Wednesday, November 15, 1995

Bilingual stutterers

In response to a comment about the possible deleterious effect of bilingualism on suttering

I am a bilingual stutterer, and now father of a child I am encouraging to
become bilingual.

I was born in Italy and came to the US at 16 for one year, then again
at 20. At first I was not recognized as a stutterer in this country, but,
as I became better and better in English stuttering became evident
again. What I think happened is very simple: my hesitations in a foreign
language simply masked my stuttering. I must confess that for a while
I found this very convenient... it was much better to be thought of as
foreign struggling with english than as a stutterer!

I have also felt that Italian requires somewhat faster vocalization for
the same rate of speech, as words are generally a bit longer, so I retained
the feeling that I stuttered a little less in English. This observation is
however clouded by the fact that I have worked at overcoming
stuttering and I no longer view it as a problem in my life. The same
might have happened if I had stayed in Italy.

I am the father of a three year old, whom I consider "at risk" for
stuttering.nevertheless I decided to speak to him only in Italian. He hears
English from everyone else. I don't view this as extra potentially
deleterious "pressure". To him it's just an alternative way to say things and he seems
to be enjoying it.

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