Bilingual Corner: Can a Speech Impairment Occur in only 1 Language of a Bilingual?
Can a child demonstrate a speech impairment in one language but not the other? My immediate response to this is, “No.” That said, let me tell you about a student I tested last week. Meet Miguel. Miguel is a 7-year, 3-month-old child whose native language is Spanish. He spoke only Spanish until he started school at age 3 and it continues to be the language he hears and uses most of the time. Since starting school, Miguel has received academic instruction in English with some Spanish support, and the family has continued to use Spanish in the home. His mother reported that Miguel speaks Spanish more often than English. Based on a detailed language history, I estimated that he uses Spanish 60% of the time and English 40% of the time.
Testing Both Languages for Speech Impairment: Formal and informal language testing in both languages indicated that Miguel’s language skills were within normal limits in both languages. I should note here that when a student’s language skills fall within normal limits in one language but not the other, it indicates normal language skills with low proficiency in the other language. While it is also the case that one cannot have a speech impairment in one language only, it is possible for a student to have a speech impairment that impacts one language but not the other. Huh? How does that work?