Bilingual stuttering

I am a first year graduate slp student. As I am learning more about stuttering, I am curious to learn how stuttering presents in bilingual individuals. Do bilingual individuals stutter in both languages? Are there differences presented base on whether these languages were acquired together, or one language was learned at a later point in life?

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Bilingual stuttering — 5 Comments

  1. In my experience, the clients will stutter in both languages, though perhaps not to the same degree. I suspect the factors at work there are avoidance (e.g., it is more difficult to switch words or rephrase utterances in a less proficient language) and the language itself (if someone’s stuttering is triggered by initial plosives, German is likely to be his or her more disfluent language).

  2. Hello Emma,
    I am not an expert on bilingualism and stuttering, but I do have a few comments. First, most of the bilingual clients I have treated stutter in both languages. I’ve been told that stuttering is sometimes worse in the native language, but not always. In my own case, I learned Turkish in the US Peace Corps between the ages of 21-23. I was not bilingual but pretty good in the second language. At that time, I had mostly recovered from a lifelong stuttering problem in English; however, I stuttered as much as ever in Turkish. And, now 50 years later, even though I am more fluent in Turkish (stuttering-wise) but less fluent (language ability-wise) than I was as a young man, I still stutter when I speak Turkish. All I can say about this is “Go figure!” I do not have a good explanation, except perhaps that the stuttering memories (conscious and unconscious) are triggered as much by the phonological differences in Turkish as anything else.
    Sorry if this is not much help.

  3. Like my colleagues above, I also experience that bilingual individuals usually stutter in both languages. I have not observed or recognized any particular pattern in this regard. In clinic I always ask the person him-/herself or ask parents in addition if the client is a child. Often you receive answers that the person might experiences more severe stuttering in particularly one of the languages. How close the language is linked to the person’s primary emotions is sometimes of interest, other times it is the person’s ability to experience speech control which matters -and sometimes other aspects. It is always worth to reflect about this topic together with the person himself in clinic.

  4. We actually don’t seem to have case reports on stuttering only in a single language. Valerie Lim has done published research on this topic, and Peter Howell/John von Borsel have an edited book, in which she and others discuss this topic area. Some folks echo thoughts above, and add the construct of language proficiency – it is more difficult to maintain fluency in a language in which your language skills are relatively weaker.

  5. Hi,
    If you join research gate and look up the work of Dr. Courtney Byrd you will find a wealth of information on bilingualism and stuttering. One point she makes is that often the triggers for increased stuttering may have to do with the increased complexity of one language over another.