Did you know there are different types of bilinguals? In speech-language pathology circles there is a distinction between a simultaneous and sequential bilingual. The latter will be covered in a future blog, however in this blog we will discuss the former. For the purposes of this discussion, a simultaneous bilingual is defined as a person who acquired two languages from birth or at least before the age of three. Simultaneous bilinguals are considered to be comparable to monolinguals in reaching early language milestones at the same rate as monolinguals (babbling, first words, etc.), they are just as good at learning new words, and most times have a larger repertoire of words at their disposal.
That said, if a child is being spoken to in two separate languages there must be lots of input through both languages for the child to be considered proficient. There are studies that find that children who go to school, and are considered simultaneous bilinguals, do not do as well transitioning into the school setting since there are many more novel words that they have not heard that perhaps a monolingual child may have heard inside the home. The simultaneous bilingual child has a word in both languages for a spoon or a pan (those being items that are seen with high frequency around the house) but does not have a word to talk about a desk, an eraser, or a slew of other school items that are not seen as frequently when a child is growing up around the house. Please see chart below to conceptualize what was just written.
All that considered, though there may be a brief period where the child is delayed in verbalizing (not all bilinguals go through this silent period) or there is a season where they need to catch up with their peers in school, eventually a child does catch up with their monolingual peers and eventually surpasses them in overall vocabulary due to the maturation in both languages. It is our persuasion here at NEATS to encourage parents to raise their children in a bilingual context. Just make sure that you are speaking to your child as much as possible in both languages by bombarding them with various and consistent words, so that they are able to familiarize and learn both languages in a very language rich context.