to succeed in life and future employment, but they are just a collective in a long list of skills your child needs to learn. Learning through play provides skills that are not merely taught in the classroom. Through play your child can learn:

  • Socialisation skills through playing with other children
  • Negotiation and problem solving skills
  • Build a strong imagination that helps develop a healthy brain and encourages creativity
  • Develop listening and talking skills
  • Physical development including coordination, balance and movement
  • Their place in the world and within a group
  • Acceptance of differences

It has become practice that a high focus needs to be placed on learning the alphabet, recognising letters and counting before they start school. But in fact, more children have difficulties with socialisation skills than anything else. Playing with children their own age helps them to learn to communicate with each other, learn how to form friendships and learn how share. All skills that a book can not teach.

How you can help with play?

First and foremost, your child needs to feel safe and secure when playing. It is a fun time for children and they need to feel like they can be themselves. Encourage play at every opportunity and try to introduce various play techniques. You can play with your child or sit back and watch them play. Either one will please your child as you are taking an interest in them. Whilst your child may love having you play with them, it is also encouraged to let them play on their own. This helps instill independence and allows your child to be alone which helps in times where you can not always be there with your child.

Inviting other children over for playdates is a good way for your child to build friendships and learn to play with others their own age. This is important in knowing how they fit in the world with their peers. It also helps with school readiness.

How your Speech Pathologist can help?

Speech Pathology isn’t just about learning to talk, it’s about learning to communicate. Communication is the fundamental in life that we all need. Children can struggle to communicate effectively for varying reasons and this can cause frustration. Speech Pathologists work with children to break down the barriers and help build a strong platform for communication. A big part of this is through play. Play is fun and children are generally unaware they are learning. To children, play represents a stress free environment and a place to be themselves and understood. Speech Pathologists can learn more from watching how children play and interact in 15 minutes than would be learnt in an hour of talking.

We believe play is a vital part in breaking down the communication barrier that children can have. Through play based learning, we can build your child’s energy to learn and develop skills to help them become more independent in the future.

It’s important to note, just as with academics and milestones, all children play differently and are at different stages. It’s important to tailor your child’s play to their ability so they can build their confidence rather than feel threatened by what they may not be able to handle. Here at Speechify, we work with children at their pace. We employ a play based learning approach which helps build your child’s confidence, communication skills and interest. Nothing motivates a child more that making their learning fun.

If your child is struggling developmentally with their speech, communication or play, please feel free to contact us for a consultation. We are here to help.


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