Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Trilingual toddler language delay?


Hello James,
I have a 31 months old daughter whose development is perfectly fine, except that she is not speaking as I would expect her to at this age. Of course, she lives in a trilingual environment, me speaking French, her daddy German, both speaking English to each other. She also goes to a English daycare so this would be her dominant language. Her 5 year old sister had exactly the same environment and it seems to me that she had started to speak earlier than that. I understand that each child develops at his own pace and I think my toddler has developed her mortician for instance much earlier that her older sister. I also can see how having to deal with three languages can be challenging!
So at this stage, my little one doesn't count or say all colors, but just a few, and mainly in English (which is fine for me!) she is just starting to form two to three word sentences, such as "my coat", "mommy here" or even "mommy sit here". However, she pronounces most of the words incompletely "canard" would be "nar", "spoon" is "poon". I have the impression that she also privileges English although she does often say some French of German words.
Besides, she understands and responds to all three language sin her own way, and repeats the words she does not know.
We read a lot to her, and point out to objects repeating the words, which she sometimes remembers.

Is there anything to worry about at this stage or is it a normal development for a trilingual child?
Thank you in advance for your advice.

Hello Rita,
You are certainly right about two things. One, children develop at their own pace (so that your two children may well develop skills at different ages), and two, a child learning three languages is likely to be delayed. Although it is not exactly the same, think how difficult it might be for you to try to learn three new languages at the same time!
The fact that she is saying two or three-word sentences indicates that she is developing language skills. And it is common for young children to say part of a word or leave off a consonant.
I would say you need not worry at this point. You should keep doing all the wonderful things you are doing for her now -- reading to her, talking to her, going over words with her, and helping her to learn colors and numbers.
Best wishes,
James Windell


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James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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