What does being bilingual or multilingual mean?

Grandmother and child hugging

Being bilingual means a person is able to understand and/or use two languages. Your child may be learning more than one language at home at the same time (simultaneous bilingualism) or they may use a home language first and learn English later (sequential bilingualism). Being multilingual means being able to understand and/or use more than two languages.

Did you know?

  • Most people in the world are bilingual/multilingual
  • It is common for bilingual/multilingual speakers to borrow words from one language to use in the other language. This is called code-switching
  • Having more than one language should be supported and celebrated as it has lots of benefits

What are the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual?

  • Being able to use more than one language gives more opportunities for learning and job chances
  • It helps with reading, language learning, attention and thinking
  • It can improve creative thinking, problem solving and expression
  • Children can learn new languages more easily as they have a better understanding of how languages work
  • It allows children and young people to keep a link with their family culture and heritage and to maintain relationships with their wider family and community

Does being bilingual or multilingual cause speech, language and communication difficulties?

Research shows that being bilingual or multilingual does not cause or contribute to a speech, language and communication difficulty. It is important that your child/young person continues to be supported to speak your home language which will help them learn other languages more easily.

Speak in the language that feels most natural to you and that you are most comfortable speaking, to give your child a good language model

How can I help my bilingual or multilingual child at home?

  • Talk to your child in your home language and support your child to feel proud of being bilingual/ multilingual.
  • Give your child lots of speaking opportunities with other people through play and conversation.
  • Encourage your child to learn new words in their home language
  • Spend time reading and singing with your child in your home language.
  • Look at dual text books together (text in more than one language).
  • Watch programmes together and use apps with your child in your home language and talk about it afterwards.
  • Most of all, enjoy sharing your language and have fun!

I need more help with my child’s communication, what shall I do?

If you need more help with your child’s communication, you can speak to your child’s health visitor, GP or their school/nursery. If needed, they can make a referral to the Speech and Language Therapy service. You can also make a referral as a parent by calling our administration team on 01274 221166 who will be able to help you

Please let us know if you need an interpreter. A member of the team will be able to book an interpreter for you.

Where can I get more information?


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