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Curtin University of Technology
Twins and Multiples

Multiples in families who speak another language at home

There are many fewer cases than one would imagine of twins who develop their own 'secret' language. Often on skilled analysis, it turns out to be a unique set of mistakes in their native language. Some of the better documented cases come from twins developing in families who are bilingual, speaking one language at home and another in the broader community. With the fact that multiples can be a little slower in language development, they are more vulnerable to the complexities when exposed to two rather than one language. Obviously families in this situation should not give-up speaking their own language at home, but they need to be sensitive to how this may impact upon their multiples and seek professional help if they feel there is a potential problem.

One school of thought is that it is best for the children in bilingual families to become fluent in the language spoken at home and to understand one language with its grammar and structure before venturing into the language used in the broader community. This may put them behind a bit when they start school, but may be better in the end. Obviously it does depend on whether these are languages with similar linguistic structures e.g. Italian and Romanian. If in doubt, get advice!