Does Bilingualism Increase Stuttering?

Maybe, but I don’t think so. What we do know is that we don’t really know enough about how bilingualism interacts with stuttering. We know that bilingualism doesn’t make autism worse; we know that bilingualism doesn’t increase the risk of language impairment, so consistent with these findings; I think that bilingualism shouldn’t make stuttering worse. There is one study that reports that children who start learning their second language later in childhood bilinguals are less likely to stutter than bilinguals who start using both their languages from an early age. As pointed out however, it seems that the prevalence of stuttering in bilinguals is no higher (or maybe less) than that of monolinguals. I think however we need to get a handle on what stuttering looks like in bilinguals to make accurate diagnosis. We know for example that bilinguals demonstrate more tip of the tongue phenomena and that mazes (pauses, hesitations, reformulations) are different in different languages.

We recently completed a review of the literature examining published peer-reviewed articles that focused on bilingual or multilingual persons who stutter. We were curious about how researchers describe the bilingual or multilingual status of participants in their studies. What we found is that most studies included information about proficiency and we found a lot of inconsistency. About half the studies included information about bilingual history; and a little less than half included information about how people used their two (or more) languages. But, wouldn’t this be important for studies of bilinguals who stutter? It’s important to know when and how and why someone became bilingual. It would be important to know how much they use each of their languages and for what purpose(s). It would also help to know which of their two languages is better—or if they are equally proficient in both languages. These are some of the questions that could help us to understand how bilingualism and stuttering interact and would help researchers compare results across studies. So, it was surprising to find out that there are still many inconsistencies. I’m confident however that as people continue to study stuttering in bilinguals that more of these descriptions will be included.

In terms of clinical application, I think we need to be cautious and make sure that we’re not over-diagnosing or under-diagnosing stuttering. Because we don’t know enough about its manifestation in bilinguals we also don’t know if the same monolingual rules apply. So, I would probably want to observe some to make sure. On the other hand, you don’t want to wait too long before treating if it is true stuttering. I know that several people are working on these questions and we’ll know more before long.

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  1. #1 by Personal Injury Attorney Anchorage Alaska on May 31, 2013 - 10:55 am

    It’s full of information I’ve needed. Thanks for sharing this study.

  2. #2 by Bail Bondsmen on July 13, 2013 - 5:13 am

    I think bilingualism has a good effect.

  3. #3 by San Antonio Movers on July 30, 2013 - 12:51 am

    I wanted to study furthermore about Bilingualism..

  4. #4 by Cesar M. on August 1, 2013 - 5:17 pm

    As a bilingual and a person who stutters, I tend to stutter more when speaking Spanish (my second language). I suspect this is so because as a late learner (began in my mid-20′s) my vocabulary is still limited. With the limited vocabulary I then tend to focus more on what I am saying and whether i am choosing the correct word and /or pronunciation. As a person who stutters, I have experienced that when I focus on what I am saying –that is, focus on speech–whether in English and especially in Spanish, I stutter more. If my focus is on the person I am speaking to or something other than what I am saying and especially how I am saying it, my speech is much more fluent.

  5. #5 by Anonymous on August 4, 2013 - 11:57 pm

    Thanks for the response Cesar. Your situation is a meaningful example of the dynamic nature of bilingualism in individuals who stutter, particularly in adults. Adults who stutter, unlike children, bring a unique set of challenges to the table that are often over-looked in research. As you described, ‘thinking’ about being fluent is often a recipe for less fluent speech, regardless of language spoken. Internal/external stressors such as this can contribute to difficulties maintaining fluent speech, regardless of dominance. As discussed in the article, the jury is still out for the precise interaction of stuttering and multilingualism. Increased stuttering in the less dominant language is certainly possible, but may have many origins. For example, a more restricted vocabulary may also limit use of certain strategies we adopt as adults who stutter, such as word substitution. It also may be a product of using a ‘less automatic’ speech production system. Much more research is required to disentangle the precise nature of the disorder in the context of bilingualism. But your response illustrates an important point – factors beyond language and speech itself need to be considered when examining stuttering in adult bilinguals.

  6. #6 by Austin Auto Accident Lawyer on August 17, 2013 - 8:34 am

    Excellent information and an interesting discussion.

  7. #7 by Zespri Green Organic Kiwifruit on August 20, 2013 - 11:05 pm

    This blog contains so many interesting stuff that makes me want to visit again and again.

  8. #8 by Manila Tour on August 22, 2013 - 1:40 am

    For me, I want to know many languages. It’s a skill.

  9. #9 by Red Bank Maid Service on September 17, 2013 - 2:02 am

    Its an advantage to understand and know different languages. it make sense on how you use it and knowing the time where to use it.

  10. #10 by Investment Property Orlando on September 20, 2013 - 8:28 pm

    Knowing two languages or more was must increase some of self-confidence due to when you travel it really will help you a lot. due to communication specifically asking other nationality for some important information.

  11. #11 by Adriss on September 24, 2013 - 1:54 am

    thanks for sharing this .
    full of information ..

  12. #12 by lumber19 on October 2, 2013 - 8:34 pm

    i want to know many languages, its an advantages to understand different languages from other countries

  13. #13 by Orlando Wedding Venues on October 5, 2013 - 12:47 am

    maybe but i think it cool if you know a lot of languages

  14. #14 by Skagway Tours on October 6, 2013 - 9:16 pm

    i want to know many languages to understand different languages from other countries and knowing the time where to use it.

  15. #15 by Aluminum Jet Boats on October 7, 2013 - 12:44 am

    all languages are beautiful and it is amazing for someone to speak a lot of languages.

  16. #16 by I Romera on February 26, 2014 - 11:05 am

    This article is absolutely amazing. I’m researching on this area and this has been of great help to me. I’m also of the opinion that bilingualism is not the CAUSE for stuttering. Thank you!

  17. #17 by Stavros Saripanidis on March 20, 2014 - 5:50 am

    Pathophysiology and therapeutic rationale of stuttering according to the holistic method
    Forms of stuttering:
    1) Clonic stuttering, characterized by repetitions of syllables or words.
    2) Tonic stuttering, characterized by blockage and disruptions of speech.
    3) Mixed, containing elements of tonic and clonic stuttering.
    4) ‘Normal stuttering’, presenting at ages of 3-4 years, is due to discrepancies between thinking and speaking. The child at this age thinks more than that it is able to express. He/she does not yet possess the appropriate vocabulary to express all of his thoughts.
    This disorder disappears gradually in a few months, if not the child does not get psychologically pressured from its parents. In such cases, simple parental counseling is enough.
    Stammering has often psychogenic causes, but results in deficient breathing.
    Whoever lacks air, has fear (angst).
    Whoever has fear (angst), stutters.
    Proper functioning of breathing is essential for proper phonation and articulation.
    Disordered breathing leads to other symptoms: rapid breathing induces intense anxiety states (angst), with activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, hand sweating, facial flushing, shoulder tension, deficient duration in learning, emotional disorders.
    For inducing proper breathing, we need flexibilisation revitalization and activation of the diaphragm, relaxation and tranquility.
    To the child, soul-body-breathing-articulating organ, are all interrelated and interdependent. For this, stuttering should be treated holistically.
    High breathing (hochatmung) is respiratory tension, with unilateral predominance of thoracic breathing, lifting of the shoulders, extreme burden of the neck muscles, ventilation of only a small portion of the lungs, creation of stretches, and is observed in almost every stutterer. [Becker and Sovak, Lehrbuch der Logopaedie, 1979 edition, page 269]
    These accumulated tensions are fixed, creating contractions of the vocal and articulatory organs.
    Primarily, we need to release methodically tension/stretches/tightness/contractions that have been established in stutterers, and induce training in relaxation.
    This occurs with special pulsations, vibrations(resonanz), oscillations, that permeate the human body, and contain healing powers.
    Relaxation occurs by slowly and periodically pulling and stretching isolated muscle groups by applying opposing forces, until harmony is brought. (Heraclitus therapeutic dipole)
    The disorder of stuttering can not be addressed piecemeal, with only verbal exercises. In order to recuperate completely and permanently the stutterer, it is necessary to lay the foundations for the extinction and treatment of the causes and not just the symptoms of stuttering.
    There should be a therapeutic approach for the entire body of the patient, not only for the articulating organs.
    Proper, relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing is a prerequisite for the recovery of stuttering.
    These myokinetic exercises are not imposed in military style, instead the therapist guides the patient with gentle and calm voice.
    The best age for early restoration of stuttering is between 5-7 years, before the disorder gets established and consolidated. At such a young age, the child has not yet realized to be a stammerer. Upon entering school, the child realizes that he/she speaks differently from other classmates, some of whom might as well tease him.
    At school, the child makes desperate efforts to improve, pressing itself even more, increasing the tension of the whole body, and exacerbating contractions in phonetic-articulating organs.
    The situation gets worse, fear of speech grows, the child ends up completely avoiding speech or certain words.
    Pioneering speech therapist Maria Summer would organize groups of stutterers, of up to 12 people, consisting of young children or adults, and engage in intensive group therapy of a few weeks.
    She believed that the team creates additional potential, and mutual emotional support between stutterers.
    These holistic therapy sessions in no way should remind school. Children should rather perceive them as games.
    All exercises designed for flexibilisation, revitalization and activation of the diaphragm for inducing proper ventilation must be non-conscious to the child and the adult who stutters.
    This because breathing process can not be affected positively by the child’s will. When exercises are performed consciously, after willful overexertion, it leads to stronger tensions of the entire body, extra contractions of the vocal and articulatory organs, additional ventilating tension.
    During therapy sessions, absolute silence prevails and the exercises are repeated silently, like a ritual, even for hours.
    Intermediate necessary rest breaks are included, for relaxation and recovery.
    Without the consolidating break, all exercises are useless.
    Only in advanced sessions, near the end of the treatment cycle, the psychologist/speech therapist/specialist trainer proceeds in rhythmic-verbal exercises.
    In each session, the therapist politely and continually corrects posture, the position of the spine, breathing, tension at the shoulders, the movement of the lips, chin, etc., because the old strong clichés have become a habit.
    Furthermore, the therapist must always remain calm, without any stress, with proper diaphragmatic breathing, correct spinal posture, in order to have a positive impact on the child.
    Proper execution of these exercises is more important than quantity. Proper implementation is difficult to describe and must be experienced by each therapist in practical training sessions.
    When psychological problems are detected, psychotherapy is used to improve the child’s self-esteem.
    This holistic method, developed and perfected by Maria Summer in Rankweil Austria, many decades ago, is used for quick and effective treatment of disorders of speech, attention, breathing and learning, even in adults.
    Only if the child has had meningitis or encephalitis in the past, leaving residual permanent neurological damage, attested in EEG, we fail to provide lasting recuperation of stuttering, after therapy sessions.
    1) Maria Summer, Heilpeadagogin-Logopaede, gruenderin der Ganzheitlich Fundierten Logopädie, Sprachheilstaete und Ateminstitut in Rankweil, Austria. Fortbildungsseminare.
    2) Klaus Peter Becker und Milos Sovak, Lehrbuch der Logopädie, Verlagsgruppe Athenäum, Hain scriptor Hanstein, 1979.
    3) E.M. Pfau und H.G Streubel, Die Behandlung der gestoerten Sprechstimme. Stimmfunktionstherapie, Veb Georg Thieme Verlag, Leipzig, 1982.
    4) Maria Montessori, The receptive mind, Glaros, Athens, 1980.
    5) Goblenzer H. und Muhar, Atem und Stimme, Österreichischer Bundesverlag Fuer Unterricht Wissenschaft und Kunst, Wien, 1976.
    6) Leo Kofler, Die Kunst des Atmens, Schaff Horst und Hedwig Andersen.
    7) E.J. Kiphard, Erziehung durch Bewegung Verlag duerse Buchhandlung, Bonn, 1977.
    8) E.J. Kiphard, Motopaedagogik, Modernes lernen, Dortmund, 1979.
    9) Ditrich Eggert, Psychomotorisches Training, Beltz Praxis, 1979.
    Athanasios G. Chasapis, Psychologist-Specialist speech therapist using the holistic method.
    Stavros Saripanidis, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

    Chasapis Athanasios studied, for many years, at the speech therapist Center and Institute of breathing run by Mrs. Maria Summer, and participated in many seminars for Advanced Speech Therapy abroad.
    He then transferred and extensively used these practices of the holistic method (speech-voice-breathing-attention-learning disorders-etc.) in his speech therapy Practice in Greece, from 1982 until now.
    He is the author of a forthcoming book in German, which describes extensively the pioneering holistic method of Mrs. Maria Summer, who died in 2007, without leaving a textbook behind.

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