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My 27-month-old son does not speak English -- what should we do?

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My 27-month-old son does not speak, whereas other kids his age are able to speak sentences. He says only about 10 or 12 meaningful English words -- the rest are all sounds. But he understands completely everything we say. His doctor says it is because we speak our native language (Hindi) at home, and everywhere else, including on the TV, he hears English. We are very worried -- what should we do?


Children in bilingual households do have some early lags in expressive language so we wouldn't expect his language to match his peers' at this time. His receptive language -- what he understands -- should keep pace, however. At 2 years he should be able to follow two-step commands without gestures (e.g., "Get your sweater and come to the car"). Hindi is likely to be his dominant language, because that is what you speak at home. His first words will be in Hindi. Count those up and add those to the English words to get a better idea of his total vocabulary.Young children do not learn language from the TV, so don't expect much English until he interacts with English speakers, as in a preschool setting. Gesture language is also important to look at in young children. If he has lots of gestures and pantomimes that are part of his communication pattern, it's unlikely that he will have any real language difficulties. Over the long run, children in bilingual situations will be much more able to learn other languages. Have your son's physician go over these things with you, and then you can decide whether he needs a complete evaluation by a speech and language professional or a behavioral pediatrician.  

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