Multiple Languages. Infinite Combinations.

We often use “bilingual” to mean at least two languages. There are significant variations in individual skill and experience in each language spoken. These variations can create a virtual maze of possibilities when working with a client. Here you’ll find some thoughts and best practices on achieving better outcomes in your bilingual service.

Is it a Difference or a Disorder?

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I called to make an appointment for an evaluation for my child. The teacher shared that Sam wasn’t following directions in class or answering any questions. Sam had a lot of ear infections—starting when he was very young—and we saw the doctors before we moved to the U.S. The doctors treated the ear infection and told us not to worry. Sam was a good child but didn’t speak too much. This wasn’t that different than [for] our older child. Our children learned like we did. They observed and knew to wait to speak until spoken to. When we got to the U.S., we knew that Sam would start to speak English at school. We waited, but there were no words in either language. Someone called a speech-language pathologist helped us to work with Sam. The speech-language pathologist (SLP) said that we should get Sam’s hearing tested. We are so glad that we did. The audiologist tested Sam’s hearing and told us he had a hearing loss. Now, we knew for sure that it wasn’t just because he was learning English that Sam wasn’t responding. We weren’t sure what to expect since we were new to the country. The audiologist worked with us, an interpreter, the SLP and the teachers to create a plan to help Sam in the classroom. We are so grateful for this team.”

Teams work together to provide comprehensive services and the highest quality of care to individuals and their families/caregivers.

Tips for Working with Multiple Languages

  • Ask for relevant background information.
  • Allow the client and their family to share their concerns and how they would like help.
  • Be familiar with all of the client goals, including those from additional service providers.
  • Research the primary language and any potential influences during your process.