Why Should Parents Talk to Their Children in Their Native Language?

by contributor · 108 comments

Why Should Parents Talk to Their Children in Their Native Language

By Ana Paula G. Mumy
Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

As a speech-language pathologist and as a multilingual mother of bilingual children, I am finding myself shocked and confused at the number of parents I run into who have chosen not to speak their native language to their children for various reasons or who have been persuaded to believe that speaking their native language to their children will hurt them socially or academically if the primary language of the community is different.

There are so many great articles and literature (based on good research) available on the topic of bilingualism and its benefits, even for children who may be experiencing language delays, that it seems redundant to write on the issue, but I feel compelled to do so because the passing down of a parent’s native language appears to be diminishing more and more.

So why should parents talk to their children in their native language?  

The first and simplest reason is because that is the language in which they are likely to be most dominant or proficient, which in turn is the language in which they are able to provide quality language input as well as support effectively and consistently.

Even if a parent is able to pick up the language of the community, that parent’s vocabulary, grammar skills, and ease of communication will probably remain stronger in the native language.  I’ve often heard of recommendations from professionals and educators for parents to stop speaking the native language so that confusion is not created, so that language delays won’t occur, so that children can do well in school, but the research literature says the exact opposite!

The other occurrence that appears to be more prevalent is for the native language to be spoken from birth to preschool with a sudden shift to the community language once the child enters early intervention programs or school. 

The problem with this is that the very foundation of language (which was formed through the native language) is being pulled out from under the child in order to promote a new language.  The research shows that children with strong first language skills are more ready and able to learn a second language.  In other words, it’s difficult to build a second language if the first language foundation is not established and supported WHILE the second language is being learned.

To put a halt on the native language will only hurt the child’s language growth, and long-term negative effects will be inevitable.

I’ve said this before, but I reiterate that children must be able to function/communicate effectively in their homes before they can function/communicate out in the community, so the native language cannot be stripped away, even for children with language delays.

So if you are a bilingual parent reading this, or a professional or educator guiding bilingual parents, here are some tips for bilingual parents of school-age children:

You can still help with homework, projects, or assignments that are in the community language.  You can read the assignment’s text or the given passages in the community language.  Just be sure that all of the verbal interaction around that homework or reading activity remains in the native language. 

In other words, give the instructions in the native language.  Give explanations or clarify questions in the native language.  Discuss passages and their meaning in the native language.  Code switching, or the alternating between two languages, is a normal part of communication in bilingual individuals, and it does not promote or show signs of confusion.  It’s perfectly acceptable and appropriate for bilinguals.

And in everyday conversation and family routines, during family outings and celebrations, speak your native language!!!  Children need to hear quantity and quality language input in order to have strong language skills, and parents are the primary individuals who can provide the language input needed in the native language.

Professionals, educators, and parents should be working together so that the native language is flourishing at home!

 

(This post originally appeared on The Speech Stop)

Ana Paula G. Mumy is a mother of two bilingual children and a trilingual speech-language pathologist, the author of various multilingual leveled storybooks and instructional therapy materials for speech/language intervention, as well as the co-author of her latest eSongbook which features children’s songs for speech, language and hearing goals. She has provided school-based and pediatric home health care services for nearly 12 years and thoroughly enjoys providing resources for SLPs, educators and parents on her website The Speech Stop.

Win a FREE language learning DVD set for your child!
Spanish, French, Portuguese, German - over 40 languages available.
Click here to to try a free lesson!
Click here to Enter to Win a FREE DVD set!

Did you like this post?
Subscribe to our RSS FEED (via favorite reader or your email address)!
Stay up-to-date, win prizes via our EMAIL LIST!

1,000+ pages of information and tips in Multilingual Living Magazine!

{ 105 comments… read them below or add one }

1 blanca April 15, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Hola! What is your recommendation for bilingual homeschoolers? I’m confused as to how to balance the exposure to both languages. To date, spanish is our language of communication. My kids are 4 and 5 and do not speak much English yet because my initial plan was that they would learn english from school. Now that i’ve decided to homeschool, I am very scared that their spanish will be lost once I start to speak more english to them during teaching time.

Gracias!
Blanca

Reply

2 Dorota April 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Blanca,
Even when you start homeschooling keep on speaking Spanish with your kids. They will learn English from the environment they are living in (I assume you live in USA, right?). Some of the books or curricula you will be using may also be in English, so you can read with your kids in English, but explain to them everything in Spanish. That’s how I do while homeschooling my kids – we live in a Chinese language environment and I teach them in Polish using English books. Kids are 10 and 15 and know all three languages very well.

Reply

3 MW April 16, 2013 at 6:19 am

We live in the US and our 2.5 yrs old daughter goes to the local day care full time while both myself and my husband work full time. We speak our 1st language (Japanese) at home but she speaks and responds in English almost always. Seems she understands us well in Japanese and sometimes speaks some words in Japanese mixing with English words and grammar. We’re thinking of switching her daycare to an immersion school where they speak and teach in Japanese full time, and wonder if this is the best thing for her bilingual skill development. Will you please advise us on this?

Reply

4 Tony April 16, 2013 at 11:16 pm

How about more languages? We don’t have kids yet, but my partner and i communicate in english which is neither of our native languages. We also consider living in a different country. So we’re talking 3 or 4 languages in the kid’s environment: dad’s native language, mom’s native language, the language i ear them talking and possibly a different community language…
Have you encountered such situations? Any advice/guideline?

Reply

5 Dorota April 16, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Tony, That’s exactly our situation – I speak Polish with kids, my husband speaks Mandarin Chinese to them, between us we communicate in English and around us people speak Taiwanese (grandparents) and Japanese (at least one month a year we spend in Japan). Kids are fluent in Polish, English and Chinese (the younger one is still learning to read and write in Chinese). They understand Taiwanese and some Japanese. They don’t mix languages and use code switching naturally.
We’ve always spoke our languages with kids and made it clear that we expect them to speak different lang. to each one of us. Of course right now kids are older, so we may switch to either English or Chinese when all 4 of us want to participate in a conversation (all 4 of us speak these two languages).
Having multilingual kids is fun!

Reply

6 Kristina April 18, 2013 at 4:08 am

Tony, this is our case as well. We live in Slovakia, in a town with Hungarian majority. I speak English to my daughter (not my native tongue but I am an English language teacher), my husband is Israeli so he speaks Hebrew, my parents speak to her Hungarian(this is also the street language), and in September she is going to a Slovak kindergarten. My little one is 2 and a half and doing pretty well, doesn’t bother her speaking so many languages.

Reply

7 Ana Paula G. Mumy April 16, 2013 at 11:59 pm

Blanca – I have a 4-year-old daughter that I’ll begin homeschooling as well this fall because I want to give her a bilingual education. I am still reading up on how to practically do this, but one book I’d recommend is “Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family” by Dr. Xiao-lei Wang. She raised her children in a trilingual environment and was very successful. I have chosen to focus on Portuguese and English only (not adding my third language – Spanish), because Portuguese is my native language, the language my parents and extended family members speak, and the one I feel I can support most effectively and consistently. I am also attempting to contact schools in the U.S. that offer Portuguese/English curricula. There are school districts in Massachusetts, for example, with large Brazilian populations that offer bilingual programs, so they may be a resource for me. I would recommend you look into connecting with a school district or virtual school that offers a bilingual Spanish/English curriculum. You could still homeschool but maybe utilize their resources. Many charter schools also offer assistance to homeschooling families. Hope this helps!

MW – the key to raising bilingual children is quality (intentional, constant) and quantity (consistent) language input, especially in the minority language. If you and your husband are working full-time, assuming a 12-hour day if your daughter rises early and goes to bed early (based on her age), she is probably getting approx. 65-70% language input in English and 30-35% language input in Japanese the majority of her week. If your desire is for her to become proficient in Japanese while living in the US, my personal opinion is that an immersion environment may be beneficial for her since her daily Japanese input is currently limited. The important thing is for you to determine what your goals (desires) are…how important is it to you that she become a bilingual/bicultural individual in a predominantly monolingual society? what steps can you take to actively and purposefully foster her bilingualism?

Reply

8 MW April 18, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Thanks for the response! We definitely want her to be proficient in Japanese – not just speaking but reading/writing as well ideally to the level where she can be competent in the college graduate level eventually (well unless she says she doesn’t like it – don’t want to force her). We were thinking she’d naturally pick up Japanese if we speak 100% in Japanese at home but she speaks English to us because as you say the % of exposure she has to English is much higher than that in Japanese. We plan to send her to the immersion preschool then if she wants she could go to the Saturday Japanese school, while visiting grandma/grandpa every summer if the situation allows and attend the local school for summer/spring breaks. Having her play with the kids who are under the same situation (learning Japanese as a second language while living in the US) sounds like a good idea tome. While we are worried she might not pick up English as fast as other kids do I see greater benefit in a long term to expose her to above. Do you have any other good suggestions other than above that parents like us should do/learn/work on in order to raise a bilingual kid? We live in Seattle and believe we’re lucky to have some immersion schools, and would like to take advantage of the opportunity as much as possible.

Reply

9 Ana Paula G. Mumy April 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm

MW – If you’ve not read my other articles, visit http://www.thespeechstop.com/sub.php?page=bilingualism and read the following: “Tips for Parents Raising Bilingual Children: When the Home Language Differs From the Community Language” and “Will All My Efforts as a Bilingual Parent Be in Vain?…Don’t Lose Heart!”

I would also recommend reading “Raising a Bilingual Child” by Dr. Barbara Zurer Pearson. One thing she addresses that has stuck with me is maintaining 2 things constant: MOTIVATION (to me that means desire and need for the language) and OPPORTUNITY (to me that means quality and quantity language exposure). So whatever choices you make in relation to daily life, schooling, recreation, and so on, be mindful to foster those two things. For me, fostering motivation and opportunity has meant: 1) speaking to my children almost exclusively in Portuguese at home and out in the community (even when they address me or respond in English); 2) keeping in contact with my Portuguese-speaking family members who live far away via Skype – my daughter especially loves these interaction times which are in Portuguese; 3) making books and children’s shows/movies in Portuguese (I do limit video time) readily available/accessible in our home; 4) play groups and outings with other Brazilian families in my area; 5) hosting a toddler story time and Portuguese “class” in my home (which I teach); 6) giving my kids a taste of Brazilian culture as much as I’m able as far as food, music, recognizing the flag/colors, etc., and 7) teaching them to read and write in Portuguese (a process I am about to begin).

Reply

10 klaudia viola June 19, 2013 at 7:52 am

Anna- the result of me, English non-native speaker, speaking English to my kids is, that they understand, but reply in my mother language, that is the same of the country we live in. I understand your recommendation would be to switch completely to my mother tongue, and provide them with English during a special activity or ocassion related time- video watching, play group, English phonics class, native speaking visitors…how about reading books? And, should I insist during this time that they reply in English?

Reply

11 Ana Paula G. Mumy June 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Klaudia – It’s difficult for me to answer not knowing the specifics…how old are your children and how long have you been speaking to them in English? And is English being spoken because there are other English-speaking family members? Do they have a NEED for English at this time in their lives?

Reply

12 MW March 11, 2014 at 8:33 am

Thanks for all the great tips. We ended up switching to the immersion preschool and our daughter completely ‘converted’ to Japanese speaking. She spends the whole day 100% in Japanese and we are very happy. However one another thing – we sent her to a ballet class the other day and she was upset and cried as she was unable to follow the instructions in English. I encouraged her to stay in the class (30 minutes) and gave her lots of positive enforcement just by staying there but she seems to have now lost confidence and started saying she hates English. The advice we received from the preschool teachers are to increase exposure like play dates and songs in English and create some ‘English’ time at home. We tried both but knowing that we already speak the home language she won’t respond at all, and she completely remains quiet in the play dates. Do you have any advice to balance out her social skills in English while she’s educated to be bilingual? I am pretty sure she’ll pick up English once she hits the school age, but I am concerned that she piles up the assumption that she can’t handle English and doesn’t like anything associated with English and loses confidence – she’s going to be miserable in the pre-K. Any tips ro prepare her for preK?

Reply

13 Ana Paula G. Mumy April 17, 2013 at 12:08 am

Tony – as a speech-language pathologist, the general rule of thumb is that parents should speak to their children in the language they know/speak best, since you want strong and solid language models at home for appropriate language development. That is not to say other languages cannot be introduced at some level, but there must be consistency in the language input for positive multilingual results.

Reply

14 suzana niles April 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I am a Brazilian teacher and mother of two boys who grew up totally biliterate. One of the them is now also fluent in Spanish. It wa not easy, because we lived in the Middle East by the time they were being alphabetized, and this was before Internet. I used to pack up and bring books with me when we went to Brazil, to be able to read to them and taught them myself how to read and write in Portuguese. Code switching was a dayly fenomena in my house and very fun to observe. Never regretted, even with all the hardship. It’s a pitty that most Brazilians I know, do not do that.

Reply

15 Ana Paula G. Mumy April 18, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Suzana – Could you briefly tell us how you taught your children to become biliterate? Did you teach the letter/sound system in one language first, then the other? Did you teach the letter symbol and the corresponding sounds in each language simultaneously? Did you keep the language of instruction constant or did you alternate? I believe your practical experience would be very helpful to readers if you’d be willing to share. :) Muito obrigada!

Reply

16 Ana Paula G. Mumy April 19, 2013 at 7:42 am

As a parent, if you’d like to provide me feedback on the pressing questions you need answered most, or the issues of most concern, or areas of struggle, I am currently writing a booklet entitled “Practical Bilingualism: A Simple and Useful Guide for Parents Fostering Bilingualism”

There will be no “theory” – just practice, a very easy-to-read and straightforward guide. Please contact me directly via my website: http://www.thespeechstop.com/sub.php?page=form

Reply

17 Marek April 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I completely agree with your statement about children needing quantity and quality language input. I know a lot of my ease of being able to communicate and use correct grammar was because my mother would correct me every time I said something that was incorrect. She made sure I would repeat it after her. When I was young I didn’t see the importance of that, but as I got older and went through school, I realized what a huge impact it had on me.

Reply

18 Tamara April 30, 2013 at 6:56 pm

I have 3 kids, my oldest son is 5 and my twin boys are 3. All 3 are bilingual. They attend a French Daycare and my oldest attends a French School. I myself am bilingual and understand the advantage it gives you in life. I wanted to same for my children and I don’t regret that decision one bit. All 3 of my boys understand both English and French and can carry a conversation in both languages. I myself speak to them in both English and French as does my father. The rest of my family speaks to them in English.

Reply

19 Rachel May 2, 2013 at 11:41 am

I am an American living in Rio de Janeiro and I got a lot of crap from family and friends for only speaking to my oldest in English. They kept saying it was too much and that he needed to learn Portuguese first. I just ignored them.

Now he speaks both fluently, given he does have to start seeing a speech pathologist because of some mispronunciations… They are very slight though.

He was a late talker but he caught on just fine. My second was the same.

It amazes me when a parent doesn’t speak their native language with their kid. I couldn’t naturally communicate in any other with them! Mommy likes her maternal language when talking to the kiddos ;)

Reply

20 Alex May 3, 2013 at 2:23 am

As an English bilingual mother and now grandmother living in France I am now speaking my native tongue to my French grandaughter…and the miracle is happening all over again. My three year old is understanding and trying to use English. Even asking me for words !! It is for me part of her heritage as much as a gift to given for her future.

Reply

21 Alan May 4, 2013 at 6:19 am

I think you are correct to some extent, but if your native language is one that in general is not one spoken my the majority of the country you live in, it could be disadvantageous, particularly for later employment prospects, for example speaking Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina or Navaho in the US or even to a lesser extent speaking local dialects.

Reply

22 Ana Paula G. Mumy May 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Alan, I absolutely agree that one must know/speak the majority language of the community well in order further their education, secure good employment, etc. My push for the native language is not to encourage it in lieu of or as a substitute for the majority language. The research shows that a solid foundation in one’s native language actually promotes and enhances second language learning, so cultivating the native language (with quality and quantity input from parents/caregivers) is beneficial at multiple levels, including achieving proficiency in the majority language.

Reply

23 Kolfinna May 11, 2013 at 5:57 pm

If some of you are still doubting the message here above, believe me, it works. I am from Iceland, but being always on the move meant that my children were not schooled in that language. Every night I would read to them in our micro language, sing to them songs in Icelandic, make them watch, listen, hear (in the car, in particular) Icelandic children programmes. Both of my children (now grown up) speak perfect Icelandic (written not so good) and are so grateful to their mother for given them this opportunity/chance to belong. Keep that in mind….

Reply

24 Margret May 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm

What about autistic children? Anyone know of research on that?

Reply

25 Ana Paula G. Mumy May 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Yes, access the following article on bilingualism and children with language delays, autism, and Down syndrome.

http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Can-children-with-language-impairments-learn-two-l.aspx?goback=%2Egmr_3368345%2Egde_3368345_member_238406835

Reply

26 Margret May 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Thanks

Reply

27 Jen May 20, 2013 at 8:33 am

Hi
Actually, I know 4 languages, Asi Visayan, English, Tagalog and Japanese. My native language is Asi Visayan, the language in a small island in the Philippines, I learned English in the school and from other means, I learned Tagalog from watching TV dramas or programs or when I go to Manila. I learned Japanese because I am living in Japan now.

When my daughter was a baby, I talked to her in English, when she was a toddler I taught her some English words, now that she’s four years old, she can speak English although not perfect. I can’t give priority on teaching her my native language because i think it has no importance in global competitiveness for her future.
So, I decided to teach her English rather than my native language. She can learn my native language naturally when we visit our family and relatives in my hometown. Tagalog can be learned later as we are going to live in Manila for good in the future.

Is this thinking and way of training my child good for her?

Reply

28 Ana Paula G. Mumy May 21, 2013 at 3:44 am

Jen – I understand your decision to speak in English, and that may be appropriate if you are fully proficient and comfortable in English since children need good models of language input. If you’re wanting your child to eventually speak Asi Visayan and Tagalog, the key will just be whether or not there will be consistent and quality language exposure/input in each of those languages later in her life. If your future plans mean she will be fully immersed in the languages/cultures, her propensity to learn those languages will be high, because that will create opportunity and motivation as I have discussed in a previous response.

Reply

29 Arthur June 1, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I agree with pretty much everything you wrote in this article. Since I was raised in Canada, English is the language I speak most of the time. However, my parents still talk in my mother tongue. As a result, I am fluent in my mother tongue. This is only beneficial. I can still talk to my grandparents since they can’t speak English.

Reply

30 Jeffrey Nelson June 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

I agree with the majority of it.

I believe parents need to have the primary language be in a language they are more comfortable with. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have conversations, say specific words, and concentrate on other things in a secondary language. I speak to my son in a non-native language but I am very comfortable in it and have no limitations as far as what I’d like to say, or need to say, at least to this point. Our household is 100% in that language, so it makes it a lot easier.

All in all, great post.

Thanks,
Jeff

Reply

31 Ana Paula G. Mumy June 9, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Jeff, you are absolutely right that code switching (alternating between two languages) is a normal and often useful communicative practice among bilinguals. Certain words or expressions are better said in one language versus another, and for bilinguals/multilinguals, we are able to effectively choose which language to better express certain thoughts and emotions.

I don’t necessarily discourage parents from speaking a non-native language if they are fully proficient and comfortable in that language. In my experience, however, that is usually not the case, or a more “rare” occurrence. Where I get greatly concerned is when I see parents discarding their native language for various reasons and then providing limited (often incorrect) models of language to their children in a community language they don’t speak well or don’t feel confident in…yet they continue to try. Consequently, I’ve sadly seen parents only being able to communicate with their children in very surface conversations because the native language wasn’t spoken/taught and because the parents never reached proficient or complex language use in the non-native language. I’ve also seen grandparents and extended family members completely alienated from children because of forced language barriers that could have (should have) been avoided.

Reply

32 Shona June 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I’m multilingual, live in an English speaking country ( moved here by marriage) , have an English speaking husband, no family here that speak my other languages. How do I teach my children my language because I think I saw that hearing the language spoken was also. Factor to the children learning it?

Reply

33 Ana Paula G. Mumy June 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Shona – I also live in an English-speaking country and have an English-speaking husband, but all of my interactions with my children have been in my native language, Portuguese, from birth. All of my family members either live far away in the U.S. or in Brazil so how I have them interact with my Portuguese-speaking family members is via family trips when possible or via Skype.

Reply

34 Guillermo June 14, 2013 at 2:19 am

Nice article. I’m a native Spanish speaker and I speak English proficiently, so my girlfriend and I are planning to, once we have kids, talk to them in both English and Spanish. I would be the one speaking exclusively in English and she would do it in Spanish.

Do you think that way they will learn both languages the right way? We live in a Spanish language enviroment but the kids would also be exposed to English from TV shows and such, which we primarily watch in English.

Is this a good way of raising a bilingual child? Thanks!

Reply

35 Ana Paula G. Mumy June 14, 2013 at 7:49 am

Guillermo – if you are a proficient English speaker able to provide good and complex models of vocabulary and grammar, speaking in English with your child may be appropriate even though it’s not your native language. If English, however, is not the language in which you can see yourself expressing your heart to your child (expressing love, affection, silliness, joy, sorrow, correction, discipline, etc.), then you may reconsider your decision.

Since you live in a Spanish-speaking environment, there will be greater opportunities for Spanish exposure and use, so if you work outside the home and will be the only source of English input for your child, you’ll need to provide LOTS of quality language input in English when you are together, through your everyday routines and activities, including play time.

I am currently authoring a parents’ guide for fostering bilingualism entitled “Practical Bilingualism”…it will be available soon. :)

Reply

36 Guillermo June 19, 2013 at 8:12 am

Thank you Ana ;) Yes, I can express myself in English the same way I do in Spanish (more or less, of course), so that wouldn’t be a problem. Our “plan” is to expose them to a huge amount of stuff in English: bedtime stories, books, cartoons, etc. So, even if I’m the only person talking to them in this language, I won’t be the only source.

I’m afraid that sooner or later they would get tired of speaking English only with me, specially when they realize I’m the only one they have to talk to that way (apart from English class). I hope the exposure to media in this language would make it more attractive.

I’ll definitely buy that guide, sounds great ;)

Reply

37 Ana Paula G. Mumy July 15, 2013 at 10:42 pm

I start this announcement by thanking Corey Heller for this WONDERFUL site that is truly a “light” for multilingual families, guiding and strengthening families in their multilingual (often complicated) lives!

As a result of my personal experiences and as a response to the dozens of questions I have received via this site and email, I am very excited to release “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children”! This guide is written to be an easy read that is extremely practical, covering multiple topics and pressing issues. Available now at http://www.thespeechstop.com/sub.php?page=bilingualism.

Reply

38 Alexandra July 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I’m a native English speaker living in the US but my husband speaks Farsi with our 5-year-old and she goes to a Farsi immersion preschool. As a result, my Farsi got good enough that I decided to speak to our son in it when he was born 2-1/2 years ago. Lo and behold, he’s practically monolingual despite a ton of English in his life (nanny/babysitter, TV, books, his sister and me, parks, etc.). I am sure that will change in a year or so, though. English quickly dominates here, even in their immersion preschool! Yes, I felt a little bad about not speaking my native language to him, but it’s been good for all of us to have an extra voice speaking the second language at home, and when necessary, I switch to English if I have to. My son doesn’t need complex stuff explained yet so I haven’t had to challenge myself much, but it will get harder, for sure. And it’s funny – most of my terms of endearment and my discipline are in English. It’s been an interesting experience!

Reply

39 Rodrigo July 18, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Hello,
I have a question. I have now a 5 months old baby. I am costarican (spanish) but I live in Thailand, so I use English at work and with friends. My wife is Thai she doesnt speak English very well and she has no clue about Spanish also.
At the beginning I was speaking to my baby in English because I thought it will be more useful, in Thailand nobody speaks Spanish, but then a friend told me I should speak to him in Spanish. Right now I’m really confuse which language should I speak to my son because my wife’s family is using Thai all the time. Should I speak to him 80% Spanish and 20% English, or just Spanish now?
Looking forward for your answer
Thank you.
Rod.

Reply

40 Ana Paula G. Mumy July 19, 2013 at 6:55 am

Rodrigo – I normally recommend that parents should speak the language they know and speak BEST and the language that comes more naturally to them for day-to-day interactions with their child, especially if that language will allow the child to form relationships with grandparents and other family members who may not speak the community language. For more detailed information and tips on home language use, fostering cultural awareness and identity, encouraging your child to speak a minority language, suggestions for everyday activities, and much more, please check out my digital guide for parents entitled “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” – available at http://www.thespeechstop.com/sub.php?page=bilingualism.

Reply

41 Brian July 24, 2013 at 5:44 am

Thank you for the interesting and informative article! Although I agree almost entirely, some situations particular to a given family, even if rare, might suggest a parent continue practicing a non-native language with their children.

I am a non-native German speaker living in the US (my spouse understands German but speaks none). My children have limited native input, but I want them to be bilingual. Now that my two year old has unprompted German conversations with me, I can’t help but be the proudest Papa, even if he makes the same mistakes as me!

Reply

42 Ana Paula G. Mumy July 24, 2013 at 7:43 am

Brian – Thanks for the feedback! I completely agree that there are exceptions to the rule, and in my general recommendations, I could never account for every situation since languages, cultures, family dynamics, living conditions, etc. vary so much.

I am assuming you continue to promote your own language learning in German, which is the key for any parent attempting to rear their children in a non-native language – putting in time and effort to become a competent non-native language user so that you’re able to provide good language models and communicate naturally and with ease.

My concern at times stems from seeing parents attempting to raise their children in a language in which they are not confident, but also which they are not actively pursuing to learn. I have witnessed children become like strangers in their own home due to language barriers with their parents caused by parents not speaking the language they are competent in (usually their native language). The result then is that the children and parents have to resort to superficial (surface) conversations and can never reach deep matters of the heart. I have also seen children being alienated from grandparents and extended family members due to forced language barriers that could have been avoided. There are, however, exceptions to the rule!

You might find a new guide for parents useful in your bilingual journey: “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” – available at http://www.thespeechstop.com/sub.php?page=bilingualism.

Reply

43 Laura July 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Hola! I am so confuse now. I’m Spanish but I speak English, not perfect but I want to continue improving it. I thought that, if I have children, I would speak English to them, in order to give them better chances in life, even if they grow up in Spain or if they go to an Spanish school (here not even bilingual schools are completely bilingual). But I don’t know what to do. Any advice? I do believe that learning English earlier would be easier for them and much more recommendable.
Thanks!

Reply

44 Ana Paula G. Mumy July 31, 2013 at 9:54 am

Laura – when choosing the home language, I normally recommend that parents use the language they know and speak best, which is usually the native language, so that their children are being given good language models, however, if you are proficient in another language and feel comfortable and confident using that language for a variety of purposes (i.e. talking, playing, teaching, correcting, etc.) then I don’t see as much harm. The main question to ask yourself is, what is the most natural language for me to interact with my children, where I don’t have to hold back my feelings, affection, my thoughts, opinions, etc. because of a language barrier? Also, you didn’t specify where you live…if the community language is English, then your children will have no problems learning it when the time comes and the need for English presents itself. I hope that clarifies things for you at least a bit!

For a thorough yet easy-to-read guide where I cover choosing the home language and share many tips and practical ways of promoting bilingualism in the home, go to http://www.thespeechstop.com/sub.php?page=bilingualism. It’s entitled: “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children”

Reply

45 Samanta July 31, 2013 at 5:33 am

Hi. We have 3 languages home and kids are doing pretty well.
We live in London , my husband and I speak English to each other , but
I am Italian so I speak my language to the kids , and my husband is Algerian
So he speaks Arabic ( such a difficult language to learn later in life) to them
And we are great full that they are able to switch languages easily. They are
Only 5 and 3 years old . Exposing them to different inputs early in life I believe
Will definitely be an advantage for them. I can’t wait for them to start Spanish at school.but it will take 2 more years…

Reply

46 Maria July 31, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Hello Ana Paula, I have a three year old girl who is being brought up bilingual in English and Spanish. I am a native speaker of Spanish although I am bilingual in English and Spanish. My husband is a native speaker of English, and though he can speak Spanish, he is not bilingual himself. We live in an Spanish speaking country and our home language is English. We both speak to our daughter in English at home and in Spanish if we are in a Spanish speaking environment. She can understand both languages but she is much more fluent in English and her vocabulary is much bigger as well. We decided not to take the option one parent-one language because we thought that she would need more input from the language different from that of the community. We are hoping that when she goes to school she will catch up with her Spanish and that being a bit behind in the community language will not be a disadvantage. From this article I see that it shouldn’t be a problem in most cases, although our situation is different since I have not used my first language to interact with my child from the very beginning. Thanks a lot.

Reply

47 Ana Paula G. Mumy August 1, 2013 at 1:35 am

Maria – in essence you’re using the “Minority Language at Home” method, which is a known method many bilingual families have used. What I say to parents that choose to speak a non-native language is that it’s okay as long as they are comfortable and confident speaking that language for a variety of purposes (i.e. talking, playing, teaching, correcting, etc). Your daughter should have no issues learning Spanish at school, especially due to the language immersion component. If you want more ideas, tips, and encouragement for the bilingual journey, check out my new easy-to-read parent guide entitled “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” – available at http://www.thespeechstop.com/sub.php?page=bilingualism (you can read the introduction and view the table of contents there too).

Reply

48 Andres August 5, 2013 at 10:00 am

Hi Ana Paula
We live in the US and both of us parents speak Spanish as native language and we do so consistently at home, still both of our children prefer to speak to us in English. I initially tried to force them to answer back in Spanish but I saw that it became harder and harder for them to do so and they became very frustrated trying to find the right words. I got afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to communicate with them so I did let them answer or speak the language they preferred. I speak Spanish and they reply in English. I know that they understand most of what I say. Is this a good arrangement for their bilingual future? are they going to catch up somehow and be able to communicate in Spanish later on? They are 8 & 6 now. Thanks

Reply

49 Ana Paula G. Mumy August 5, 2013 at 11:35 am

Andres – your experience is common to many bilingual families since the frustrating reality is that the majority language tends to dominate even in a bilingual home environment. My children (ages 4.5 and 3) sometimes do the same at varying degrees, responding to me in English even though my interactions with them are primarily in Portuguese. What I’ve found is that I alone am not enough incentive and opportunity for them to WANT to use Portuguese, so I’ve had to create more opportunities for Portuguese exposure and use, such as outings and play dates with Brazilian families, having movies, storybooks and music in Portuguese available at home, setting up Skype “dates” with Portuguese-speaking family members, etc. The key is making their NEED for the target language more prevalent in their lives.

If you’d like many more tips, ideas, and strategies for promoting the home language, I just recently finished a guide entitled “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (http://www.thespeechstop.com/sub.php?page=bilingualism). I address many topics such as cultural awareness and identity, daily schedule and routines, play routines and family outings, media, encouraging home language use, and much more! :)

Reply

50 Lucia August 8, 2013 at 12:37 am

Hello, great discussions, thanks for sharing.
For me the most important thing for children to take up a 2nd language whether mother or father is context. My twin boys aged 5 speak English (from their Australian father), Spanish (from me) and Italian (having spent two years living in Italy), and it all clicked for them when we were going to these places, Spain to see my family and they realised they could not speak English to my parents, Italy when they were going to school and nobody else understood English. I know not every situation allows for context, but for me this was key, and now that we are back in monolingual Australia, my boys do not have any qualms about talking to me in Spanish in front of their friends, teachers or family who are only English speakers.

The other element having been the minority language when living in Australia is that I create “allies”. Books that I read only in Spanish or Italian, videos that they watch or music that they listen to only in Italian or Spanish. That means it is not just me talking to them in Spanish but Nemo, Dora, Peppa Pig!

Reply

51 Cecilia Koyama September 7, 2013 at 7:46 pm

What bothers me now is that our family would be moving Philippines and my daughter who is 7 don’t speak english and tagalog.This is quiet nerve-wracking to me.Is there any suggestion that can help me.

Reply

52 Ana Paula G. Mumy September 11, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hi Cecilia – I would need more specifics in order to give you any guidance. You can reach me here or directly via my website (www.thespeechstop.com).

Reply

53 Paula September 11, 2013 at 9:44 am

Hi Ana Paula,
I am 6 months pregnant and thinking of how to raise my child. I am a trilingual linguist (English, French and Spanish). My mother tongue is Spanish and my French is to near-native standard . I also speak English as I have been living in the UK for some 9 years. My husband only speaks Spanish. The thing is that I was thinking of speaking to my baby in French, the father -and other family members- would speak to the baby in Spanish and the baby would learn English from school and TV. However, after reading your posts I am having second thoughts about speaking to the child in French. I wonder if it would be a better idea to wait until the baby is 3 and have a native French au-pair? My concern is that although my French level is really good I have not been using it lately and is becoming a bit rusty, I also was not raised in France or speaking French so I do not know much of the kiddo jargon -if this makes sense :)- I acquired French as a second language so really I am confused as to what would be the best option for the baby.
Thanks for the advice

Reply

54 Ana Paula G. Mumy September 11, 2013 at 10:28 am

Hi Paula – I normally recommend that parents use the language they speak best or the language they feel most comfortable using for a variety of purposes. What language do you feel most comfortable using to express affection, humor, to play with your baby, etc? Also if you choose to use French, will your baby have opportunities to use French with others in addition to you? Language use is closely tied to NEED for that language, so think in terms of what languages can be reasonably supported (or fostered) in your home and community.

I have a lot more tips and guidance in my new booklet entitled “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” available on my website.

Work by Patricia Kuhl (1992) suggests that babies lose the ability to distinguish sounds not in their native tongue around 6 months of age. Some earlier research indicated by 12 months of age.

Reply

55 Paula September 11, 2013 at 9:51 am

Also,

Until when can they learn how to perform different sounds? I heard that it has to be before their ‘phonation system’ such as vocal cords etc are fully developed, i.e., is this true? And if so, at what age does this happen?

Thanks a lot!

Reply

56 lisa October 21, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Im indonesian and my husband is romanian. I have 4 years old daughter and we live in french speaking region in Switzerland. I only know the basic french, my husband knows french quite well. My husband and I speak indonesian and english with our daughter. And now my daughter is going to primary school soon. Im afraid that she cannot do well in school because she cant speak french. How am i supposed to do? any advise? My daughter also catch some romanian words because she plays with romanian cousins. I think she get confused with 4 different languages..

Reply

57 Ana Paula G. Mumy October 22, 2013 at 9:21 am

Lisa – here is an excerpt from my parent guide “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism):

“If your child is entering school soon and he/she does not speak the community language, don’t worry about the fact he/she will be a little lost initially. Children adapt and learn quickly! Some parents feel they need to introduce the community language at home prior to school to “prepare” their child for the school environment, but this practice is not recommended. Once the need for the community language presents itself, your child will have no issues learning it, especially due to the immersion component of the school environment. Don’t stop speaking your home language!”

To clarify my statements above, when children have a solid first language foundation (the home language), normally they can easily build upon that strong foundation and learn more languages without confusion. I would say continue to give your daughter quality and quantity language input at home in the home language(s). The French language immersion experience should be enough to give your daughter the tools to learn French, and her learning could potentially be reinforced by your husband as well who speaks French well. I discuss tips for quality and quantity language input at home in much more detail in my guide. Hope this helps!

Reply

58 Francesca Canu December 3, 2013 at 12:02 am

Hello.
i am italian and my partner is turkish. we talk to each other in english even though my partner can speak italian.
we live in germany, i can speak german very well but my partner can’t.
i am pregnant and i am concerned on which languages should we speak with our kid.
i want to speak italian, it is very important for me cause it is my mother tongue and i can convey emotions and sensations with it.
as an expert, can you please give us an advice?
thank you

Reply

59 Ana Paula G. Mumy December 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Francesca – my recommendation is usually that parents should speak to their children in the language they speak best and in which they feel most comfortable in order to express themselves for a variety of purposes (e.g. talking, playing, expressing affection, to teach and discipline, etc). If your partner is proficient in Italian and feels confident in that language, then that might allow for more consistency in your home language, however, one should never be forced to speak any given language to their child. It could be that your child has two home languages and a different community language. I hope this helps! For more detailed tips and recommendations, please see my parent guide “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

60 Francesca Canu December 4, 2013 at 1:35 am

thank you so much for your advice. both me and my partner are quite talented in learning new languages (i speak 5, he speaks 4) so i hope our child will be a polyglot ! :)

Reply

61 Irina January 9, 2014 at 9:04 am

Hello!
I’m Russian. I live in UK last 7 years. I have a 6 years old son. I’ve got divorced from my English husband 2 years ago and now he is trying to stop my son speaking to me in Russian during our phone conversations. I ONLY have talked to my son in Russian since he was born-so he could learn the language. It is deeply upsetting for me and my son. do you think my ex-husband has any legal right to do so? Child lives with me. Thank you.

Reply

62 Ana Paula G. Mumy January 16, 2014 at 8:00 am

Irina – unfortunately I can’t speak on the legal aspects of your predicament, but you may consider seeking legal counsel. If your son lives with you, I would just encourage you to continue speaking to him in Russian as you always have, assuring him that his use of Russian is completely normal and acceptable since that has been your language of interaction since birth.

Reply

63 Dina January 16, 2014 at 4:37 am

Hi there,

I speak English to my son even though it is my second language. I’ve lived in an English-speaking country for most of my life, and I’m sure my grasp of the language is pretty decent. My husband is French and we live in Britain, and we speak English at home. It would be difficult for us to communicate in our native languages at home, so we let our respective parents teach our son French and my mother tongue. He doesn’t have any problems with speech development, and speaks and understands English very well. He is also doing very well in the other two languages. I wonder if this is common (i.e. a non-native speaker parent speaking a community language (as opposed to their native tongue) to the child and the child doing great in terms of speech development), or it is just us?

Reply

64 Ana Paula G. Mumy January 16, 2014 at 7:54 am

Dina – I am sure there are many families in your situation who are doing great, but I would venture to guess that this is more the exception to the rule. My recommendation stems from the fact that I see a large number of parents attempting to raise their children in languages they are not comfortable or confident speaking for a variety of purposes or in various contexts, and as a speech-language specialist, I see the negative effects not only for the child but also for the immediate and extended family members.

Reply

65 Roy James January 25, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Hi.
I don’t have any children yet but I am planning on it with my partner in the future. We are both English natives living in the US but I speak Spanish. My partner is going to learn Spanish and I will study Portuguese in college. We want to raise our kids with English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Is this a bad idea since the latter two are so similar? (I’m only 18 years old but this is definitely a serious concern.) And your article was amazing! Thanks in advance.

Reply

66 Ana Paula G. Mumy January 28, 2014 at 8:28 am

Roy – The similarity in the languages would not be an issue. I speak both Portuguese and Spanish and knowing Portuguese actually aided my ability to learn Spanish (I learned Spanish, however, as an adolescent). The bigger question is can you and your partner provide quality and quantity language input in all 3 languages? Language use is largely tied to NEED for that language in one’s everyday life, so as a parent, you just have to ensure that you maintain the second language or languages constant in the child’s life. For more detailed tips and recommendations, please see my parent guide “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

67 paulina January 28, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Hi,
I really loved the article. I have a 4 year old boy, and from day one it was really important for me to teach him my native language (Polish) and i have succeeded. We speak English at home and that’s also the language of the community. However we are now going to adopt my husband’s 4 year old nephew, whos first language is english. Do you think I should try and teach him polish, and if so should I start from the day he comes to leave with us, or give him time to adapt. Or maybe I should just carry on speaking english to him, but I’m afraid that this may make him feel excluded, like I said before I only speak polish with my son. Also it would be greatly beneficial to my husband’s nephew to be bilingual and I would love to give him that chance.

Reply

68 Ana Paula G. Mumy January 29, 2014 at 2:38 am

Paulina – in terms of your current family dynamics and his integration into your everyday lives, I would recommend you speak what feels most natural, which appears to be mostly Polish (the language of interaction between you and your son) and some English, if I have understood correctly. If you don’t introduce Polish right away, your nephew’s propensity and desire to learn it and use it might decrease if you establish English as your language of interaction, and this might also cause your Polish interaction with your son to change if your son begins to hear more and more English at home. Since your nephew is still very young, his adaptation should be fairly smooth, but this will also depend on the circumstances of his adoption, his emotional well-being, etc. In summary, my gut feeling is that if he’s going to be a permanent addition to your home, I would speak to him as you would any other child that was added to your family.

For more tips and recommendations, please see my parent guide “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

69 Anzelika February 12, 2014 at 6:41 am

Hello!
Very interesting article and conversations!

I have this feeling that my situation is more complex…
My husband and his family speaks Polish and I speak Russian with my family. However, the language of communication between me and my husband is English,
because this is the language that we speak since we got to know each other, since we come from different countries.
We are planning to have kids in the future and the question is – which language should we teach them? Because my husband says we should speak Polish to our kids, but I believe they should also learn Russian in order to be able to communicate also with my family.
Would it be a real mess if my husband would speak in Polish and me in Russian? Moreover, the child would hear that we don’t communicate in neither languages but English.. On top of all that we live in Germany, where kind swould also grow up..so those are already 4 different languages.. I really don’t know how this can be solved.

Reply

70 Ana Paula G. Mumy February 12, 2014 at 8:55 am

Anzelika – your situation is definitely more complex, but I would not say it’s rare. I’ve read of other families who present with similar scenarios, so you’re not alone. Maybe someone on this forum with this experience can give you some feedback? I can’t say I can give you practical tips on handling 4 languages of input, since that is not my experience, but in most cases, I tend to lean towards “Interact with your child in the language that feels most natural and comfortable to you.” Good luck to you!

Reply

71 Sarah February 13, 2014 at 2:27 am

My husband speaks Turkish and I speak arabic to the kids and they learn English from school. However my husband and I speak in English as he refuses to speak in either Turkish nor Arabic with the Because he is impatient and wants to make sure they understand…my kids are now 4 and 5 and a half….the eldest speaks fluent arabic because before she went to preschool I made sure I communicated with her in arabic and arabic tv etc and she picked English from my husband I….however I am having so much trouble with my younger boy who went to preschool at 2 before he could talk and everything he speaks Is in English…he understands everything I say and he watches arabic tv and understands but he has difficulty expressing himself in arabic and i feel so helpless about it…esp that my husband reinforces it!…anyhow I want them to learn their fathers native language also so that they can communicate with his family I started them on Turkish lessons twice a week…but I feel deep down its a waste of time….please advise me on this situation because it really is quite depressing I feel fustrated. Thank you

Reply

72 Ana Paula G. Mumy February 13, 2014 at 7:35 am

Sarah – let me briefly share what recently happened in my family. I’ve only spoken in Portuguese to my children (daughter – age 5 and son – age 3.5) since they were born. They fully understand Portuguese (conversation, movies, songs, books, etc), but my son would rarely choose to speak it, and my daughter would alternate between Portuguese and English, but still seemed to default to English most of the time (even when addressed in Portuguese). If I requested that she speak to me in Portuguese, she would. My husband is English-speaking and we’re in an English-speaking community with very little opportunities for Portuguese interactions outside of ME! We just spent 30+ days in Brazil, and now my daughter is speaking to me solely in Portuguese, and my son is starting to spontaneously alternate between the two. I share all that to say, opportunities for interaction are key to promote in them the DESIRE and the NEED to speak it, especially interactions with other children speaking the target language. You may not be able to go to a fully Arabic-speaking environment, but I would recommend you find ways to increase opportunities for engagement in Arabic. For a more detailed discussion on this and practical tips and recommendations, please see my parent guide “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

As far as Turkish, my personal opinion is this: if your husband is not concerned with passing down his language to your children, I wouldn’t push it. I believe the primary push has to come from the parent who speaks that particular language. All YOU can do (and do well) is enforce Arabic. Even if they do well in their Turkish classes, they would need HIM to reinforce it at home, and if he’s not willing or interested, the benefit of the classes will be potentially lost. I understand your intentions, but you can’t be responsible for the Turkish input because that is not your language. If anything, I would invest in Arabic classes or whatever else would create more opportunities and incentive for your children to use Arabic on a regular basis. If the need for Turkish arises later in the lives of your children, I have no doubt they will be able to learn it at that time.

Reply

73 sarah February 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Dear ana, Thank you so much for your advise I will definitely take a look at your book for further details, but as a first hand information I feel it’s helped a lot and given me hope. ?.Thank you so much!

Reply

74 Sarah February 13, 2014 at 2:28 am

And ow forgot to say great article so glad I came across it!! Thank you so much !

Reply

75 mamilya March 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm

hello! my husband and i are planning to have a child this year. my native language is russian and my husband’s native language is farsi. between us we communicate in english, even though he is not proficient in this language(makes grammer mistakes), but i am. i do not speak farsi, and he doesnt speak russian. we are planning to live in iran for the next 3-4 years. could u please tell me how should i teach my child those 3 languages? whats the best way? which language(s) should be learned first? thanks in advance!

Reply

76 Ana Paula G. Mumy March 12, 2014 at 8:27 am

Mamilya – My usual recommendation is that parents should speak to their children the language that feels most natural and the one they speak best in various contexts. As far as introducing a third language, because this is not my experience with my children (even though I speak 3 languages, we’re only teaching them 2 currently), I’m afraid I may not have the answers you’re seeking.

I do provide lots of practical tips for the bilingual home, and I also explain my decision to teach only 2 of my 3 languages in my parent guide “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

77 Jeannie March 4, 2014 at 5:32 am

Although I agree with the principle of this article, I still have to ask: what if your child would not learn a 2nd language if you spoke in your native language? English is the native language of both my husband and I and we live in the United States. I have ACTFL-rated Adv. high abilities in French and used to teach in a French immersion school. If I didn’t speak to my daughter in French at all and stayed in my native language of English, she would only have one language. Sure I sometimes feel a little awkward in French and know that what she is learning is not perfectly ‘native’, but I’ve got to believe that something is much better than absolutely nothing in this case.

Reply

78 Ana Paula G. Mumy March 12, 2014 at 8:19 am

Jeannie – the key to what you have stated is that your skills in French are advanced, so I don’t discourage what you’re doing. As a language specialist, my concern is when parents attempt to raise their children in a language they don’t feel fully comfortable or competent speaking.

Reply

79 K March 4, 2014 at 5:38 am

I have yet another situation. We live in the US, my husband speaks English and i tried to speak my native language to our son but am failing quite a bit. I have only been living 7 years here, but i feel like i can express myself better in English, it comes more natural when i am speaking to my son. Speaking my native language is work, and we do not have enough exposure to it other that me speaking it. I can only dream of playgroups or immersion school… It is a language of a small country. I really wanted him to be able to speak my language, and he understands it a little (even spoke in sentences when we went to visit last summer, but it’s very far and we are not able to go often), but now that we are back he only answers in English with some exeptions. I find myself switching back and forth between the two languages and i am sure it’s not helping. I am just not sure what approach to take from now on. He is 4 and we can have meaningful conversations in English, while in my native language we can only talk about very simple things like “are you cold?”, “let’s go eat” and the like. I love chatting to him about life and stuff.. :)

Reply

80 yari March 4, 2014 at 7:25 am

I am in a similar situation. My children (3 & 6) are currently fluent in English and Hebrew, but I’d like to strengthen my native language (Spanish) with them.
My Israeli husband has been speaking Hebrew to them since birth. When we lived in the US, I spoke English and Spanish to them equally (I lived in the US for 20yrs, so I’m fully bilingual), and we lived near my family so they got to hear a lot Spanish; but when we moved to Israel two years ago, Spanish took a back seat. My husband and I speak English with each other, and I speak to them in English, so the only exposure to Spanish is when we talk to my family on the phone or Skype. They understand a little bit when I speak Spanish, but it’s basic language versus being able to have conversations in English or Hebrew. Any tips?

Reply

81 Ana Paula G. Mumy March 12, 2014 at 10:50 am

Yari – The easiest way I find to introduce another language (especially if it’s one that is not used in the home as often), is to use storybooks. Begin reading storybooks in the target language, so in your case Spanish. This will give you the opportunity to introduce lots of new vocabulary: nouns (e.g. house, eyes, car, fish, etc.), action words (e.g. running, eating, etc.), describing words (e.g. red, small, hot, soft, etc.), and so on. You can also sing children’s songs in Spanish related to the storybook content to repeat and practice the vocabulary introduced.

There’s a leveled storybook series in Spanish/English that you might consider…it’s entitled “GROW! Language Development with Engaging Children’s Stories” (¡CREZCA! El Desarrollo de Lenguaje Con Cuentos Infantiles Divertidos). Each book in the series has 4 levels so you can pick which level is appropriate based on the child’s age and language level. It’s available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=grow.

Reply

82 Ana Paula G. Mumy March 12, 2014 at 8:33 am

K – If you feel more comfortable and confident in your English language skills, I would not discourage you from doing what you’ve been doing so far. If you want to maintain your native language at some level, I offer lots of practical tips for the bilingual home in my parent guide “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

83 Maria March 4, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Hi,
First of all thanks for this article, it has been helpful in convincing some members of my family that the mix of languages will not create (at least a long-term) confusion in a child.
Although my child is just a baby (6 months old at the moment) I would really like to ask for your opinion on the following matter: my mother-tongue is Serbian, while the baby’s father’s is Czech, at the moment we live in Czech Republic, but we met while living in Italy, so between ourselves we speak Italian. I also consider English to be my native language since my schooling (while living in Italy) was all in English. I was wondering if it would be beneficial to look for an international (English speaking) kinder garden for our boy, or just let him go to the local day care? Would an introduction of a fourth language be too much?
Also how important, do you think, could be for a child the fact that his mother is not proficient in the local language? (having said that I do have the intention to become proficient in Czech, but perhaps in case we move again somewhere else, I would like to get your opinion on this topic).
Thanks again!
Best regards
Maria

Reply

84 Ana Paula G. Mumy March 12, 2014 at 11:06 am

Maria – Children are capable of learning as many languages as they NEED regularly in order to communicate within the various language contexts they find themselves in, so as you consider multilingualism, think in terms of need and in terms of which languages you can feasibly support (by providing plenty of opportunities for quality interactions in that language). As far as the language or languages you choose to speak with him, I normally recommend that you speak the language(s) you feel most confident and comfortable speaking. As far as introducing English, I believe it depends…is English important and needful in terms of your community, your family, etc.?

As far as you learning Czech, I’ll go back to NEED. Do you need Czech in your daily/weekly interactions within your community? If yes, it would probably be to your benefit to learn Czech, but I wouldn’t necessarily base that decision on how it would be perceived by your boy.

I offer lots of practical tips for the bilingual home in my parent guide “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

85 maaret March 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Great storyline goes completely against my experience about teaching the ‘community’ language and excelling in school. Also comes across the end goal of this website is ……

Reply

86 Vera March 11, 2014 at 5:27 am

Dear Ana Paula,

I’m pregnant now, I’m Portuguese, the father is Italian. We still don’t know in which country we will raise the child (might be the Netherlands) but our home dynamics is in English (or Italian, which I am learning). I’m all for bilingual education – I think it’s a great plus for the child. But won’t two native languages [+ one or two foreign ones] be a bit too much? My question is mainly, what if the parents have two native languages already? Any tips on how to deal with that?
Thank you in advance and best regards,
Vera

Reply

87 Ana Paula G. Mumy March 12, 2014 at 11:14 am

Vera – I would think less in terms of the number of languages and think more in terms of 1) which language(s) your child will need in order to interact in your home, with your family members, and within your community, and 2) which language(s) you can support in terms of providing quality and quantity input. I explain what this means in much more detail as well as why I chose NOT to introduce my third language to my children (at least for the time being) in my parent guide, “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

88 Vera March 14, 2014 at 1:45 am

Thank you so much, Ana Paula!

Reply

89 nicky March 18, 2014 at 8:22 am

Hi i have a 4 year old boy and an almost 2 year old girl. My partner and i live in Spain, i can speak Spanish but the main language spoken at home is English, my son doesn’t want to talk Spanish, he is in a Spanish school and manages well doing the task asked of him, but wont speak the language and it’s frustrating. when at home if i talk to him in Spanish he answers in English and tells me not to talk in Spanish he only wants to watch the t.v in English, i just worry that it’s my fault for not talking to him enough in Spanish, and now I’m not sure what to do. he was late starter in talking in general and would say that really he has only been talking in English properly for around 7 months more or less.
Would you have any advice for how to help him. I would love for him to be able to communicate with his classmates and the community around us.
Kind regards

Reply

90 Ana Paula G. Mumy March 19, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Nicky – The first thing I would try is to make Spanish a natural part of your everyday interactions whether or not your son responds in Spanish. My children did this for a while, responding to me in English even though I was almost strictly speaking to them in Portuguese. Even though it was sometimes frustrating for me, I just kept the Portuguese constant, and I made sure they had various opportunities to hear and interact in Portuguese (conversation, storybooks, songs, etc). I would never force them though to speak it…just keep Spanish constant and your natural default at home. For a lot more practical suggestions and tips, please see my parent guide, “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

91 Roxana March 24, 2014 at 11:16 am

My husband and I are both originally Romanian but living in North America for a very long time. We are both fluent in both Romanian and English. My husband always speaks Romanian to our son. I would like to speak English to my son during the week (before and after daycare) and Romanian during the week-end when my hisband is home as well. Also, i would like to speak Romanian any other time we are all together (like holidays).
Is that ok or mustI always stick to one language?
What are som good reading materials you would recommend on this?
Thank you very much!

Reply

92 Ana Paula G. Mumy March 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Roxana – There are many families who choose to speak different languages at certain times or in specific contexts, however, my personal suggestion would be that both of you speak Romanian at home since your child will get plenty of English exposure at daycare and eventually in school. If you introduce English consistently at home, your son’s desire or NEED for Romanian might diminish and it might be harder for him to acquire it fully. As far as resources, please see my parent guide, “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

93 Tina March 26, 2014 at 5:03 am

There are lots of large non-western countries (Turkey, Iran, China, India, Russia) where there are multiple national languages but only one language which is used in public schools. The result is not that an entire group of children are excluded from national life but on the contrary, once completing the education system they are more desirable as they are bilingual and therefore possess a skill it would take anyone else years to acquire. Of course societies are more complex than simply languages and ethnic descrimination all too often means minority languages are spoken by persecuted ethnic groups and therefore those children may later have difficulty finding equal treatment in the society but this is true for immigrants in many Western countries as well so the problem is much more complex and institutionalized than simply language education of children. To give some respect to the U.S., first generation immigrant children there, everything else being equal in terms of qualifications, are almost always given priority in university and government job selection processes and being bilingual is widely seen as an impressive qualification. Many EU countries have similar policies, at least on paper.

Reply

94 Stina April 1, 2014 at 4:24 am

I live with my familie in Norway, my husband i norwegien and i am icelandic. I have been living in Norway for 5 years. We have a little boy that will soon be 2 years old. We speak Norwegien at home and i also speak norwegien to my son. I have often been contenplating on if it would be better if i speak icelandic to him but have faild to do so jet because i wanted my husband to understand to. My son saus a few words now in norwegien. Is it to late for me to start speaking icelandic to him now? Looking forward to your answer.

Reply

95 Ana Paula G. Mumy April 18, 2014 at 11:52 am

Stina – I apologize for the late reply. If Icelandic is an important part of who you are and if it’s a language you can effective support by giving your child quality and quantity language input, I don’t believe it’s too late, especially if you are more confident and more comfortable speaking Icelandic. Since you’re in a Norwegian language community, your son will have plenty of exposure and language input in Norwegian. You can slowly begin incorporating Icelandic in your daily routines, such as beginning with storybooks, then gradually add more and more. For a lot more practical suggestions and tips, please see my parent guide, “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

96 Sutomo April 10, 2014 at 7:38 am

Very Usefull article. I also have same with the the author’s write. I hade read many articles about “language and thinking” and the conclussion is very important to learn our mother tongue language. And I will make research about it since i am a psychology postgraduate student. Mother language must have survive, or we will lose our cultures. And corelate with this article is language will influence our thinking pattern. Because language is one of mental tools. So school, family and community should use only one language if possible for create great student and great future. But if there are more than one language for example language on school and job differ with family and community language, so people, family, educator, lecture, and of course goverment have to focus struggle for it and close the gap between school, job and fmily or community.

Reply

97 Loris Ayoub April 29, 2014 at 11:35 am

Hi I seriously need your help…desperately
I speak english Spanish and Arabic
My parents are arabic but we grew up in latin America I could never speak the language till I moved to Israel in an Arabic speaking community
My problem: I used to speak to my 2 kids Spanish until I came here. They are 4 and 5 but now I completely stopped and speak in Arabic broken Arabic that is. They understand English and my oldest even speaks it.
I want to teach them Spanish… I DO I just forget at times to speak it to them I get embarrassed and I practice my broken Arabic with them. Please help me…. Is it too late? Whats wrong with me denying my kids this opportunity ? I am so disappointed with myself

Reply

98 Ana Paula G. Mumy May 15, 2014 at 6:23 am

Loris – first, I don’t believe the traits of a good parent lie in the fact that they make their children bilingual. Bilingualism is a great opportunity, but if you are loving your children, caring for them, instilling in them a sense of their value, your children will be well-adjusted and confident individuals.

Speaking broken Arabic to your children is probably not optimal for you or your children, mainly because you should be able to communicate with them in a way that feels natural to you and where you feel confident and able to express your heart fully to them without a language barrier. I think you can gradually incorporate Spanish back into their lives in simple ways such as storybooks, playgroups, videos, etc. For a lot more practical suggestions and tips, please see my parent guide, “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

99 mom of twins June 5, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Hi,

I am bilingual and we speak in our native language at home. I have twin 3 year old boys who have been going to school for over a year and are still not talking in english. The teacehrs complain constantly about how they are not social, not interacting with other kids, etc. I think it is because they have each other in their class, they tend to stick together and speak in our native language and I believe that if and when they are put in separate classrooms, ina couple of months, english will kick in. They don;t have any difficulty understanding english but it is just that english is not their choice even in the USA, they tend to speak in our native language. I have always stuck to english when doing one-on-one work with them, etc. but now I am really doubting myself even my own family (except my husband) and some friends keep telling me that I am making a mistake by not speaking in english with them and not giving them enough exposure to english language. The boys spend around 6-8 h mon-fri in their school- if that is not enough exposure to english, I don;t know what is. Not to mention, my kids are really naughty and mischievous and when I ask them why don;t they speak in english, they just look at me and say that they don;t want to. I am hoping my instinct is right and that they will feel the need and perhaps want to make friends of their own once they are separated in school (come september, they will be separated) but I find it extremely demoralizing to have to listen to all the criticisms on a daily basis from all quarters regarding how I am making the wrong decisions for my children and hurting their language and social interaction. Am I wrong? Even if I am right, is there something I can do for the children to feel motivated to speak in english other than what I am already doing? I really love my native language and want my children to be proficient (and they are extremely fluent in it, as much as an adult in my native country). It breaks my heart to rip it apart and force english upon my kids. But I want to step back and put my emotions aside and do what is really best for my kids. Any help/suggestions would be appreciated!

Reply

100 Ana Paula G. Mumy June 11, 2014 at 7:39 am

Mom of twins – bilingualism is wonderful but it can be a complicated road if you don’t have the support of your family and community members. If your children are fluent in your native tongue, there is absolutely NOTHING for you to be concerned about because if children demonstrate normal language development in one language, they normally have no problems learning a second language. Their delay or refusal to speak English is probably only due to the fact that as you stated, they don’t NEED to speak in English yet because they have each other in the classroom and prefer speaking their native language, which is perfectly normal. When the need presents itself, if they do get placed in separate classrooms, you should see their English use increase since they’ll have to communicate in English in order to interact effectively in the classroom. It sounds like they have enough English exposure, so I don’t believe there’s anything you need to do differently. The only thing you may need to do is educate those around you so the criticism will stop, but even if it does not stop, stand your ground! Give yourself a pat on the back for passing down your native language and culture to your children. Be proud of yourself and not ashamed!

For more practical suggestions and tips, please see my parent guide, “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

101 mom of twins June 16, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Thank you so much, you just made my day and made me believe in myself and my children!

Reply

102 S June 10, 2014 at 1:28 am

We are a British family living in the Netherlands. We speak English at home and the kids go to a Dutch speaking crèche. I speak fluent Dutch and in a Dutch context I also speak Dutch to the kids. Now my eldest daughter has started an English speaking school where she gets 2 lessons of Dutch lessons per week and she also goes to the dutch crèche after school twice a week. I have been surprised at how reluctant my daughter is to speak Dutch, she clearly understands everything, but aside from the odd word or short sentence she will not have a conversation and she is clearly insecure about speaking it. Do you have any suggestions on how to help her overcome this?

Reply

103 Ana Paula G. Mumy June 11, 2014 at 7:44 am

S – the best way to promote language use is to increase your daughter’s opportunities to interact in Dutch, particularly with peers. If you’re the only or primary source of her Dutch exposure, and if you speak to her in English as well, her NEED for using Dutch is greatly diminished. So look for ways to expose her and give her more opportunities to interact in a variety of environments with a variety of Dutch-speaking individuals, including children her own age.

For a lot more practical suggestions and tips, please see my parent guide, “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

104 dania June 11, 2014 at 6:47 am

our native language is Arabic and we speak with people in English and my 5 years old daughter does’t understand English i am worried about here i dose not get here school this year but in the next year she will be the first grade i am worried if she will learn English when i will put here in school and i afraid if she will be shocked when she will go o the school hey all talk a language she does not understand.
by the way we traveled recently
please advice me

Reply

105 Ana Paula G. Mumy June 11, 2014 at 7:51 am

Dania – if your daughter’s language development in Arabic has been normal and she understands/speaks Arabic (at the level of typical 5-year-old children), she should have no problems learning English once she starts school. She may be a little “lost” at the beginning if she does not understand any English at all, but children have an amazing ability to learn very quickly when the NEED presents itself. She’ll get the English exposure she needs in school, so I would continue giving her consistent and quality Arabic exposure at home.

I discuss schooling in more detail and provide more practical suggestions and tips in my parent guide: “Practical Bilingualism: A Concise and Simple Guide for Parents Raising Bilingual Children” (available at http://thespeechstop.com/index.php?page=bilingualism).

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: