Bilingual children more likely to stutter

September 9, 2008

Children who are bilingual before the age of 5 are significantly more likely to stutter and to find it harder to lose their impediment, than children who speak only one language before this age, suggests research published ahead of print in Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The researchers base their findings on 317 children, who were referred for stutter when aged between 8 and 10.

All the children lived in Greater London, and all had started school in the UK at the age of 4 or 5.

The children's carers were asked if they spoke a language other than English exclusively or combined with English at home.

Just over one in five (69) of the children spoke English and a second language at home. Thirty eight had had to learn English as one or more family members did not speak English at home.

Fifteen of the 38 children spoke only one language (not English) before the age of 5, while 23 spoke their family's native language as well as English before this age.

Thirty one children stuttered in both languages.

Stuttering began at around the age of 4.5 years, and boys outnumbered girls by 4 to 1.

Comparison with a group of children who didn't stutter showed that three quarters of them were exclusive speakers of a language other than English at home; only a quarter spoke two languages.

The recovery rate was also higher among children who exclusively spoke one language other than English at home.

Over half of children who either spoke only their native language at home up to the age of 5, or who spoke only English (monolingual), had stopped stuttering by the age of 12, when they were reassessed.

This compares with only one in four of those children speaking two languages up to this age.

There was no difference in school performance between children who stuttered, but the authors suggest that children whose native language is not English may benefit from deferring the time when they learn it. "...this reduces the chance of starting to stutter and aids the chances of recovery later in childhood," they say.

Source: British Medical Journal

Explore further: Neighborhoods influence use of African American Vernacular, research shows

Related Stories

Finding iconicity in spoken languages

September 9, 2015

Have you ever wondered why we call a dog a dog and not a cat? Is this an arbitrary decision, or is it based on iconicity—the resemblance between word structure and meaning? New research shows that for Indo-European languages, ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Sep 09, 2008
My guess; the biliguals leanered to have a more flexible range of expressions and sounds that they make since they learned two different langauages with 2 differeent patterns of syllables, vowel sounds etc. That flexibility extends to wierd sounds like stuttering and repeating parts of words. The mind stretching of learning two or more languages is the mental equiva;lent of a yogic person leaning to relax their joints and perfom bending of their limbs to normally impossible positions. Poeple who practice yoga sometimes develop joint problems stemming from the streching they do.The abnormal flexibiltiy of multi language children makes it possible that abnormal patterns can arise in their brains.It's possible they heard somthing similar to a stuttering sound. Bilingual stutterers' brains probably have different wiring that increases their abitilty to code nonsense from another language as sense.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2008
Just my experience; however, I did not know what language I was speaking and when, nor did I understand the teacher half the time when I arrived in Kindergarten. This, to put it mildly, was a problem in my first three years in school. I solved the problem with a lot of stuttering as I switched back and forth between two languages translating as I went and thinking of TV commercials in my head to get the grammar and vocabulary/tenses right. The teachers thought I was low-IQ, because all I ever did was stutter and stammer my answers which probably were more than a bit inchoherent, and I certainly demonstrated a grasp of English several years below my chronological age. Eventually, about age 10, I got everything sorted out, but during the process I probably would have precisely matched this survey's results.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.