Learning a second language can happen at any age. The earlier children are exposed to a second or third language, the quicker they will learn to speak it! It is important that children learn from people who speak each language well. Learning one language well is better than learning two languages poorly. To help children learn and understand a new language, use gestures like pointing or touching the item to show them what you are talking about.
Learning 2 or more languages will not cause a speech delay. In fact, research shows that children worldwide who are learning two languages or more learn to speak at the same rate as children learning only one. It is normal for children not to speak in the new language for a period of 6-7 months until they understand the language, build their vocabulary and feel confident to use the new language to express themselves. The more children hear and practice their new language, the faster they will speak it. Learning a new language will not affect children’s language skills in their first language.
If you are concerned about a child’s communication in their first language, consider the following options:
- Call Ottawa Public Health 613-580-6744 or 613-PARENTS
- Complete the Communication Checkup online screening tool
- Review the communication milestones. Communication milestones are available in different languages at Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
- Review the Nipissing District Developmental Screening Tool
If you still have concerns:
- Contact the First Words Intake at CHEO 613-737-7600 ext. 2500 to add your child’s name on the waiting list for a Speech and Language assessment. You do not need a referral from a Health Professional.
- About speech and language development AND about overall development (i.e. play, socializing, motor skills), call the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre at 613-737-0871 ext. 4425 or download and complete the OCTC Intake Referral Form to refer your child. Children from birth to senior kindergarten-entry are eligible.
Cultural interpreters are available by request for First Words services (screening/assessment/therapy). Please call First Words at 613-688-3979 to book an interpreter for a screening.