Across the globe, there are more people who use two or more languages than people who use one language. For many people, it's not a matter of choice. They need two or more languages to fully participate in all areas of their lives. Ireland has three official languages, Irish, English and Irish Sign-Language but that is only part of the story. The 2011 Census recorded 182 languages spoken across the country.
IASLT, through its Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Special Interest Group, advocates for best practice in supporting multilingual people, across the lifespan, their families & communities.
Speech and language skills are distributed across a person's languages. This means you or your child might know words to do with home and hobbies and family relationships in one or two of your languages. Your child may know words to do with school subjects only in the school language. That's not a problem. That's how multilingual language development works.
Multilingual people tend to mix and switch between their languages. This is not a sign of a problem either. If a child is acquiring two or more language from a young age, then they tend to reach their milestones at the same ages as children who speak only one language. Using two or more languages does not cause confusion and it doesn't cause speech and language problems either.
If someone has a speech, language, or communication difficulty, then speaking two or more languages will not make the situation worse. People who have Down syndrome or have autism can and do become multilingual. We do not recommend dropping home languages because this is not best practice. Speech and language therapists take all of a person's languages into consideration during assessment and intervention. We need to consider present and future language needs. Our role is to support our clients in reaching their communication potential in all of their languages by collaborating closely with families.
Bilingualism / multilingualism is a gift. There are so many benefits to growing up with more than one language that you have a great reason to celebrate. You may be discouraged sometimes by other people, even by "experts" who are not familiar with research about bilingualism. This can happen especially if your child has some of the typical "blips" with their language and speech development that are common among children.
The free online book "How to raise a bilingual child" co-authored by Catherine Bouko, Julie Carton, Ute Limacher-Riebold, Mary-Pat O’Malley and Rita Rosenback and co-funded by the Erasmus+Programme of the European Union, will reassure you and provide you will all the information advice you need to raise your multilingual child with confidence and pride.