advice, motherhood, parenting

Talking, and the fact that he’s not.

Waleed flipped over at three weeks. He crawled at five months and took his first step in month nine. He ran by year one and races up and down stairs like he owns them. Was I one proud momma at these milestones reached earlier than the checklists stated? Did I boast as though I was personally responsible? In the words of a certain someone, you betcha.Β 

The other day at the playground, a cute ‘Jerry Maguire’ kid of four [I know, he told me] attempted to engage in a lengthy conversation with my son who stared at him like he sprouted three noses. Said child, turned to me:

Max: Why isn’t he talking.
Me: Well, he’s still a baby.
Max: How old is he?
Me: He’s a year and a half
Max: My dad said I was talking by then. He said I talked before I could walk. He said talking is more important than walking. Walking isn’t a big deal.


It brought up again the nagging thought, like a kernel in my shoe, that my sweet little guy? He doesn’t talk much. Don’t get me wrong, he understands stuff. He understands when we tell him not to do something, he helps clean up, putting his bottle up on the table, and no one can convince me he didn’t understand when I told him I was going to get a job. He gets stuff, but he doesn’t say stuff short of a handful of words [15] none of which are really to communicate save bus [stop/done]. And I can’t help but wonder: should I be worried?Β 

His doctor thinks its because he’s bilingual though I know bilingual kids in his age range who speak quite a lot. My best friend thinks its because I didn’t talk to him enough in the early months, which, I love her and it might be true, but ouch. My mom thinks some kids walk earlier, some kids walk later, and some kids speak earlier and some kids walk later, and at the end of the day it will be okay.

His doctor said if he’s not gabbing it up by two, that’s when the worry bells go off especially since in my case he’s learning two languages simultaneously, but he’s creeping up close to that special day, and while I’m not panicking, weepy, or wringing my hands, as a mother, I can’t lie and tell you I’m not a touch concerned.

Anyone have any personal experience with this? When did your kids start chatting, bilingual or otherwise? Any advice to help further language? I sometimes feel tempted to switch to just one language in the hopes that it will help him speak sooner, but bilingualism is such a gift. Any advice, perspective, opinion much appreciated!

36 thoughts on “Talking, and the fact that he’s not.”

  1. i'm pretty sure that bilingual kids generally do hit speech milestones somehat later. (remember, anecdotal evidence is just that!) I am on my phone so I can't cite sources, but I bet another commenter can do that. πŸ™‚


  2. Thanks for your thoughts Rehtwo [which, btw, HI :)] I will do some researching myself come to think of it. I've really just pushed aside the issue for a long time but now I'm just beginning to wonder as age 2 is fast approaching.

    Thanks anon, will check out the link!


  3. I was told due to the same circumstances that speech can be delayed 9 months in a bilingual child. I know it's hard, but I would NOT WORRY about his speech at this age…he is extremely young. Sure, there are kids speaking in sentences at 1 1/2 years but they are the exception and not the rule. I would just make sure that when he says news words, they sound “correct” and there is no overt speech pathology per se. My daughter didn't speak for quite a while — well over 2 years old…exposed to two languages as well. Now she sounds like this Jerry McGuire kid you are talking about!!! Honestly, once speech rolls around the development is SO QUICK, they pick up new words so rapidly that you can hardly keep up. Even a recent visitor that hasn't seen our daughter in 6 mod couldn't believe the sophistication of her thinking and her sentences. Really, relax…he WILL be fine! If you are really, really worried…I'd send him to a “school” — daycare, preschool, gym class, etc that will help him hear words from different sources other than you and his daddy πŸ™‚


  4. Thanks HD for your person perspective, it gives me comfort to know that your own little one did not speak at 2 but is speaking just fine now. Just out of curiosity, is your daughter still bilingual? It seems an onerous lifelong committment. Thanks again!!!!


  5. Majorly struggling to help her learn a few words here and there. Sadly we are failing miserably. She understands arabic but knows only “words' — colors, numbers, fruits, various objects. I just contacted all of our local islamic centers to look into Arabic classes!! I'd focus on instilling two languages as opposed to pushing him to speak faster in English… do you know what I mean?


  6. I don't have experience with bilingual but my little Wiggles is much like your little Waleed – he hit the motor milestones early and with fury and then has been a bit slower on the verbal side. His doctor recommended we try narrating his play since it was clear he understands, he's not just verbalizing.

    So, it feels silly, but we literally narrate what he does – like, wow, you took that truck out of the bin! Good job! And now you are putting it on the ground. And you're reaching back into the bin…and…you've got a rattle! Wow! You're shaking the rattle, etc.

    We started doing that, and seriously, within days he was babbling more and and within weeks started saying more words. (we started this at 15 mos) My theory is that we're naturally quiet people and so he was keeping with our style and not saying much – once we started verbalizing more he realized it was “okay” to make sounds, and started doing it more.


  7. First, yay for bilingualism! Second, coming from a background in education, I've read a ton of research about language acquisition for both monolingual and bilingual children. Despite the amount of research, it seems to me like there is still conflicting information depending on the theory that is ascribed to. My little E is also not speaking much. His receptive language is there, but his expressive language is practically non-existent at 15 months. Babbling, yes. Words consistently related to things, no. When his doctor brought it up to me at 12 months as an area to watch, I just attributed it to E being slower within the normal range. However, at 14 months I realized that it wouldn't hurt to have him get some extra help. If he doesn't really need it, then great. If he does, then the earlier he gets support, the better he will do in the long run. So later this month we are off to get his hearing tested and then a developmental assessment with a specialist. Personally I feel like as parents, we know a lot more than we give ourselves credit for…if your internal radar is going off, listen to it. If it's not, then you are probably okay. πŸ™‚ Also, I totally empathize with the “ouch” from the sting that you didn't talk to him enough — I got that from my husband. I'm still smarting from that a little bit. πŸ˜€ Take care!


  8. Aisha, I really wouldn't worry. Each of my four children developed so differently from each other in everything. Funny enough, the one who was the slowest in crawling and walking was the one who spoke soonest and still (he's 8 now) has a skill for picking up languages ma sha Allah. My first was pretty much bilingual from the start, the other three picked up second languages once they were about 3-4 years old. I didn't notice any problem areas, but I feel that the youngest 3 spoke more as they grasped a lot from each other. They tend to “pick up” more as opposed to actually learning it from us. I guess that's why it's referred to as language acquisition. I'm no expert but this is my first-hand experience.


  9. Bilingual children will take a little longer than monolingual children to acquire speach. But a bilingual child's brains will tend to work differently to a monolingual child. A bilingual child who continues to speak two languages will find it easier to pick up new languages than a monolingual child provided the skill is not lost.

    My cousin's four year old took a while to speak and he can now speak both Urdu and English fluently and can recognise words in Spanish and Arabic. He's also one of the most verbally confident and skilled child in his class. But when he was two, his language was rather limited. I don't remember anyone worrying about it though. We just let him play and talked to him a lot. He's now really chatty.

    At this moment, you have nothing to worry about. He's understanding you so I don't think there's anything wrong. He just might take some time to develop speech. And please don't switch to one language. Bilingualism is a skill that is much desired these days and will provide him well in the job market, especially against children who didn't pick up multiple languages and there are a lot of children who don't speak more that one language. That's a shame too. Every child should be able to speak at least two languages in my opinion.

    I know my cousin read a lot of books to her son and also just let him play. She didn't really want to push him hard and just let him develop.

    But I do know a lot of monolingual people who couldn't talk at one and a half so I don't think it's isolated among bilingual individuals.


  10. I wanted to tell you that my son (the same age as Waleed) isn't talking much, either. He has about 10 words. And we aren't bilingual. I wish we were, because that is wonderful!

    Sure, he can't talk, but he can figure out anything. He can take the safety locks off of the cabinets. He can solve problems that the very verbal 2 year old down the street can't figure out.

    So I'm not worried. I know he's a genius (of course!!!) and he doesn't need to talk right now. He can communicate with us and understands what we say.


  11. Ditto all the stories of bilingualism! My niece and nephew were raised in a bilingual house and were late talkers though very early walkers. You'd never know it now, though. Athena chatters like a magpie and it certainly didn't harm her mental development, she's sharp as a tack! It sounds like W is processing things at his own pace and hell talk when he's ready.


  12. Ditto all the stories of bilingualism! My niece and nephew were raised in a bilingual house and were late talkers though very early walkers. You'd never know it now, though. Athena chatters like a magpie and it certainly didn't harm her mental development, she's sharp as a tack! It sounds like W is processing things at his own pace and hell talk when he's ready.


  13. It's a very difficult situation as there is almost too much information out there to sort through, side with, pick and choose from, etc.
    I second your mom's sentiment.
    I third the idea of narrating the day- its very helpful.
    I worried ten times more about my first. Now raising a 16 month old that hardly speaks, I am a tad bit concerned, but way less worried as I know he is expressive and communicative in his own ways. Yes, go with your gut and instincts.
    I just got done talking with my hubby about number two's delayed speech compared to his brothers. Number 1 was in day care and forced to adapt and speak up. Number 2 only has to point and i or his big brother is there. Why use words if not necessary? So yes, more time with other kids/ teachers may be helpful.


  14. HD it sounds like your'e not alone, the older they get the more they resist. I am SURE they have arabic classes somewher ein your area. This is such a special time for them to sponge and soak up as many languages as possible!

    Banshee that's a GREAT idea. I do talk to him a LOT but narrating the day might help even more for him to put things in context. Like your own example I don't think this is a bilingual thing but just a kid thing, thanks for the advice.


  15. Jenicini, thanks for sharing your experience, and I really hope that none of those things you're testing for yield anything and your little one will just learn at their own time as so many others have commented. I think if things are status quo by age 2 I will probably go the route you are though.

    Fruitful, four children mash'Alla, you are certainly a veteran momma and I appreciate your perspective, thank for helping me feel quite a lot better.


  16. Thank you Kamille for your own insight into this, you are right bilinguilism is such an incredible gift, perhaps right now its delaying things a touch but it will only help him later on once he's older to have a brain with neurons and synapses ready to take on more language.

    Cheryl, thanks for your own personal perspective, I think my son is like yours in that he can communicate everything he wants to but he doesn't actually say much, we have no issue understanding each other, he just doesn't talk. In time, I'm sure, in time πŸ™‚

    Thanks Susan, I think when you're in the middle of it ou wonder if it will ever happen, but I'm sure this time next year he'll be gabbing up a storm, lol


  17. Thanks for the voice of reason Mystic πŸ™‚

    Leigh Ann, thanks for sharing, I'm sure when kid #2 comes along all the fears kind of dull because youve been there done that and because you have s much on your plate. I appreciate the reassurance!


  18. Through our co-op preschool, which we started when Bean was 6 months old, we have watched our kids develop different skills (crawling, walking, talking, using the toilet, etc.) at very different points. What our parent educator always stressed to us is that children mainly focus on one area of development at a time. Maybe it's language. Maybe it's motor skills. You never know! When my oldest was the twins age, we were having conversations with them. But the twins aren't anywhere near that. Nix hardly says anything at all at 21 months. They understand us and respond appropriately, and THAT is what is more important at this point. I don't know anything about raising a bilingual child, but I have read that twins tend to talk later than singletons because they communicate with each other and have less need for words. Not sure if that's true, but either way, I am not worried one bit. When they are ready, they will talk. Nix also started walking rather late, but when he did take his first steps, he walked around the entire house like he'd been doing it for months.


  19. We're raising K bilingual as well. She seemed a bit later to start taking off with her speech, but things have really taken off. When we came back from vacation in Dec (around 20months), she had over 160 words in German and I didn't bother to count the English ones. She very obviously understands what we say to her, following instructions well (when she wants to). She's putting 2 words (and very occasionally) 3 together in sentences now. She tries to sing songs, counts etc. She seems to constantly be babbling. That said, I think she was later to crawl and walk than most.
    Between being a boy and being bilingual, W's got a couple reasons to be a bit delayed. If you feel worried, talk to your doctor about getting him assessed. is a blog by a woman who's had her son assessed and has a speech therapist for him – it's making a huge difference. I think he was less verbal than you describe W to be.
    I don't think you've really got anything to worry about, but look into it further if it will set your mind at rest.


  20. Sunny its fascinating that with so many kids around the twins don't talk as bean did at their age, I guess it goes to show that its more than just what we can say are tried and true facts. Thanks for the comfort and reassurances!!

    Kate, WOW, W is 20 months and speaks 15 words, that is AMAZING– I can't beleive that she's talking btw- I feel like she was just born. Thanks for the link to the blog, I will check it out.


  21. I very much agree to listening to your inner mummy radar. Do you honestly think W has a problem? No, you don't. There.

    We're sort of in the same boat, with the mention that George has to be trilingual. We speak Romanian with him at home, English and German when out and about, and he goes to a bilingual creche (en-de). He has some words we recognise, more that are made up and I have no idea what they mean (way to make me feel better about my mummy skills… ). He understands practically all three languages, the weakest being for the moment German, since his favourite teacher is English and he spends most time with her. I woke up telling him something half in en half in ro and he understood me and did what I asked him to. He makes himself more than understood when he needs to, less with (intelligible) words, but there is no mistaking him (we opted out of sign language because it would have been too much for everyone).
    The ped has a lot of bi- and trilingual children in his care and he is definitely not worried. They all tend to talk later and have no problem switching between languages and make more or less the same mistakes when learning as the monolingual children (childs instead of children, for ex.).

    Hope this makes you relax a bit more. W is fine. You talk and read to him enough, and if you keep up both languages, he'll acquire them both and keep them active.

    Last but not least, the ped told me the age-old overused saying “We keep trying to make them talk during the first two years and keep trying to shut them up the next 18.” I think there is some truth there.



  22. It's totally normal for boys to be delayed in speech. Viktor isn't talking yet either. Boys go from not talking to full on sentences at around 2ish. Watch and see.



  23. Kmina, you're right no radar going off, just that tiny little 'hmmmm' that is triggere dmostly because the kids I see him play with in his age group are gabbing it up so it makes me wonder and compare and worrry a touch. Thans for your input, three languages is no easy feat!

    E, thanks so much for your two cents, I appreciate it!!!


  24. i definitely have experience with this, louise is almost 2 and while she has words and babbles a lot of sentences, i cannot understand most of it. my personal opinion is that while most kids are easier to understand by now, she will talk more when she's ready, i'm just not worried about it, i think i'm more worried about potty training, it totally freaks me out!! i'm sure waleed will be chatting up a storm soon (louise rolled over, crawled and walked early too, i figure, their poor little brains are just trying to catch up!).


  25. Kate, i wonder if its like what others have said, kids learn one skill at a time. Maybe ours just ramped it up a notch with the physical skills but are now taking their time with the verbal. I guess if you're not worried and no one else is worried I will take it more in stride. Comparing oneself to others is every mom's downfall 😦


  26. He does understand what you're telling him. My Precious didn't really start saying much (especially in public) until a couple months ago and now he's non stop all day long. He was way ahead on his physical skills compared to my friend's little girl who was way ahead on her verbal skills. Don't worry. Just keep doing whatever you're doing. Don't pressure him. I used to catch the kid gabbing quietly to himself but he refused to speak when I asked him.


  27. Thanks for the reassurance, there ar edays that W parrots bac EVERYTHING we say to him, and some days he stares at us making us wonder if we imagined it all. Go figure, I guess like you said it will happen in its own time as long as he understands me, it will be okay.


  28. My cousin's son will be 2 in March and he does not speak much. Like he will babble like babies do but he doesn't really SAY anything, like fully formed words or anything like that. Maybe it is a thing where kids just do develop at different speeds.


  29. My mother tells me I was running at 10 months but din't start talking till i was 2.5 years old. This while growing up with a very, very, very talkative older sister who tried constantly to make me talk (im a girl too). And I turned out just fine..i think πŸ˜‰


  30. My son walked a week before he turned 9 months but did not talk until he was 2. My niece talked early and my nephew was 2 1/2 before he spoke more than a couple of words. They are all fine so even though I know it is hard, I wouldn't worry about it.


  31. yeah, i think it's important with kid's milestones to try not to compare yours with others, otherwise it will make you crazy. waleed is a bright (and ADORABLE)little boy, i have no doubt that he'll get there.


  32. hi Aisha! This is Reem :). I know I've been teaching Zineera Urdu and after she turned one, she's been saying a lot of Urdu words. However, she didn't walk till 15 months, and I don't know if she's running? She walks really fast. The doctor also said bilingual kids can talk later, so was impressed with Z, but the norm w' bilingual can be later she said. I'm impressed Waleed did all those motor skills really easily and quickly, and the escaping from the crib is classic. Now I'm going to be worried about Z escaping, but she's pretty petite so not sure when that'll happen! My little brother didn't talk till late so just enjoy Waleed. He seems very smart mashallah. Hopefully we'll get our playdate soon. I'm back in ATL!


  33. They told us to watch out when Big Ive wasn't saying much at her 12 and 15 month appointments. She did more signs than verbal words, which we counted, but the doctors did not. At 21, almost 22 months, she still isn't saying very many words consistently. Although, she has in the past 2 or 3 weeks started to try to say more words when we ask her.

    Personally, I'm not worried as she adds more words all the time and completely understands what we are saying.

    I wonder what will happen when she starts at the German kindergarten when she turns 2, though.


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