Children who learn English as a second language may exhibit some speech and language issues while they are learning English. It is common to struggle in both English and the primary language during the acquisition period. Unfortunately, many teachers and parents do not know which speech issues are normal and which are a sign of a problem. But a speech therapist can help an ESL learner in many ways, even if their English acquisition is progressing normally.
Help With Faster Acquisition of Unfamiliar Sounds
When a sound is present in one language and not in another, the language learner will usually delete, distort, or replace the unfamiliar sound. This can lead to pronunciation issues in the second language. A speech therapist can help an ESL learner recognize new sounds in a language and develop the muscle memory to pronounce them correctly. This can make a student feel confident faster while increasing the likelihood that others around the child will be able to understand them.
Re-enforce Normal Language Acquisition
Interference of the primary language, code switching between the two languages, and a silent period are all normal phenomena for young children immersed in a new language. However, children who do not know these things are normal may feel embarrassed or frustrated with their speaking ability. By normalizing these phenomena and teaching a child how to recognize them, a speech therapist can help your child feel better about their struggle with learning a new language. By reducing the stress around the language, the child should be able to learn more efficiently.
Encourage Additive Bilingualism
When a person acquires a second language, they either lose parts of their primary language or maintain their primary language while learning the second language. Many well-meaning parents encourage their children to learn English to the detriment of their primary language. However, this can actually stunt the child's development in both languages.
A speech therapist can help the child, their teacher, and their care-givers discover methods for the child to experience additive bilingualism, including additional, consistent exposure to the primary language while the second language is being learned.
While not every bilingual child will need the services of a speech therapist, a consultation can confirm whether or not the child is developing normal speech abilities for both languages. It can also help the child and parent become more aware of signs to look out for and methods of language learning that will benefit the child. Contact a company like the Physical Therapy Institute to learn more about speech therapy.