This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question and it won’t be the last. I receive emails such as these frequently. I decided to share my reply today as I hope by doing so, it can ease many parent’s worries. Life as a parent is full of worries but if you find yourself in a similar situation then I hope my reply will reassure you a little.
“My daughter is 15 months and understands everything we say. We try to speak German to her and have been doing so from birth but speak English to each other. She hasn’t said anything yet. Is this something to be worried about?”
It’s wonderful that you are attentive to your child’s communication skills. By 15 months, most children are expected to be babbling. Many children would have also said their first words by 12 months but some do take a little longer – up to 18 months.
When it comes to understanding, most children will be able to understand a few everyday words such as “eat,” “car,” “bed.” She should also be able to point to things when asked to familiar people and objects like ‘shoe,’ ‘mummy,’ and ‘book.’
It would be good to continue to observe your daughter and to continue speaking your own language to her, in this case German, and not worry that you are both speaking English. As a parent and a professional, (speaking Cantonese to my children and English to my husband) it’s important that you continue speaking your own language to her, and of course if you can both speak and understand the language, to use it with each other too and immerse her more in a German speaking environment!
What can you do to help for now? Well, here are three strategies to start off with:
- Follow your child’s lead. Join in with whatever he or she is doing.
- Play lots of games that develop their listening skills such as ‘ready, steady go’ games (e.g. making a tower of bricks and knocking it down).
- Keep your language simple.
Continue to keep an eye on her typical developing milestones.
Remember that children’s understanding is usually developed before their talking. Therefore, it is expected that children can understand more than they can say. Try these strategies for a couple of months and if you are still concerned then do seek further advice from a qualified Speech and Language Therapist who can tailor his/her advice to your concerns and provide an assessment if necessary.