What is a bilingual speech-language pathologist?
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.
What is interesting about bilingual speech paths is that they actually self-declare. At the moment, there is no universal standard that a bilingual SLP needs to meet. They declare it and that is that.
But what do you know about bilingual speech paths? Test your knowledge with these five common myths:
TRUE OR FALSE: Bilingual speech pathologists can get a job anywhere
FALSE: Bilingual speech pathologists are the proverbial unicorn in many parts of the country. But 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. This is especially true if his/her work experience is only with bilingual students and not other populations.
TRUE OR FALSE: Bilingual speech pathologists make more money
FALSE: Unfortunately not when a bilingual speech path is hired on the teacher pay scale. In that case, the bilingual SLP might just make what any masters-level educator would get. And 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. If not, he/she will move on to another district for higher pay (I did!)
TRUE OR FALSE: 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. That’s how they base treatment decisions and their language choice on the child’s needs.
TRUE OR FALSE: Any bilingual speaker can be a bilingual SLP
FALSE: Language fluency is only one part of being a bilingual speech path. Cultural competency or cultural humility is a big part of being a bilingual speech path. Cultural humility refers to understanding and being sensitive to the culture of the people who we serve. There are also many different professional developments offered via ASHA another providers to help bilingual SLPs learn evidence-based best practices.
TRUE OR FALSE: 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 is a tremendous gift. But many are overworked by their employers. Ultimately, I left those positions because my health was at stake and I needed better 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! 😉