Bilingual speech pathologists are special in a lot of ways. Well, we are pretty rare. According to a 2014 report by ASHA , there are 161,163 SLPs and audiologists in the United States. Of that number, 6,491 stated they were bilingual service providers. Of those bilingual service providers, 3,923 were bilingual in Spanish and certified by ASHA. Running the percentages on that, 4% of ASHA-certified personnel are bilingual and just 2% are bilingual in Spanish. Holy cow, do I feel special!
But what do you know about bilingual speech paths? Test your knowledge with these five common myths:
- Bilingual speech pathologists can get a job anywhere — FALSE: While bilingual speech pathologists are the proverbial unicorn in many parts of the country, they are not going to beat out every candidate for every job in the US. In fact, if a bilingual candidate is in a part of the country where there aren’t many bilingual students then being bilingual offers minimal advantage, especially if his/her work experience is only with bilingual students and not other populations.
- Bilingual speech pathologists make more money — FALSE: If a bilingual speech path is hired on the teacher pay scale, the bilingual SLP might just make what any masters-level educator would get. That’s one reason why some school districts can’t hold onto any bilingual speech paths: there needs to be an additional incentive to join a district, like a bilingual stipend, to boost a bilingual’s pay or he/she will move on to another district for higher pay (I did!)
- Bilingual speech paths teach students English — FALSE: Bilingual speech paths teach students how to communicate in the language they are most comfortable. Bilingual speech paths follow the lead of the student they are working with and base their language choice on the child’s needs.
- If you can speak another language, you can be a bilingual speech path in that language — FALSE: Language fluency is only one part of being a bilingual speech path. Cultural competency is a big part of being a bilingual speech path, which refers to understanding and being sensitive to the culture of the people who we serve.
- Bilingual speech paths have the best jobs of anyone — FALSE: Unfortunately, many bilingual speech paths are totally overworked by their employers due to the high demand in the field. Being a bilingual speech path has been a tremendous gift for me personally, but when I felt overworked by an employer, I ultimately left those positions because my health was at stake and I knew that I could find a better fit for me to have the best work/life balance.
I hope that this information helps you understand more about bilingual speech paths, the obstacles in our field, and the challenges we face in our profession. Hug the next bilingual speech path you meet because he/she needs it! 😉