Bilingual SLP or SLP who is bilingual?

There’s a difference.

Every so often, I see a question about whether someone who is bilingual should bother to complete a bilingual specialization or certificate program as part of their graduate training. The answers vary, and certainly there aren’t enough bilingual MA or MS programs that can provide the training, but does it matter. For me, it does. I think that SLPs who consider themselves bilingual SLPs have an ethical responsibility to be on top of the knowledge base required to practice in this area. Just like any SLP who is hired into any other position needs to have the knowledge base to meet the demands of that position.

A bilingual SLP needs to have knowledge and skills regarding bilingual development, identification of disorder in bilinguals, bilingual treatment, and knowledge about cultural factors that may impact service delivery. Asha has a statement outlining the baseline knoweldge you need to have to call yourself a bilingual SLP. Knowing another language alone does not provide you with this knowledge base any more than knowing English by itself would make you an SLP– SLPs have to complete an MA or MS degree taking courses that cover the scope of practice in the different disorder categories. I can’t imagine for example, that an SLP who stutters for example would be able to skip learning about how to assess and treat stuttering. Yes, they would bring in insights that others might not have, but it wouldn’t prepare them to work with this population. The difference of course is that knowledge and skills in bilingual assessment and treatment across all the disorder areas is not required for graduation, licensure or certification at a national level. Yet, I think that if we are going to serve bilingual populations, we need to develop the knowledge base to do so. Being bilingual IS NOT ENOUGH.

If you are bilingual and an SLP and don’t know about bilingual development, disorders, assessment, intervention, and counseling, then you are an SLP who is bilingual. You can become a bilingual SLP but you are not one yet. If this is the case, then taking courses, CEUs, reading the literature is a good way to develop and expand your practice.

Asha does not have specific rules for certifying that bilingual SLPs actually have the knowledge base that they claim. We must rely on each individual’s ethics in appropriately representing their skills and competencies. If you claim to be a bilingual SLP you are claiming that you have expertise in bilingualism, including bilingual assessment and treatment.


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  1. #1 by Zuleika Billington on February 1, 2021 - 6:57 am

    Absolutely! I am an SLP who is bilingual and on my first year at work I thought that was sufficient to assess and treat bilingual students…well, by year two I realized I needed training to understand assessments, when to report scores or not, how to compare students to determine the presence of a disability, how to explain concepts to parents, how to create and adapt materials, and more! I have done so much professional development since that first year including participating in a WIDA master cadre! The more I learn about bilingualism the more I realize there’s MORE to learn! I hope every SLP who is bilingual invests the time and effort into professional development which needed to use that tittle. I also do a lot of training of my colleagues to help them understand bilingual language acquisition, assessment and treatment.

  2. #2 by Esther Marie Berndt on February 10, 2021 - 10:43 pm

    Thank you!! Yes, so true, just as a classroom teacher or reading specialist who is bilingual is not the same as one trained in supporting bilingualism and biliteracy and multilingualism.

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