A new study has revealed that children who are bilingual before the age of five are more likely to stutter than non-bilingual counterparts and also find it harder to overcome their impediment. The study will be published in Archives of Disease in Childhood.
To reach the conclusion, the researchers reviewed 317 children, who were referred for stutter when aged between 8 and 10.
All the children lived in Greater London, and all had started school in the UK at the age of 4 or 5.
The children's carers were asked if they spoke a language other than English exclusively or combined with English at home.
Just over one in five (69) of the children spoke English and a second language at home. Thirty eight had had to learn English as one or more family members did not speak English at home.
Fifteen of the 38 children spoke only one language (not English) before the age of 5, while 23 spoke their family's native language as well as English before this age. Thirty one children stuttered in both languages.
Comparison with a group of children who didn't stutter showed that three quarters of them were exclusive speakers of a language other than English at home; only a quarter spoke two languages.
Over half of children who either spoke only their native language at home up to the age of 5, or who spoke only English (monolingual), had stopped stuttering by the age of 12, when they were reassessed.
That compares with only one in four of those children speaking two languages up to this age.
There was no difference in school performance between children who stuttered, but the authors suggest that children whose native language is not English may benefit from deferring the time when they learn it. "...this reduces the chance of starting to stutter and aids the chances of recovery later in childhood," they say.