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My son just started school a few weeks ago. He is 3. We arrived to the country we currently live in about a year and a half ago, when he was starting to speak our mother-tongue. Maybe in part because of that, plus who knows what else, he doesn't speaks. Says a few words, but it's not construction phrases.

At school the teacher said he is inmature for his age. But that he is catching up, and we should wait a little before raising any alarm. The pediatrician has the same opinion. And I believe they are right. But I'm looking at ways to help him. They didn't say anything about how we can help him to talk and socialize more.

Any thoughts, ideas, even books recommendations would be great!

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There's way too many unknowns for us to be much help. I'd trust your teachers and pediatricians. –  DA01 Nov 4 '11 at 23:30
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"immature for his age" typically does NOT refer to language production, but to a wide spectrum of other behaviors. So, unless you get the teacher and pediatrician to clarify what they are referring to, we can't help very effectively. –  HedgeMage Nov 7 '11 at 20:30
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3 Answers 3

I agree .. there is no need to be alarmed. But the situation should motivate you to increase your efforts to help the child mature. I think the question was how to do this.

My advice ...

  • Speak in the mother-tongue at home, not in the adopted tongue.

I presume that the schooling is "immersion", meaning that the adopted language is primary. So there is plenty of exposure to the adopted language. Your role is to prompt actual use of language. As you get him to be more expressive in the mother tongue, it will carry over to the adopted tongue.

If the child is in a bilingual class, get the child into class in the adopted language. As soon as possible. There will be initial struggles, but not as many as you think. Bilingual education is a complete and utter waste of time, and may well be contributing to the problem. I would say more about the topic, but the mods would have to silence me.

  • Speak to the child in complete sentences, and require verbal responses.

"Use your words" or something similar should be a common refrain from you and the mother. Give lots of encouragement as the child struggles with vocabulary and construction and makes progress.

  • Make the child speak more and speak in complete thoughts.

Have conversations with the child. Frequently prompt the child for more information. Ask how and why questions.

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I think your first course of action would be to ask the teachrer what areas of development are a concern. Is he "immature" in physcial, social, cognitive, or language development? Once she gives you a little better understanding of what behaviors she is seeing, then you will be able to look at options with more confidence that something should or could be done. Remember that children each develop at their own rate. As a teacher for over 25 years, I can assure you that maturity can not happen faster than your child is ready. You can however provide opportunities to work on certain skills based on the recommendations of the teacher. It sounds as like the teacher recognizes that this is developmental and will resolve itself over time, as does the pediatrician, so I would trust them, but if it makes you feel better, ask more questions and look for opportunities to work on the skills the teacher has concerns about. Maybe you can share more specific concerns with the group once the teacher gives you a more clear picture.

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I can only second the advice of the teacher and Pediatrician. Our daughter has grown up in a home where two languages are spoken, but English was the first language we presented. She's almost through prep school and will be soon heading off to first grade, but Filipino (Tagalog) is something she's struggling with, despite growing up around it.

Children have an immense capacity for language, but it does take some time. Within a year she's just about conversationally fluent and her confidence has increased accordingly. I'd suspect that your child's shyness could be ascribed to confidence, more than anything. If you don't feel comfortable in a social situation, you aren't going to be very likely to engage. That goes for adults, too.

Just give it time, and capitalize on any opportunity you find to boost your child's confidence. Speak both languages at home as much as possible and nature will take its course.

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