Bilingual Speech Pathologist Job Description: What is a Bilingual Speech Pathologist?

 

The journey to becoming a bilingual speaker is unique for all- from when the second language is learned, to how often each learned language is spoken, to how one’s primary language influences how a second language is spoken- many variables make each bilingual experience its very own. That being said, it is not surprising that many speakers with bilingual speech disorders require care from a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who has a firm grasp of these complexities. Bilingual Speech Pathologists, referred to by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) as Bilingual Service Providers (BSPs), are SLPs who have the knowledge and skills to address the unique needs of the bilingual speaker, and the specific languages that that person speaks.

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Bilingual Speech Pathology Job Requirements

 

According to ASHA, one must meet several skill requirements, in addition to those already needed to become a speech pathologist, to have a bilingual speech pathology career:

 

Near Native Proficiency in a Second Language: Bilingual SLPs must know a second spoken or signed language at near native proficiency or better. This includes near native understanding of that language’s vocabulary, pronunciation, semantics (meaning), usage, and grammar.

 

Describe Typical Speech and Language Acquisition in Second Language: A BSP must be able to tell clients what normal speech and language development looks like in the primary and secondary language, in terms of written, spoken, and, if applicable, signed word.

 

Assessment Selection and Delivery: BSPs must understand how to select the right bilingual speech and language assessment tools, and how to interpret the results properly in the required languages. Assessment of a bilingual speaker considers the history of when the patient learned each language spoken, how often each language is spoken, in what scenarios each language is spoken, and more.

 

Diagnose and Treat in a Second Language: Near native proficiency of the BSP’s language must extend to his or her ability to diagnose and treat bilingual speech disorders, including speech, language, swallowing, vocal, and cognitive disorders in the preferred language of each client that he or she serves, using the method of communication favored by that client.

 

Understand Communication Difference vs Communication Disorder: Learning two languages can create normal differences in how a bilingual speaker speaks each language that do not indicate bilingual speech disorder. A BSP must understand this to properly diagnose patients. Examples of communication differences include:

 

  • Inferences and Transfers: Errors in one’s use of a secondary language due to the way his or her primary language is structured
  • Silent Period: When children are learning a second language, they often go through a period where they can understand much more than they can put into words, resulting in a “silent period” where the child listens in order to further develop their skills in that language. Some may confuse this with selective mutism
  • Codeswitching: Switching between languages within a sentence or phrase is very normal for bilingual speakers. A properly qualified BSP will understand when variations are used outside of the typical constraints of codeswitching and therefore may indicate disorder

 

Cultural Understanding: BSPs must be sensitive to how one’s culture may affect a patient’s needs.

 

Bilingual Speech Pathologist Salary

 

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not parse out bilingual service provider salary specifically, we do know that in 2018, median pay for all SLPs was $77,510. The top 10% of SLPs earn over $120,000 per year.

 

Bilingual Speech Pathology Work Environment

 

According to a 2018 survey by ASHA, BSPs work in the following settings:

 

  • Grade Schools: 44%
  • Non-Residential Health Care Facilities: 23%
  • Hospitals: 13%
  • Residential Health Care: 7%
  • Colleges: 5%
  • Other: 8%

 

This is a similar breakdown to SLP work settings as a whole. One difference in BSP employment is that 33% of them are employed full time in private practice, which is only the case for 22% of SLPs overall.

 

How to Become a Bilingual Speech Pathologist

 

Bilingual Speech Pathology Education Requirements

 

Bilingual speech pathology careers require following the path to becoming a traditional speech pathologist, with a few additional considerations. Completing a bilingual speech pathology master’s may be a good way to prepare to practice bilingual speech pathology, but it is not required as long as you meet the skill and language requirements. Learn more about the path to becoming a speech pathologist in our resource, Becoming a Speech Pathologist: A Step by Step Guide.

 

Consider a Bilingual Extension Speech Language Pathology Program

 

ASHA does not accredit any university programs for bilingual service delivery specifically, but some schools will offer such concentrations or opportunities to earn a certificate in bilingual speech pathology. These programs vary greatly, so do your research to find a program that will help you gain the skills required to consider yourself a BSP. The ASHA code of ethics puts the responsibility on you to only claim that you are a BSP if you truly have the skills to do so.

Learn more about bilingual speech pathology graduate programs

 

Check State and Local Requirements

 

While most states do not require BSPs to have a special certification, there are a few that do. Always check with your state’s certifying body to determine if there are additional requirements for BSPs in your state.

Once you ensure you have the necessary skills to call yourself a BSP and meet any state requirements, it is time to self identify as a BSP.

 

Self Identifying as a Bilingual Service Provider

 

Despite a lack of formal certification for BSPs, you can and should promote your status as one through ASHA. There are several advantages to self identifying as a BSP:

 

Listing as a BSP in ASHA ProFind: Since bilingual speech pathologists can be hard to come by, many potential clients find providers through ASHA ProFind. This tool allows those in need of speech pathology assessment or treatment to narrow their search for a provider to a bilingual SLP matching that client’s specific language needs. Self Identifying will make you more visible to new clients in need of your services.

 

Bilingual Service Providers are in Demand: At the end of 2018, only 6% of SLPs and audiologists represented by ASHA met the requirements to be a BSP. In every single state, the percentage of those speaking Spanish at home is higher than the % of SLPs who are qualified to provide bilingual services of any kind. Bilingual speech pathology career outlook is also high due to the fact that speech pathologists are in demand in general, with an anticipated 27% growth in demand between 2018 and 2028.

 

Increased Earning Potential: Depending on where you live, a premium may be put on your services as a BSP.