Bilingual children's vocabulary

Do bilingual children have less vocabulary?

Some will say they have MORE vocabulary, others will say they have LESS. But the truth is mixed:
- Bilingual children often have less vocabulary in each language individually.
- In total (when all their languages are considered), they often have more vocabulary.

When we decide to look at language milestones to see if everything is going well with our mini, it is important to count the vocabulary our child says in ALL languages, otherwise our understanding of his/her language level will be skewed 😉

Let's take Bea as an example:

  • in French, she has slightly less vocabulary than her monolingual friends
  • in Spanish, she has slightly less vocabulary than her monolingual friends.

But when Spanish AND French are combined, Bea's vocabulary is equal to (or even slightly greater than) her monolingual friends.

Last precision. It's normal for a child to have more vocabulary in one language than the other. Often, it's simply related to the amount of time they spend in each language ⏳ The rule is simple: the more time a child spends in a language, the more they develop in that language!

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Julia Boulanger

I studied childhood bilingualism at the Masters and Doctorate degree. Today, I help bilingual families and create unique tools for multilingual children. I am here to share science-backed and real-life information and tips.