Last Spring a gentleman called me up, begging me to start speech therapy with his daughter. His daughter was 4, and her teacher recommended speech therapy, as the child had not spoken the entire year. The father had been on a waiting list with his health plan for 6 months,and decided to pay privately and submit my receipts to his health plan, which reimbursed him.
The family was from Eritrea, and had lived in Tel Aviv a few years. Putting aside the political problems they faced, they insisted that their daughter speak only in English, as they were no longer going to use Tigrinya, their mother tongue. They hoped to move to England or America soon. They had many friends in similar circumstances who were teaching their children English, letting them pick up Hebrew in school, and , also, which was not the case with my client, speaking their mother tongue at home.
While the parents said they did not speak Tigrinya at home, with closer questioning I learned they did speak to each other, but not to their daughter, whose name was Esther. I felt it was very important they speak their mother tongue with their daughter, but they refused, begging me to work on improving her spoken English.
Soon I was in touch with the child's teacher. She reported the child did not speak Hebrew at all, This was her second year in the Israeli School System ( September 2016). Soon Esther would be tested by the school authorities to determine if she had learning issues, as she was not speaking. The parents wanted her in an English speaking program. However I explained that this was Israel, and the language taught in the public schools was Hebrew. If they stayed in Israel, English would be taught in 3rd or 4th grade.
My main concern was Esther. She did not know her mother tongue, did not speak Hebrew , and was speaking English, only with her parents. With other children at play, she was quiet.
I worked with Esther a few times, mostly to try to convince her parents to accept and use Hebrew as they were living here, and to teach Esther her mother tongue. Esther made progress in our few sessions, but not the kind of progress I felt would help her communicate in the world she was living in.
After 4 months Esther's program released the results of the testing, ( I contributed my report) finding her to be of normal intelligence, and encouraging speaking Hebrew in the home and school setting.. She would receive a teacher to help her with Hebrew language and a speech therapist working in Hebrew in the school setting. At this juncture her parents decided to teacher her Tigrinya. When I last checked in with them, Esther was speaking in Hebrew spontaneously and chatting with her parents in their mother tongue.
I felt this was the best outcome. Esther may need to learn English at some future point, but not now.