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The Silent Period

I wanted to write a blog post on a stage in second language acquisition called "The Silent Period". This topic came up on another adoption blog recently so I thought I would share what I have learned about this subject.

When we first met Evie in Ethiopia, we noticed that she had a lot of sounds for her age. After coming back to the US she started speaking less frequently, not using all of the sounds she once had. My sister-in-law was a school psychologist so I mentioned to her that it appeared as though Evie was losing some language. Intuitively, I sensed that this was related to learning a new language but I didn't know. My sister-in-law told me to google "the silent period". When I did, I found this article that helped me better understand this stage of language acquisition.

I was able to receive more info on this from a woman who has her masters in ESL. She said that almost everyone acquiring a new language goes through a silent period. The silent period can last anywhere from a few days to a year, depending on the child's personality. She worked with one boy who did not speak for a full year. She recommended talking to the child as much as possible. She recommended doing this face-to-face when possible. It's also important for them to be around English speaking kids. She said research shows kids are more willing to take language risks around other kids than adults. This was all great information!

We did have the early childhood intervention specialists come out to evaluate Evie. Surprisingly, they knew nothing about the silent period. Nothing. This was shocking to me given that we live in a city that is 55% Hispanic. There are so many ESL children here. I shared with them the information I had received on the silent period. They definitely felt this was an important piece of the puzzle when accessing her. Evie is communicating through sign language and other non-verbal communication (she's only 13 mo) and so they were actually quite pleased with her communication skills for her age.

I hope that this information will be helpful to other adoptive parents who may be in a similar situation. If nothing else, it can be something that you can discuss with your child's health care provider when accessing lags in language development.


  1. That's really interesting. I teach Reading to EL students and I have never heard of this.

  2. Thanks! Love your blog. I know your friend Nicole and she suggested I read it:)

  3. This is important information to know. Thank you for sharing it. You are one of my adoptive mentors! :)

  4. Awesome post, Rachel. Thanks for the education! Haven't felt compelled to call the Texas ECI folks yet--M gets evaluated in his school. In the event that it becomes necessary, I'd be interested in your take on the quality of the program...

  5. WOW- that's fascinating and it makes total sense! I have never heard of that- thanks for sharing!!!!


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