It always fascinates me just how similar speech sound errors are among bilingual children who speak the same languages. Every day, I hear common speech sound errors among children who speak both Thai and English. However, before I delve deeper into this post, it is important to note that not all children who speak Thai and English have speech sound errors. This post will be focusing on the errors noted in the speech of those children who do.
The most common speech sound errors I have noticed among children who speak both Thai and English are:
1. Replacing the ‘ch’ sound with the ‘sh’ sound.
For instance, saying ‘shilli’ instead of the word ‘chilli’.
2. Interchanging the ‘v’ and ‘w’ sounds.
For instance, saying ‘wery’ instead of the word ‘very’, or saying ‘ving’ instead of the word ‘wing’.
3. Replacing the ‘r’ sound with the ‘l’ sound.
For instance, saying ‘labbit’ instead of the word ‘rabbit’.
This occurs because of incorrect tongue placement when making sounds such as 's' and 'z'. You can read more about lisps in my previous post 'Let's Talk About Lisps.'
So, if these speech sound errors are so common, are they ever a problem?
The speech errors above are problematic when they impact a child’s ability to be understood by others. Between the ages of four and five years, 90-100% of what a child says should be understood by others. It is usually the case that parents understand their child’s speech the most, even if they have speech sound errors. This is because parents eventually become accustomed to these speech sound errors. However, if a child’s teacher, relative or friend is finding it difficult to understand what they are saying, then it is likely that these speech sound errors are hindering a child’s ability to be understood.
Importantly, speech sound errors should always be addressed if they are impacting on a child’s self-esteem or interfering with their ability to speak confidently. They should also be addressed if a child experiences bullying or teasing because of their speech.
Can these speech sound errors be resolved in bilingual children?
Absolutely! I have worked with many children who have made immense progress with regards to their speech in English, even when English is not their dominant language. As with monolingual children, this process takes consistent practice. I usually recommend 10 minutes of daily speech sound practice.
How are bilingual children taught to produce sounds correctly?
Bilingual children are given speech sound instruction the exact way as monolingual children. The first step is always to make the child aware of their speech, because after all, they can’t change what they are not aware of. This involves drawing attention to the tongue and lip placement necessary to correctly produce a sound. Children generally become quickly aware after this is explained to them. Even after they can differentiate between the correct and incorrect way to produce a sound, they might still find it difficult to correctly produce the sound themselves. This step usually requires much practice.
Once the child can correctly make the sound themselves, they then practice producing this sound in different vowel-consonant combinations, across different word positions, phrases, sentences, short-stories, and eventually, in conversation.
The important thing to remember is that it is always possible to improve a child’s speech, helping them to be better understood by others and boosting their self-esteem.
The Expat Speechie
Welcome to my blog!