When learning a new language, putting together proper sentences and utilizing correct grammar can be daunting. Learning a second or third language is strongly encouraged in schools throughout the country. Although speaking and understanding a second language can be difficult at times, doing so with a stutter can be even more difficult without the use of a stuttering device. Learning how to be bilingual can improve your memory and attention span, but what impact can it have on your stutter?

What is Bilingualism? 

According to The Stuttering Foundation, there is no true way to define bilingualism, nevertheless, it refers to those who speak two or more languages, or are spoken to in two or more languages at home. Bilingualism and second-language learning are very similar, other than the fact that second-language learners have gained the ability to speak a second language after the age of three. 

Stuttering in Second Languages

The natural “um” and “uh” additions to speaking a second language aren’t considered a stutter, because they are words of concentration when trying to form sentences correctly. People who tend to stutter in their first language can typically count on stuttering in their second one as well because stuttering is a motor speech disorder. However, the variations of stuttering may differ, such as frequency (one might stutter more in one language than the other) and location (parts of the sentence that one might stutter at). For people who are learning second languages while using a stuttering device, a stutter may be noticed when: 

  • Mixing vocabulary. When trying to develop a sentence in one language then switching to the other for better understanding, this increases the skills in the weaker language but can also trigger an increase in disfluency.
  • Using grammatically complex sentences. When thinking about correct grammar usage in a different language, it can be difficult to form a sentence without stuttering. The brain is on overdrive, and there can be too many words jumbled up to get the correct ones out properly. 
  • Speaking to strangers. When someone is learning a new language, the teacher or parent who is helping them learn, become a casual conversationist. When someone who stutters is then placed to talk to someone new in a second language, the mental sentence development and speech movements may be altered because of the concentration the body is under. 

What to do? 

If a stutter has developed while learning a second language, don’t begin to worry. Stuttering when focusing intensity on speaking and pronunciation is normal, which comes hand in hand with learning a new language. If one notices that stuttering has increased or flares up when speaking another language other than your prominent one, realize that this is normal as well. Taking deep breaths to keep from becoming frustrated, using a stuttering device, and thinking before trying to speak are all helpful tools to handle a stutter. Listeners as well as speakers should always have patience, especially when it comes to speaking a new language and stuttering. 

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