Babies raised in bilingual homes develop language at the same rate as their peers.

Language Development in Infants in Bilingual Homes

by Stacey Chaloux

Recent studies have shown that children learning two languages do not experience language confusion or a delay in their language development, as was once thought, according to an article in "The New York Times." Instead, many benefits contribute to your baby's development when she is raised in a bilingual home -- including more refined language skills and cognitive flexibility. Give your baby a chance to hear two languages, and rest assured, it will have a positive effect on her language development.

Bilingual From the Start

Infants learn a great deal about language during their first year, so it might seem overwhelming to expect your little one to learn two languages at the same time. Actually, your baby's brain is best able to learn language when she is very young. At birth, babies are able to distinguish the sounds of all language, but sometime after 6 months of age, they begin to recognize only the sounds of the language they are used to hearing. For babies raised in bilingual homes, the window for acquiring language stays open longer, according to "The New York Times." If your baby has many opportunities to hear two languages from the start, she will come to speak and understand both equally well.


Some parents believe that their baby's first language should be developed before they try to introduce a second, but this is not the case, according to Dr. Mercedes Nino-Murcia, writing for Parents Connect. Another common misconception is that learning two languages can cause confusion for your baby or even slow down her language development. In actuality, a normally developing infant has a very large capacity for language acquisition, and it will be effortless for her to learn multiple languages at once. Babies learning two languages often meet developmental milestones at the same time as other monolingual infants.

Flexible Learners

Researchers have found that babies raised in bilingual homes have greater cognitive flexibility, meaning they can learn two sets of rules for language and easily move back and forth between them, according to Psychology Today. Your baby will be able to get a lot of information out of the sounds she hears, and this kind of thinking helps your baby become a more efficient learner in all aspects of her development, especially verbal tasks. In fact, your infant will begin to use more than just the sounds she hears to learn language. Babies exposed to two languages, even in the womb, learn to recognize the differences in the rhythms and sounds of each language. In addition, researchers have found that bilingual babies also use visual cues, such as facial and mouth movements, to distinguish between languages, according to "The New York Times."

Meeting Milestones

Since you are raising your baby in a bilingual home, you can expect her to keep up with her same-age peers in meeting language milestones. Even though bilingual babies have to learn twice as much as babies in a one-language family, most bilingual babies usually speak their first words by 1 year of age, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. This is consistent with the language milestones seen in babies learning only one language. Bilingual babies usually remain on track with developmental milestones and use two-word phrases by age 2. Though your little one may mix some grammar rules or use words from both languages, this is a normal part of bilingual language development.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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