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Frequently Asked Questions

Can our child be bilingual?

There is virtually no systematic research and reports on bilingual development in children with Down syndrome. From informal contacts with people around the Western world and for logical reasons, there does not seem to be reasons why healthy and well-stimulated and educated children with Down syndrome could not learn to be proficient in two languages. They will likely and unfortunately exhibit the same difficulties and delays in the two languages as they do with one language; but this does not mean by far that they cannot become bilingual nor that their language abilities in one or two languages are negligible. As with nonretarded children learning two languages in the families (and even more so with children of Down syndrome), it is quite advisable to help the child organize his or her repertoire particularly during the first years in having the same setting, contexts, and persons speaking to him or her in one given language, and a set of other setting, contexts, and persons addressing the child in the other language; in such a way as not to favor interferences between the two series of learning.
Prof. Dr. Jean A. Rondal, Ph.D., Dr. Ling.
Laboratoire de Psycholinguistique
Université de Liège, Belgique
Related documents
Bilingual Children with Downs Syndrome by Sue Buckley
Bilingualism in Mental Retardation: Some Prospective Views by Jean A. Rondal
Children with Down Syndrome and the Foreign Language: A Concrete Possibility? by Valentina Tommasi
Down Syndrome and Bilingualism by Johanne Ostad
Down Syndrome and Bilingualism Abstracts