It’s a well-accepted notion that if you want to master multiple languages, you should learn them at a young age. But new research reveals that learning young can have some serious downsides. According to a study released this week in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, children who are bilingual before age five have a higher chance of developing a stutter than those who learned only one language.
Conducted by psychologist Peter Howell at the University College London (UCL), the study evaluated 317 children between the ages of 8 and 10 who had been referred to a doctor for stuttering. Out of the group of children, about one in five of them spoke English and a second language at home. Just under half stuttered in both languages. Boys outnumbered the girls in stuttering by 4 to 1.
The UCL study also found that children who spoke exclusively one language at home other than English had a higher recovery rate. Nevertheless, there was no difference in school performance noted between children who stuttered and those who didn’t. The researchers did recommend, however, that the chances of stuttering can be reduced if non-native English speaking children learned their native language first up to age five and then English thereafter.