Q&yourA: Bilingual babies

Kjersti writes:

"Can any of your readers talk about raising children bilingual? I'm American but my husband is not. His mother is about to move in with us to help take care of our 4-month-old son when I go back to work in two months (I know this is going to be a whole new set of issues for another email). She'll speak to our son in her language (my husband already speaks that language to our son). I'll continue speaking to him in English.

I know his language development is likely to be a little slower than for babies who only hear one language. I guess I'm just looking for some kind of reassurance that he will eventually become fluent in both."

I do have to turn this one over to you, readers. All I know about bilingual language development is what I've read and seen. All three of my cousins were raised bilingual, and as adults they have varied preferences for first language, but all are fluent in both, and the kids in our playgroups who are being raised speaking both seem to be doing fine in both.

But I know there have to be plenty of you out there who can give better ideas of timelines and things to watch out for.

Can anyone help Kjersti with what to expect?

99 thoughts on “Q&yourA: Bilingual babies”

  1. Do it, do it, do it!Children who learn more than one language early have an increased facility with learning other languages later. The early exposure helps prime the brain to be more elastic in language acquisition.
    Just think — most of the world has fluency in more than one language (except the US).

  2. Do it, do it, do it!Children who learn more than one language early have an increased facility with learning other languages later. The early exposure helps prime the brain to be more elastic in language acquisition.
    Just think — most of the world has fluency in more than one language (except the US).
    Here’s a non-scientific article that addresses it:
    http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/bilingualkids3.htm

  3. There is a great blog that deals with raising bi/multilingual children. It’s http://www.spanglishbaby.comI will disclose that I am a contributor there, but even before I started writing for them, I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to anyone! It often deals with Spanish/English, but not always and often treads into other languages and cultures. Also, many of the contributors are not from Spanish-speaking cultures, so there’s a good mix.
    Enjoy!

  4. The idea that learning will slow your child’s language development is highly individual (and I think a bit overhyped). My daughter is three and is way ahead of her peers in language skills, although she is bilingual. I have a friend with two bilingual kids, and the first was a breeze, but with the second she had to fight sometimes to get him to speak English with her (we live in Germany) because it was harder for him. Either way, like all other things kid-related it seems, pick some rules and be consistent.

  5. I was raised semi-bilingually in the United States. My father only spoke English to me and my mother only spoke Hebrew to me. My older sister used to respond to my mother in Hebrew, but once she started (English-speaking) school, she only responded in English and refused to speak Hebrew. I always spoke only English to both of my parents, although my mother only spoke Hebrew to me.I am terrible at learning languages. I do not learn well through my ears (aurally?), and took Spanish for three years (grades 8 through 10) and remember almost nothing. The only reason I am fairly fluent in Hebrew today is because my mother’s persistence. My Hebrew speaking always lagged behind my understanding, my reading and writing always lagged behind my speaking, and my writing is generally atrocious. However, despite no longer living in a Hebrew-speaking environment, and not having lived in one for most of the past 12 years, I can hold a conversation with someone who speaks only Hebrew.
    I think it’s a good thing. I do think that knowing a second language helped me learn a third (and I tried to learn Arabic later, which was infinitely easier knowing Hebrew, although that also ultimately failed).
    My English never suffered at all, as far as I know. I learned to read in first grade with everyone else. I got an 800 on my English SAT II. I am a freelance writer and editor and I have even been able to pick up some Hebrew to English translation work over the years!

  6. P.S. My Hebrew would be better if my mom had forced us to respond in Hebrew and had forced us to read and write in Hebrew, but that was a battle that she was not interested in fighting. And my Hebrew speaking ability perks up considerably once I spend a month or two or three in a Hebrew-speaking environment. It’s much better–and I am much quicker–than it would have been had I just learned Hebrew in school classes or a summer program or with a tutor or something.

  7. Some data points for you:Both my girls are being raised with their father (and occasional other relatives) speaking to them in Danish. My 3.5 year old was an early-ish talker in English, and spoke Danish fluently while we spent 6 months there when she was 2.5, but now back in the US rarely speaks Danish but understands everything that is said to her. I think it would take her about 1 day to start speaking again if we get back to Denmark. My almost-2-year old seems to be learning to speak at an average rate and understands both languages well and uses a handful of words from both, mostly English.
    Summary: go for it!

  8. We were just having this discussion at my baby shower this weekend…I think the standard assumption on this is that they are a little slower to speak clearer when they are learning 2 languages simultaneously, but that by 3-5 they will be fluent in both and it won’t matter that they didn’t have as many words as the average kid at 18 mos. I think it also depends on how MUCH the 2nd language is used – if it’s occasional, then maybe it won’t slow the growth of the other language as much? I don’t know. I just know that they say that if you want them to be truly bilingual, then 0-3 is the time to teach them!

  9. I’m committed to raising my daughters bilingual, more because I can’t imagine speaking to them in a loving enough way in any language except the one my mother spoke to me. I am Hungarian, their father is American and speaks to them in English. My older daughter is two and speaks, at her level, both languages, she can correctly identify when to use which (which always blows my mind), and doesn’t get them mixed up. My other daughter is still a baby but I plan to just keep on doing things the same way with her,A few things i found to be important. we have a Hungarian babysitter so I’m not the only Hungarian speaker around all the time. We try to spend a month or so in Hungary each year, with cousins and so forth, which for my older daughter always means a big jump in language development, and not just in Hungarian. I do think reading-writing in both languages is what ultimately solidifies kids’ knowledge of them, even if they wind up not actually speaking one or the other language much later on. That way they always have the triggers to bring back the language that’s sort of receded into the background.

  10. I’m a big supporter of multi-lingualism in general – especially for Americans. Kudos to all of you families out there pursuing it!Three months ago we hired a new babysitter, who speaks Spanish only, to take care of our kids 3 days a week from 8 to 5. DS is 34 months and our sitter reports he understands almost everything she says & responds in “Spanglish.” He was already speaking English in full sentences before we exposed him to Spanish, and there is a definite American accent when he speaks Spanish. Our DD is now 10.5 months old, so it will be interesting to see if she has better Spanish skills than her brother does a few years from now. We also have plans to send our kids to public dual language (Spanish-English) elementary & jr. high schools.
    Amen to all who have said DO IT!!!!!!

  11. I have my B.A. in linguistics, and just want to say, DO IT!!! The data agrees with SusanOR above, that bilingual kids have a greater facility with learning languages later — it absolutely doesn’t matter what that 2nd language she learns is. Growing up fully bilingual teaches/trains the brain to recognize that there are other language patterns out there and doesn’t lock into English. Part of the key to growing up bilingual is not to mix it up too much: there should be two distinct speakers (e.g., Mom & Dad speak only English; Grandma only Spanish). Also, the earlier you start, the better. Babies do go through a period (brief, less than 6 months, but I don’t remember exactly when — 18 mos? 2 yrs?) when they are intensely latching up with their 1st language, so that’s when there might be a lag for bilingual kids. But definitely DO IT!!! So super good for their stretchy-flexy kid brains!!!

  12. I speak English with my daughter and my husband speaks his native language (Slovak). She completely understands everything he says, but responds to him in English. I wonder if it has to do with his language not being very common (he’s the only one speaking it with her). She hasn’t had any issues in learning English and wasn’t delayed in English at all. I’ve been very surprised at how easily and quickly she’s picked up the two languages. I expect that a vacation over there would get her speaking Slovak. I definitely think its worth it, there really have been no downsides in our experience.I recently met a family in which the father speaks German to the daughter, the mother speaks Spanish to the daughter and the parents speak English to one another. She’s only 2 but she speaks all 3 languages fluently (for a 2 year old).
    My vote would be to go for it. I can’t imagine you’d regret it.

  13. Same deal as the above posters… Can understand Korean, cannot talk back. My mom hardly attempted to teach me Korean, but spoke it most of the time. As a result, I still understand her, but can’t carry a conversation in her native tongue. My cousins lived with both parents speaking exclusively in Korean, and therefore can speak very well.Like the Hebrew speaker above, I love English, I love words. I also killed the SAT verbal part and majored in English.
    I wish I could speak Korean; I wish I could speak another language period!
    Your daughter is very lucky! She’ll flourish in languages with this early access to both languages! Only thing, she’ll be able to backtalk you in her and her dad’s secret language. You better learn some yourself in that case!

  14. How wonderful that this question is being put out here for discussion! I love this website!There is no proof that bilingual children start speaking later. None at all. What research has shown again and again is that bilingual children start speaking in the same range as monolingual children (some earlier, some later). There is no extra “work” that a child has to go through when being raised in more than one language – a child is simply picking the sounds around him/her and starting to repeat them back to get reactions.
    I too was concerned about this and wrote an article recently about the research I found: http://www.multilingualliving.com/2010/05/31/does-bilingualism-multilingualism-cause-language-delay/
    Having your mother-in-law there to speak to your baby is the best you can ask for in terms of language exposure: a native speaker, a loving bond, constant language exposure. I would encourage your husband to make sure to continue speaking it to your child as this will be important down the road when your child is older. Maybe you can pick up the language during your mother-in-law’s stay? Language can be such a bonding experience for the whole family!
    As everyone has written here: your child is extremely lucky to have this opportunity to grow up in a bilingual household and yes, you should definitely do it! I speak to my children in a non-native language (German) partly because I love this language that I learned as an adult (in Germany) and because I want to give my children this precious gift – I know I would regret it if I didn’t.
    Picking up languages from loving family members can never, ever compare to learning a language in a classroom. Your child will associate both of his languages with love, comfort and home.
    Have a fabulous time!

  15. I’d kill to be bilingual. Am terrible at languages. Bear gets a teeny bit of Vietnamese from his grandmother and his accent is flawless — but he’s a great mimic generally.

  16. We do the One Language, One Parent method with our two kids. One is four months so we have no data points there. My four year old didn’t start talking until he was two, so a bit delayed. Once he started talking he never stopped. Ever. He started in complete sentences.His daddy is only home very limited hours so he doesn’t get to hear much Swedish. He can understand everything my husband says, and he can speak in Swedish when we force him but he does not do it voluntarily. His English is perfect.
    I think your child’s English will be just fine, though your child will probably be a bit delayed (as expected).
    Good luck! Raising a bilingual child is a wonderful oppurtunity to create brain growth.

  17. As I couldn’t imagine not talking to my child in my mother tongue, he was always going to be bilingual (English/Dutch)! However, as he was very premature, I did worry a little about the chances of speech delay because any sort of delay in a ex-premmie raises an especially big red flag!As it turned out, he WAS slow to speak and has been having short speech therapy sessions every fortnight since he was 2 and a half. But now (just turned 4) he talks non-stop in both languages, although English is generally his second choice. I only talk to him in English and he answers me about 50/50. Also my husband and I talk to each other in English, so it’s the main language at home, to counter-balance all the outside influence.
    Only issue is that my son thinks everyone is bilingual and looks a bit blank if his grandma and granddad, for example, can’t understand him. But I guess that will come with time!

  18. I’m an academic blogger who wants to remain pseudonymous, but I’ve posted here before.I’m a linguist specializing in second language acquisition. This isn’t really the space for me to go on and on forever, but you should definitely go for it. Even if there are small delays at early stages, everything always evens out in the end.
    The only point I want to harp on is that if you really want your child to become fluent, it will really help to expose him to as many speakers of the language as you can. As many commenters have insinuated, if only 1 or 2 people interact with the child in that language, he’ll be much less likely to continue using it later in life. He’ll also only really be learning his father’s and grandmother’s language, not the language of the larger community. But if he has a bigger community to interact with, it’ll “stick” better. Many studies have shown that learners really benefit when they’re exposed to a lot of talker variety.

  19. this caught my eye -“I speak English with my daughter and my husband speaks his native language (Slovak). She completely understands everything he says, but responds to him in English.”
    our data points-
    we knew very early that we wanted to enroll our son in Hawaiian language immersion program (Hubby is Native Hawaiian and teaches Hawaiian Studies at university) although both my husband and I have some background in speaking Hawaiian it is limited and neither of us are native speakers. That being said we both spoke to him in simple commands or identified colors, numbers, animals to him in Hawaiian. We knew he understood when we spoke to in in Hawaiian but he would always insist in speaking back to us in English.
    This year after 1 year in a immersion preschool program (all Hawaiian all the time except from his peers) he is 3 weeks into kindergarten where the mode of instruction is also all in Hawaiian, his understanding and speaking ability in both languages is up to age.
    I say go for it, being bi-lingual no matter what language, is such a wonderful thing and opens your child’s world to all kinds of life experiences they might not otherwise have.

  20. I would LOVE to have a bilingual child. My only hope is a dual language program that is just getting started in our city, as I am hopelessly unable to learn a second language, much less be fluent enough to speak it exclusively to my child.Just a small clarification – there is a difference between being bilingual (speaking two languages) and being biliterate (speaking, reading and writing in two languages). Either way, growing up in a house and speaking two languages is a wonderful, brain-enhancing experience.

  21. I went to college with a boy who was American, but was raised in Belgium (missionary parents) so he was also fluent in French. With us, he spoke English perfectly, but with his sisters he spoke a mixture of French/English because, he said, some things can only be said in French, and some only in English, so they learned to mix it up.

  22. I’m in Ottawa, Canada, where French/English bilingualism is fairly common and a huge employment asset, and the ONLY reason I have any French at all at this point is because I was in French immersion at school from kindergarten to grade 3. I had to put in some hard work to build on that foundation, but it’s pretty amazing just how big a boost that foundation was. I envy my colleagues who were raised in bilingual homes. I suppose how much you appreciate that environment depends on how useful it is to you later, but it sounds to me like you have a pretty amazing opportunity.I don’t think learning a second language is necessarily what makes it easier to pick up other languages later, though; I found that a solid grasp of English grammar, more than anything else, is what made the difference for me. But then the other languages I’ve dabbled in were only to read, not to actually communicate in.

  23. I’d love to be bilingual and I’d love it if my children were, too, but I haven’t made any effort so far towards either of those goals. My parents spoke to me mainly in Chinese and up until kindergarten, I’d speak some mix of the two (English and Chinese). English then became my dominant language (I majored in it), even though I generally understand spoken Chinese, my speaking is terrible, and my writing now non-existent. I could have been trilingual, as French instruction was mandated since grade 1 to college, but I’m dreadful at learning languages, so I can exist (ie: ask for directions, order food, have very small talk, but generally understand if spoken to in the correct accent) but not really flourish (ie: have philosophical conversations, make work presentations, have good friends who only speak this language). Partly this is because I now live in a pretty monolingually English place and hardly ever encounter people who speak Cantonese (my people’s dialect) or French (with a French-Canadian accent). Just to add to the info: my husband is also a native English speaker but is more fluent in French than I am, has very little interest in learning Chinese, but can read German really well.I know a couple who have a linguistically complex household: the mother speaks to her sons in Hungarian, the father speaks to the kids in German, the mother and father speak to each other in English and the kids go to English daycare. It was a bit rough for the first year (although who knows whether they were picking up on their parents’ reluctance to send them to a daycare that wasn’t their first choice and the fact that they had just come back from a summer in Europe), but now the parents report that the boys speak all three languages but one will speak to himself always in English.

  24. After a quick read, I want to add this to the resources: http://www.bilingualism.co.uk/. I don’t think anyone else has mentioned it. I’m a Speech/Language Pathologist treating kids with language delays, and this issue comes up often. Many in my field seem to recommend “one language only,’ but this site refutes this idea, and I tend to agree!

  25. I speak to my kids in my language (most of the time), their father is English. Two points1) No, absolutely no data supports the claim that bilingual kids speak later. My anectodal data confirms this. My oldest, who is more bilingual spoke at 9 months. My younger one, spoke at 13 months.
    2) Children learn amazingly fast, you just have to be consistent. Or your mother in law needs to be consistent.
    GO FOR IT!

  26. My husband and I are both native English speakers, and we speak only English to our 18 month old son. However, our son has gone to a Cantonese speaking daycare full time since he was 4 months old.Since he is in daycare more waking hours than he spends waking hours with us, his first words were in Cantonese, which was a little hard for us since we don’t speak it.
    But at 18 months he understands that that the people in his life speak two different languages and speaks English to us, and Cantonese when he is at daycare.
    I think that overall it’s been a really good experience, and kids are so adaptable, you don’t have much to worry about.
    Good Luck!

  27. We are raising our sons bi-lingual here in France. We speak (mostly) English at home, in family, while my French husband speaks French one-one-one and I speak (almost) exclusively English. For us it wasn’t much of a choice since we are starting out bilingual but as we enter the school years there’s a lot of angst over whether we seek out a bi-lingual (private) school or french public schools. For pre-school we decided on french schools but will revisit the question as we progress.

  28. I am Norwegian, my husband is American, and we live in Norway. Our daughters hear Norwegian spoken by everyone except their Dad, who is pretty consistent about speaking English to them. Our youngest is not speaking yet (11 mo), our oldest (3yo) speaks only Norwegian, but understands everything her Dad tells her. My inlaws are coming to visit this weekend, and since they speak no Norwegian, it will be interesting to see if she will deign to speak English with them.Her language development has been about average so far, she wasn’t an early talker but certainly well within normal limits, and I believe that a visit to the US last summer with lots of people speaking English did the trick of pushing her brain into major word-acquisition mode, as her limited (Norwegian) vocabulary suddenly took off after we returned.

  29. No time to read the other comments, but if you are looking for reassurance, I can help: I was myself raised french in Germany – we spoke French at home and I learned German in school – and I am completely bilingual in both. My husband is Anglo-Canadian and we live in Germany with our kids. I speak French to them, my husband English and they speak German at daycare.Our oldest is 5 and bilingual French / German and very fluent in Eenglish, the 2 smaller ones are three and are currently strongest in German but catching up fast in the other two.
    For the sake of clarity and our own comfort, the rule is that children speak either french or english at home, which means we both speak to them in our mothertongue. I actually repeat everything they say to me in french to help them hear it correctly. Meaning if they say something to me in english, i’ll repeat it back in french. It seemed to us to be more about what comes more naturally to you and your families!
    They all learned to speak a little earlier than their peers actually, and I suspect speech is more a question of type and how much the child is spoken too ( i talk a lot, ahem!) rather than a question of whether there are on or more languages spoken around the child.
    Good Luck!

  30. There’s at least one study of French/English, English Only, French Only, and French/Sign Language babies that shows that language acquisition is actually the same for all co-horts, but the children acquire about half their words in one language and half in the other, so it seems as though their language acquisition is slower.

  31. Firstly let me apologize for the length of this post.My kids ar 5.5 and 3.5 and are firmly on the way to becoming bilingual in Italian and English. I say on the way as DD who is 3.5 still favours English, but understands Italian and is starting to speak it quite well. DS is definitley bilingual though.
    We live in Italy. I speak to my kids in English only, my husband Italian only, but we speak both languages to each other at home. We actually have days we speak English and days we speak Italian so our kids actually hear us speaking both languages together ( my engineer husband came up with this system even before we were living together). At the table they actually switch language depending who they are speaking to.
    I am a SAHM and my kids have always been at home with me and I think this way they got in a load of English before starting school at 3 ( well DS anywya, seeing DD will start school in Septmeber). That really helped them with their English at least. Had they gone to child-care or had an Italian nanny, or even spent more time with my MIL, their English wouldn’t be as good as it is now.
    I have mentioned in previous posts that my son’s language skills didn’t reaaly take off until a bit later than the norm ( 18 monthsor so ), and he was behind mono-lingual kids for sure until after starting school at 3. Well, he is still behind really, but he is most definitley bilingual now and spends the whole day speaking Italian and then come home to speak to me in English. He nevertherless has an excellent English vocabulary and I can only assume the same goes for his Italian, but not at the same level as his peers. His grammar is solid, but not sophisticated, but then again, there is a lot of variation amongst 5 year old monoligual speakers too.
    I was also brought up bilingual, but my father spoke the second language (Italian) and as his work took him away from home much of the week, my Italian really wasn’t that great when I was growing up. Sure I understood everything and spoke it well enough, but barely made myself understood on trips to Italy as an adult.
    As for helping with language learning in later years, I’m not so convinced. I have studied a total of 6 languages over the years and am fluent only in the two I grew up with and semi-fluent in another. The one I spent 8 years studying at high school and uni and am actually qualified to teach ( Indonesian) I can barely count to 10 in!!
    But bilingualism at least primed me for language learning seeing I learnt fast (then pettered out when I lost interest)and gave me an interest in other languages and cultures. It looks like it is doing the same to my kids seeing after a recent trip to Austria my 5.5 year old now asks me to teach him German (which I don’t know)and my 3.5 year old sometimes pretends to speak German during imaginative play.

  32. I am an American married to a Frenchman; we live in Paris, and our son just turned three. I do my best to exclusively speak English with my son, but everyone else in his everyday Whole Wide World speaks French. I’ve only had time to skim the comments, but here’s what I have to confirm/add to everyone else’s experiences:1) Our son wasn’t an early talker, but he was well within the normal range.
    2) He understands English perfectly, but he prefers to respond in French. Luckily I was primed to expect this so I’m not concerned (or offended :)!).
    This makes for pretty amusing mother-son outings in Paris. I carefully narrate everything in English — thus passing for a tourist — and he parrots back what he understands in French. No one knows quite what to make of us.
    3) The amount of English vocabulary he does use seems to be directly proportional to the amount of time he spends around English speakers. Well, around *me*, really, since we hardly ever spend time with any other English speakers, and although my husband is completely bilingual, we’re each keeping to our native language when we talk to our son.
    I don’t work on Wednesdays, and after an entire day with me, my son is much more likely to speak English with me. I’ve been thinking I should try and track down an English-speaking play group or something.
    4) I’ve read that early bilingualism may be linked to improved executive function in young children (“executive function” being self-control and the ability to concentrate in involved tasks, in my very non-scientific understanding). I read a very interesting article in Zero-To-Three a little while back, which alas doesn’t appear to be publicly available on their site, although I just found an abstract here:
    http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/research/nlt_research/2334

  33. I don’t have anything useful to contribute, but just another person saying, DO IT!! I was born and raised here in the States, but am Chinese ethnically. I speak Mandarin – can carry on a decent conversation with my parents. But it’s been really difficult for me to speak to my son (now 3.5) in Mandarin – esp when my husband speaks a different dialect and we speak to each other in English. (Plus, I *think* in English, so to first translate everything in my head into Mandarin before speaking to my son who I am with all day long is exhausting to me.) So except for the odd word here and there, my son hasn’t really learned Mandarin and I regretfully feel like it’s too late. So yes yes yes, start now! 🙂

  34. I am so glad to see this post! My DS is 14 months and not speaking yet, but I’m having a hard time sticking to speaking with him only in my native language (Japanese), as I speak English primarily. I moved to the U.S. when I was in third grade and I grew up speaking only Japanese at home with my parents (which I am now thankful they did) but English everywhere else. I consider myself fluent in both languages but English is definitely stronger at this point.My mom, who visits us twice a year for 2-3 months, speaks only Japanese to him but my husband and everyone I know speaks English including the daycare he attends. I’m really going to try hard to speak to him exclusively in Japanese from now on and see where that leads!

  35. Another voice firmly on the side of DO IT! I grew up with my mother speaking Tamil (south indian language) to me so I understand it. Most of our relatives spoke both Tamil and English so we listened in Tamil and responded in English – we never had anyone we needed to speak Tamil to in order to be understood. I am now trying to teach my daughter Tamil and realizing like @kyma that I think in English and have to translate into Tamil and it is exhausting!That said, I know that I am waaaay past the magic period when I could pick up a second language like a sponge but I’m committed to improving my Tamil alongside my daughter – are there any others out there who are trying to improve their language skills at this point? Say that it can be done! Am launching a blog in September to track my progress and keep me accountable and hopefully inspire others who are reclaiming mother tongues or learning second languages

  36. Our experience is like @Momo’s – We are in a billingual household but not split 50-50. My 21 month old is in daycare 3 days a week and gets all English. At home he gets all English from his dad and about 80% Chinese from me. There are definitely specific words that he prefers to say in one language over the other, but his level of comprehension seems pretty equal for both languages. I was fully expecting delayed onset for language from him, but I think he is only just a little bit slower than his peers – as in, his “sentences” are 3 words long whereas his peers seem to utter 4-6 word sentences. Although he has words in both languages he seems to prefer English. I have heard that children show preference for the language that their peers speak, so this may be due to his friends at daycare all speaking (and being spoken to) in English. I think research shows that billingualism is almost always a positive thing!

  37. I’m an American in Rome married to an Italian and we have a 5.5 yo and 3.5 yo. I only speak English to them and my husband, only Italian.We have had the same experience as many other commenters: my kids perfectly understand everything I say, but once they started Italian-speaking daycare/school they were not likely to speak back to me in Italian. I work fulltime so that limits how much English immersion they get.
    Kjersti doesn’t say where they are living, so I assume the US, but having the caregiver speaking the second language will be excellent.
    Our kids’ caregivers all spoke Italian so the only English they heard came from me on a very limited basis. As a rule, I don’t think you have to worry at all about a child picking up the native language; you need to focus more on opportunities for immersion in the second language, therefore, she should encourage her husband to speak to the child only in his native language and get foreign lang. DVDs, music tapes, books, and hang out with other kids or adults who speak this second language.
    That being said, when we go to the States, they start speaking English pretty fluently. My daughter not so great; her pronunciation is better, but more limited vocab.
    The more English my kids hear, the more they are inclined to use it. The whole process has been fascinating and I love how they speak a mixture among themselves and to me, because as one person here said, sometimes the English word expresses it better than the Italian…
    I don’t feel comfortable forcing my kids to respond to me in English, but based on some of the comments, I wonder if I should reconsider.
    The idea that the last two commenters grew up hearing and understanding a second language, but find that today they can only “think” in English and need to “translate into” the second language in order to speak it is a wake-up call for me. By forcing a person to use a second language you are forcing the brain to “think” in that language. I never considered that aspect before and so I might try to think of some ways to encourage them to respond to me more in English.

  38. @chitty: I’m right there with you!My husband is a native Portuguese speaker and I am, loosely, a “heritage speaker”–which means, for me, my Port. is limited. We speak Portuguese at home as much as possible, and I am also trying to improve my Portuguese alongside my daughter.
    At the same time, I also don’t want to be too much of a purist. In the end, both my husband and I comfortably code switch and sometimes make mistakes in both English and Portuguese, respectively, It’s simply the way we talk. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. If anything, I think it’s teaching our daughter that it’s normal to speak more than one language, and that we are all doing the best we can to communicate in a multi cultural, multi lingual world.
    I also think (but please, linguists, correct me if I’m wrong!) that it’s normal to speak different languages in different contexts, so maybe my daughter’s language with her peers will be more in English, but she’ll be able to talk about cooking better in Portuguese, because we cook together. To me, it seems like alot of pressure to expect our kids to have this ideal perfect bilingual fluency, because it is likely that their actual linguistic worlds are not split up so neatly.
    Personally, we struggle because: we are away from a Portuguese-speaking community; Portuguese language books are hard to come by; daycare is in English; we can’t visit husband’s family for extended periods of time.
    But we do the best we can. We want her to be able to connect with her heritage.

  39. I’m so jealous of people who have a “natural” way to help their children be bilingual. My husband and I are both monoglot English speakers (although he speaks Kiwi and I speak American, and Pumpkin (our 3 year old) now speaks a mix- the way she says “garage” just cracks me up).But we want our children to learn other languages, so we’ve started Chinese tutoring with Pumpkin, and are seriously considering a Spanish immersion elementary school for her when the time comes. We accept that we probably won’t make her fluent in Chinese, but think there is a good chance with Spanish, particularly since we live in San Diego, which has a lot of Spanish speakers. She’s already learned some Spanish from day care. And Dora.
    My husband’s boss is Russian, married to a Bulgarian she met in Montreal. Her children speak four languages fluently- English, Russian, Bulgarian, and French. They seem to be doing just fine!

  40. I was raised bilingual in the US – both parents and live-in grandmother spoke to us in their native language. Learned English from Sesame St and from older sis when she went to Kindergarten. I’d say I’m fluent still, but not being in an environment where the language is spoken frequently has done some damage to my vocabulary.Am raising my daughter to be bilingual. She will soon go to a preschool where the language is spoken. She is EXTREMELY verbal – no delays here. Speaks a mixture of my native language & English. Understands both. My sister’s kids are also bilingual (actually trilingual since they’re in Spanish immersion). However, my family’s language is their weakest – again, they are not really immersed in it other than home. They speak English w/ their dad & English/Spanish at school, so those are their dominant languages. Anyway, I think it can only help, not hurt.
    If you don’t speak your husband’s native language though, be prepared to sometimes not understand what your son is saying. Happens to my husband a lot lately, but he’s learning along w/ her.

  41. @chitty- my situation is nothing like yours, but I have picked up quite a few Chinese words from going to the lessons with my daughter and helping her practice.My pronunciation is far worse than hers, though, and she is clearly learning faster than I am.

  42. I’m pregnant right now, and heading towards…trilingualism! I speak English, my husband is Spanish and we live in France. I’m an English teacher and he is a translator (fluent in five languages), so as you can imagine, this is a really big thing for us!My main motivation for really reinforcing the three languages is not only for the future in terms of education and jobs, but really for family reasons. My sons (I’m having twins)really need to be able to communicate with their Spanish family (who speak no English/French) and their English family (who speak no Spanish/French).
    We’re fortunate enough here to have friends who are in the same linguistic boat with their children, so ours won’t feel that English and Spanish are just ‘home’ languages, and they’ll be able to socialize in the wider community, which I think is really important.
    I know they will end up speaking a lot of French, but we’re going to stick to the ‘one parent, one language’ method.
    One thing that no one has commented about is the language spoken between the parents. My husband and I speak English together, so English will be heard much more in the household. But even if it means that English and French are dominant with a little less Spanish, I’ll be ok with that, as I think any language acquisition is a real boon.

  43. We are raising our son to speak three languages (we live in America, I speak exclusively German to him, his father speaks exclusively Turkish to him). He had absolutely no delay in starting to speak (his first words were English, because his daycare was English speaking, but he added German and Turkish as he went along). He understands all three languages perfectly (and did way before he could speak). Didn’t ever answer back in Turkish until a 10 day visit to his Turkish relatives at age 3.25– he came back speaking Turkish in full sentences.Here is my philosophy regarding multi-lingualism:
    1) Persistence is key! Whatever the phase (language mixing, refusing to speak one of the languages) keep at it! It will pay off in the end and your child will thank you for it.
    2) Parents should stick to one language with the child. At a young age, it helps if the child can associate a language with a face. I almost never speak English to my son, whether there are other people around or not (never feel embarrassed to speak the 2nd language in public or with other people around– otherwise, when the kid is older, it’ll never get spoken!). Now he knows that German is “our language”, Turkish is the language he speaks w/ Daddy and English is for everyone else 🙂
    3) Use any reinforcement available for the language that’s not spoken in the country where you live. In our house, the only videos that get watched by my son are in German or Turkish; virtually all his books are in German or Turkish (we have some English books for guests & babysitters); we have tons of music from the two countries. We were also lucky enough to find a German pre-school for my son in our area. I know that as soon as he hits elementary school, it’ll probably be an uphill battle to get him to answer back in German/Turkish– so we’re hitting every foreign language angle we can early and fully.
    By the way– I was raised in America by a German mom who stopped speaking German with me when I was a kid. I lost almost all of it, but eventually learned it back through long summers with my non-English speaking grandparents, college classes, work, etc. I wish my Mom had always spoken German to me– would’ve made it much easier as an adult. But I love the English language, love to read and also learned several other languages as an adult– so the early exposure to German didn’t harm my English and must’ve done me some good re: language ability!

  44. Haven’t read all the responses yet, but my answers:Yes! Babies (they say) learn to filter out sounds that aren’t important as early as 11 months. So if your baby is getting both languages before then, then they recognize both as sounds to pay attention to.
    My data points: Daughter is 4 and change, and we have raised her bilingually (English: me, Danish: her dad and our country of residence) since birth. She speaks mostly Danish, but is proud of her English speaking skills, and has been speaking sentences with more and more English words in them to me lately. Yes, her fluency in Danish was a bit behind compared to her peers, but it caught up rapidly, and I’d say she’s about equal now. I think she’ll be fluent in both languages and it’s been shown to be a benefit in all sorts of other brain functions in addition to additional language acquisition.
    @ Kiera: Where in Denmark is your husband’s family from? I’m in western Jutland. Funny to see a Danish/U.S. combo here!

  45. Lots of good info over, just posting some datapoints :)I am English and live in Norway with my Norwegian husband and 2 kids (S) age 3 and (N) nearly 1. We speak mostly English at home – I always speak English and me and the husband speak English together, but he often will switch to Norwegian when speaking to the kids. S goes to kindergarten where they only speak Norwegian N will start their soon as well.
    S was slightly slower to start speaking than a lot of her friends, but when it took off at about 18 months, she soon overtook them in language skills (both languages), although she sometimes formulates her sentences with the rules of the other language (something I’m sure will sort itself out in time). N does not really have any clear words yet – she says something a bit like “there” (or “der” in Norwegian) when she puts something on top of something else.

  46. Fascinating comments. Just wanted to say that actually there is some research to show that there is possibly some language delay for bilingual children, but it’s because they are processing two languages at the same time. It should not be viewed as a negative since eventually your child will speak 2 languages!My master’s degree is in Teaching English as Second Language and firmly believe in the benefits or raising children to be bilingual. Data shows that bilingual children are able to think in a more complex and creative way. They will also have many opportunities to expand their horizon through the knowledge and use of another (or many other) languages.
    In my case, I was also born in Hungary, but moved here when I was fairly young and have now lived here for 25 years (which is nearly twice as many years as I spent in Hungary). I married an American and sadly my children don’t speak Hungarian. Part of the reason is that I now more comfortable speaking/reading/writing/thinking in English and part of it is that there was not much of a Hungarian community where I lived. It doesn’t come easy for me to speak Hungarian to my children so I took the easy way out. We also don’t have much family back in Hungary now so going back there for a few months or weeks/year is not really possible.
    I do have friends though where one parent speaks one language and the other only speaks the other language to their children and they seem to understand both. It’s a real gift you can give your children.

  47. My husband and his sisters were raised in a predominantly Serbian-speaking household (his brothers, for whatever reason, were raised mostly speaking English in the same household, but were exposed to it). My in-laws are both native speakers. My 17 month old son gets English from me (a stay at home parent), Serbian and English from my husband, and Serbian (and some German) from my in-laws. He’s over at their place all day at least two days a week.He’s just starting to talk, and I find that I’m the one at a disadvantage. A lot of what we’d initially taken for generic baby babble is actually toddler-pronunciations of Serbian words and phrases. He’s right on target developmentally verbally, if not ahead a bit, as were my husband and his siblings.

  48. Laura, thanks for citing my blog, Bringing up Baby Bilingual!Count me in as one more person advocating for raising your child bilingually, Kjersti. With your hubby and MIL speaking to him in the second language, he’ll form more neural pathways in the brain and grow up with understanding that there can be more than one name for an object or idea. He’ll also likely have a better appreciation for other countries and cultures than his peers, plus an easier job learning additional languages than his peers who have to wait till middle or high school to start formal second language learning. It’s a beautiful gift that your hubby and MIL are giving him. Embrace it!
    I have spoken exclusively French to my 2.5-year-old son and 4.5-year-old nephew since they were born. No language delay whatsoever. And my monolingual husband is supportive, never resenting the fact that he often doesn’t know what I’m saying. In fact, he’s picking up a good bit of French!
    I’d like to invite the readers of this post to visit me at http://babybilingual.blogspot.com.
    And those of you who are raising your kids with more than one language, perhaps you would consider letting me profile your families on my blog? I have a set of questions about your motivations, strategies, resources, and so forth. It’s so helpful to read about what works (and what doesn’t) for other families! You can read the profiles by clicking on the label “profiles” in the sidebar of my blog. Please email me at babybilingual (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested in letting me interview you. Thanks!

  49. Timely post! We just got back home to France after a few months in the US. I’m American (fluent in French) and Daddy is French (so-so English). We’ve each spoken our respective native languages to our almost 4 year old. She understands both languages without a problem though she has spoken 99% French, even to me (gasp!). Between her French daycare/crèche, having heard me speaking French all throughout my pregnancy (everything is Mom’s fault, right?), etc. this seems pretty logical.One key thing that I’ve been told however is that the choice really depends on the language the child uses to communicate with peers. This has proven true twice during our stays in the States. Each time, a few weeks go by with her speaking French to older cousins and other family despite the fact that they understand little to nothing. Then, lo and behold, she starts in a playgroup or pre-school and after a week the spoken language switches to English.
    This trip she became so comfortable that we’ve been back for 10 days and it’s flip-flopped: she’s speaking only English to her perplexed French grandmother and even sticking to English with her French pals. I’m waiting for the peer thing to kick in. Should be interesting since next week marks her first day of school!
    For any linguists out there, just curious– she has actually verbalized this: “I didn’t speak English but my French was good, and now I speak English a lot but I can’t speak French anymore.” It almost feels like a “tongue is rusty” thing? or maybe a question of needing more confidence? or maybe it’s hard to master the switching mechanism from one language to another?

  50. Thanks @toomuchstrong for the very interesting comment. DH and I emigrated, yes, for real, to the UK from Holland. Lots of reasons, the main one being that in his field of high speed computing at that time the UK was light-years ahead. He’d never have had the career he has in the old country.But we also came from under a cloud. I come from a well to do but frankly dysfunctional family where various types of abuse flourished and were covered up. I was running for self-preservation really. My DH had also had nothing to lose in the family department.
    I can still speak and write Dutch. I made a self-employed living translating and writing in German and Dutch promotional materials for companies exporting to the Netherlands and Germany. Companies there would sell in English but not buy in it.
    For me personally it was Latin with its grammar that really helped me pick up languages. But for DH it was not at all easy to do the bilingual thing. If he spoke and read Dutch he’d find it hard to then speak English and vice versa. So we stopped speaking Dutch early on. Also as I said before we emigrated. We were not working abroad for some time.
    When many, many years later the miracle DD happened I was asked early on ( and harshly criticised) for not raising her bilingually.
    The majority felt that she will be less intelligent as a result as her brain will be less developed.
    One friend said that when DH and i are old and senile we’ll forget all the English we ever knew and our daughter won’t be able to talk to us. Hmm, phrasebook?
    Another that I was abusive for robbing DD of her culture. Which frankly isn’t all that different from good old British culture.
    But the fact is DH isn’t in any way fluent anymore, I speak Dutch that now sounds very antiquated and formal and there’s no family in the old country. Whereas there are friends who are family here.
    I do listen to German and Dutch radio quite often and DD is neither interested nor distressed by it.
    I don’t think that she’ll suffer for not being bilingual.But obviously I feel a bit defensive about it. It’s very interesting to read all the comments here.

  51. Thanks Wilhelmina. I also get defensive about not teaching our children Hungarian, but my family is quite disfunctional too (my parents/grandparents) and maybe breaking away from my native tongue was a way for me to heal myself.My husband used to get really upset with me for not teaching our kids Hungarian, but I was so tired of taking care of a colicky infant while going to grad school and dealing with a number of other issues that begin forced to speak to her in Hungarian would probably just put that last nail in my coffin.
    It saddens me to think that when we go to Hungary to visit, my kids won’t be able to communicate freely with my best friend and her family, but I also am confident in my decision. Language is so tied to your identity, isn’t it? It’s obviously very silly to think that someone is less intelligent for not being bi or multi-lingual and frankly there have never been any conclusive studies to prove that bilingualism makes anyone smart. Common sense tells you that knowing two or more languages is beneficial to a person. However, you cannot deduct from it that not knowing multiple languages negatively impacts a person.

  52. I haven’t had time to read all comments, just wanted to add that my daughters are being raised bilingual. I speak German to them, everyone else (pretty much) English (we live in the US).My almost 3-year old is ahead of her peers in language development, but behind in the physical (fully within the range of kids developing language or physical skills first). She understands all English and German, but speaks virtually no German at this point (a few words or phrases here or there). My parents just came over for a visit, so I’m wondering if that is going to change with three German speakers in the house.
    My other daughter is an infant, so too early to tell 🙂
    I would greatly encourage you to bring your child up bilingual if you have the ability. Even if it does initially slow language development (and it didn’t in our case), it puts them at a greater advantage in the long run, with a second language they can speak (or at least understand) and an increased ability to learn more language.

  53. I have not read all the responses, but I wanted to share my own experience. Our son, Charlie, just turned two years old. We have been raising him bilingual. I speak to him only in English, and my husband speaks to him only in Russian (which I don’t speak). We live in the U.S.We have had a great experience. Charlie’s English language development is exactly on schedule or even a bit early. At this point, he speaks full sentences in English and is beginning to be able to tell coherent narratives. (“My balloon fly away. Yellow balloon. Up in the sky. Mommy no get it, too high.”)
    Charlie’s Russian development is slower, but definitely coming along. He can say well over 100 words in Russian, and he understands everything my husband says to him. He has very recently begun to use two-word phrases in Russian (e.g. yellow balloon), but has not spoken full Russian sentences.
    What has been the most interesting to me is the phases he’s gone through with his Russian language development. First, he spoke only English words. Then, he started to pick up some Russian words, but he would choose either the English or the Russian word for each object, not both. For example, he would say elephant in Russian, but cow in English. The selection may have been random, or it may have had to do with what words appeared in his Russian books more often than his English ones, or it may have been based on which word was easier to say. I can’t really tell.
    More recently, he figured out that each item/concept has both a Russian and an English word. He’ll say elephant in Russian, and I’ll ask, “What does Mommy say?” and he’ll tell me elephant in English. He thinks this is a great game, and will sometimes volunteer both the English and Russian word when pointing to an object.
    At this point, he puts his Russian words into English sentences. (A frequent example: “I doot on my hot chai.” = “I blow on my hot tea.” Yes, my 2-year-old drinks tea. It’s very Russian.) Now that he knows nouns, verbs, and adjectives in Russian, a full Russian sentence cannot be far away.
    I’ve read that they are supposed to be able to sort out that Mom speaks English and Dad speaks Russian, and use the appropriate language words with that parent, but we haven’t gotten to that point yet. I’m really looking forward to it, because at this rate, Charlie is learning Russian words faster than I am!

  54. Hello, you did not mention what the other language is, nor whether or not you can get other persons in your son’s life to speak it to him as well. From personal experience, the more people speaking both languages around the child, the better, but you can still raise him bilingually with only one regular caregiver, and that person does not have to be a native speaker. My husband and I are anglophones but I am also fluent in French, and our son started speaking at the normal time for boys, both languages at once. At first, he chose the easier word in either language and said it to either one of us, but now he will code switch as needed.My other concern is for your son’s reading and writing ability; please be sure to guide and support his efforts in those areas. While bilingualism is nice, I would suggest that biliteracy should be the real goal. Good luck!

  55. @chitty sounds like my Internet twin 🙂 My parents spoke Tamil to me growing up and I’m pretty sure I learned it before English, but since we spoke a mix of both at home, we eventually just switched to English (with a few Tamil words mixed in). As a result, I now don’t speak any Tamil, though I understand nearly everything. (Though oddly, not enough to watch a movie in it – I only get bits and pieces there.)There was a distinct time when I decided to stop speaking Tamil, though, and it was around a summer trip to India where everyone was pointing out the fact that I spoke Tamil with an American accent. Obviously I realize now they weren’t making fun of me, it was more like a “how cute” thing, but as a little kid, I thought they were making fun, so I just stopped speaking it.
    So if you are going to raise your kids bilingually, it might be good not to make them self-conscious about how “well” they speak.
    Now I definitely don’t speak enough to teach it to my daughter, though my parents do talk to her in a mix of Tamil and English when they see her. Since she’s only 11 months old, it’s hard to tell what she’s getting out of it.
    I have a theory that it makes computer programming easier, in that it gets your brain thinking about the abstract easier – ie variables, and a particular object can be called several different things. I started learning how to program in BASIC when I was 6, and it was surprisingly easy to learn a different “language” for the computer.

  56. I haven’t read the comments but I have to tell you that I was jealous of the 5 year old at the park the other day who was talking back and forth to his nanny in sentences! He knows WAY more Spanish than I do!Some of my friends have their kids at a French daycare and they love it and I have our daycare teacher speak to Little C in Spanish and sign language.
    My Husband comes from a South American and Chinese background and doesn’t speak Spanish (well, a little to buy something or find a bathroom) or Chinese and it’s a real shame.
    Your baby is lucky!

  57. My 19 month old son attends a daycare three days a week where they speak Mandarin. He’s been there since he was 9 months old. We aren’t Chinese (we’re Irish-Polish mutts, really.), and so he doesn’t get any reinforcement at home. However, he totally understands the language, and is speaking it at daycare~ mostly individual words and some 2-word sentences. This hasn’t affected his English development at all, which is also going gangbusters. He’s a really verbal little boy, with a 50+ word vocabulary that is growing rapidly everyday. And he’s very interested in language, in learning new words, in both languages

  58. Just to add some data points, as @Liz pointed out, our 26 month old DS (raised bilingual French & English with some Spanish thrown in for good measure at daycare), seems to be acquiring language in each language. So, some words in English, some in French, and he’ll quite often mix the two in counting and speaking in general.I was worried that his speech development may be delayed as he wasn’t forming short (i.e. two word) sentences by the time he was 2. But, low and behold, in the past weeks he’s started to add a few words together now and then. So, while he’s on the later side of that development, I’m less concerned that he might have a learning issue.
    @Cloud, That is AWESOME that Pumpkin is learning Chinese.
    @Wilhelmina, Your story regarding bilingualism is very interesting. It’s so rare to hear a discussion about choosing not to be bilingual. Thank you for sharing that. I can’t believe the criticism you received. OK, well, maybe I can believe it as people like to criticize on everything related to child rearing. Language is a very sensitive topic where we are, and I expect to have some battles (albeit perhaps subtle ones as we are raising DS bilingual) as we move forward (especially once we enter the school system).

  59. Yes, they will. Do it. It’s a great gift to give your son. He will learn both. I’ve seen some research that suggests the delay for bi-lingual children relative to mono-lingual children is similar to the delay for boys relative to girls. So it’s there but it’s not dramatic and…your kid gets two languages in the end!My story: I’ve got two bi-lingual boys. We live in German speaking Switzerland, so Swiss-German is the dominant language culturally and my oldest is in the public Kindergarten (youngest only 2.5 but will also go to Swiss schools). So not learning Swiss wasn’t an option. I speak English with the boys, my husband and his family speak Swiss; we did that from the very start. I’ve always spoken English with them (except for those very complicated exceptions like you’re telling your kid something in public that you need a third party to understand and other life situations that rigid “one parent one language” approaches just can’t accommodate).
    Anyway. My oldest didn’t hit that “new word every day stage” where they are really jumping into talking and learning until he was apx 27 months old, so there was some delay there; my youngest hit that stage earlier. It was always clear, though, that they had native comprehensive in both languages well before they were up to speed with talking. Both boys are now fluent in both languages, though now that my oldest is going to Kindergarten in Swiss every day his Swiss has become very dominant. He comes home from Kindi and keeps talking to me in Swiss and I have to keep reminding him to use English with me (I understand the Swiss, but I want him to speak English with me). So after 5 years of speaking Swiss to the kids, my husband now also uses English with them in the home.
    In general it’s best to pick a strategy like “one parent one language” or “this language in this country that language in that one” and stick with it, but you’ve got to be willing to tweak, like we did, if you feel a language that’s important to you is getting short shift.
    Go for it and good luck

  60. Just saw Boble’s comment about speaking in one language with the grammar rules of the other. My son did that, speaking in English with German grammar, especially with negation which in German comes at the end. “I want that not” he would say or “I like that not.” I would do the unobtrusive correction thing, “Oh, you do not like that?” and it did sort itself out and he uses english grammar in English sentences now.

  61. just more data: my husband has spoken Irish near-exclusively to our daughter since birth. I understand some Irish but don’t speak it; I speak English to her. She really doesn’t hear Irish from anyone else except him, but she is passively bilingual (understands everything he says, nearly always replies in English). She has not had any delays in speech so far (at nearly 4); probably the opposite in English at least. I was skeptical about trying to teach her another language with so little support, but it has really been great, and it’s a cool thing she can share with her dad.

  62. So interesting to read everyone’s comments.We have two daughters, 4.5 and nearly 3. We do the OPOL – husband only speaks Spanish with them and always has and I only speak English. They respond to each of us in the appropriate language. Since the girls were babies they have had a playmate/sitter 9 hours a week who exclusively spoke Mandarin. We live in east Asia and the community language was Mandarin, so outside the home – church, market, friends – all spoke Mandarin. The eldest attended Mandarin kinder last year all loved it.
    I use the past tense as we just moved to another country within Asia 10 days ago with a different language. The eldest in is attending Overseas Chinese School and began on Wednesday. That is going really well so far.
    Prior to the summer and trips to South America and North America, the girls’ play language was Mandarin, but after the extended exposure with the English speaking grandparents and other relatives, their play language is currently English. Perhaps – hopefully – that will change as the eldest re acclimates to school.
    We noticed no real language delay with them. The youngest was quicker than the eldest to begin speaking and formulating sentences in all three.
    We plan to add the fourth language with – hopefully – another sitter/playmate for the youngest and the eldest will have some of the new language in school. We will also be taking lessons ourselves.
    Their little brains are amazing and just soak it up. Husband has a master’s in language studies and read studies of children learning 18 languages at once.
    It all so fun and such a marvel.

  63. We are raising our two-year-old bilingually. We each speak our native language to our daughter (one parent/one language). I speak English and my husband Spanish to her. However she sees and hears me speaking my second language (Spanish) to many people – her dad, her daycare providers, our friends, etc… So she is exposed to Spanish is many places other than our home. We are lucky that way. She has been on the slow-ish side for oral language development, but her receptive language in both languages has always been highly developed. She uses words in both languages, though she favors English. She will translate from one to the other, and she responds no matter what languages she is spoken to in. It’s been a great experience.Like other posters, I think it’s super important to surround the child with as much input in the less-dominant language as possible (books, music, other people). Good luck!!

  64. We exposed our son to two languages from birth and by 2.5 he was fluent in both. We plan to add a third language at 3.5. He may have a slightly lower English vocabulary than monolingual kids, but his total vocabulary is higher. And these setbacks are short-term issues while the benefits are long-term. It’s a beautiful thing to watch you child confidently maneuver the world in two or more languages.

  65. Definitely do it!Be aware though, that raising truly bilingual children takes a lot of work. So many people around me say “oh, your children are so lucky to speak English,” but it’s not luck, it’s hard work. It takes a lot of money, too. We have an English-only media rule in our house, which means I can’t just pop off to the library and borrow something, I have to beg, buy, borrow and steal books and DVDs and alphabet puzzles and all that jazz.
    My son is 3.5 and my daughter is 1.5 years old. My son is in kindergarten and my daughter is in daycare, and this means they get much more exposure to their majority language (Japanese). My son is very talkative, and has decent English, but his Japanese is better, by leaps and bounds.
    We currently struggle with making my son speak English to me. It is a fight. And very frustrating. It would be a lot easier to let him talk in Japanese to me, but I have seen older bicultural kids who after Japanese schooling can barely string together an English sentence, and that keeps me motivated.
    I really recommend reading as much as possible in the minority language. We try to read 3 books a day, and try to do it in the morning when they have more energy, and then we can talk about the book in the car. I feel like it puts them in an English kind of mood.
    I feel very lucky that we live in an internet age where I can get kids songs on Youtube, we can play games on PBS Kids website (I love Superwhy!), and I can print out worksheets about cultural things, and my kids can talk to their grandparents via Skype.
    I do want to just reiterate what has been said above- the more people your child is introduced to that speaks the minority language, the more chances they have to use that minority language, the better prognosis for retaining that language. We have English playgroups with other English-speaking and bilingual kids around my son’s age, and that helps a lot. Can’t tell you how frustrated I get though when my son gets together with another English-speaking kid and plays in the majority language though.

  66. Definitely do it! Having your mother-in-law around to speak to your child in a second language is a huge advantage. I’m of the view that any child who lives and goes to school in the U.S. will most definitely learn English fluently.I speak only Spanish to my two son, one of whom was diagnosed with autism and quite a severe speech delay when he was not quite three years old. He spoke way more Spanish than English when he entered a special ed preschool program, but his English amazes me now. He’s now nearly five and still has delays, but he’s quite the chatterbox and loves playing around with both English and Spanish and loves pointing out the differences. So I’m also of the firm belief that teaching your child a second language is not only possible, but also beneficial and most definitely worth a try–even when it might look like the deck is stacked against you. Good luck!

  67. I’m going through this now as well. I’m an American living in Israel, my husband is Israeli, we have an almost three year old daughter. I have spoken to her exclusively in English from the start, and my husband pretty much in Hebrew, which is interesting considering we spoke exclusively English in the house before she came along. Now she understands me completely but responds about 95% in Hebrew (she goes to Hebrew speaking nursery school). I have to say it drives me a little nuts that she won’t respond to me in English, to the point where I think sometimes it affects our relationship, and I’m really trying to be patient about the whole thing. I’ve also heard the 3-5 year thing for it all leveling out a bit. Right now, if I insist she respond to me in English she just goes and speaks to her father.It’s really important for me that she speaks English like an American and I’m just trying to have faith that it will work out. It’s not so easy so just know other people are going through the same thing. I’m definetely going to check out the links other people posted above.

  68. Check out “Raising a Bilingual Child” by Barbara Zurer PearsonWe are doing OPOL (one parent one language) and daughter just started Spanish immersion kindergarten. She has also been exposed to lots of French and took an Arabic class over the summer.
    I believe she was a bit behind her peers in forming full sentences, but apparently I was too as a young child (was raised in a bilingual environment) and I can assure you there have been no long-term ill effects. Only good stuff.
    One thing I will say about my daughter–she seems to understand that there are a lot of different ways to say a single thing because of constant translation and new languages around here. It’s just a mother’s observation, but she seems to have some flexibility in her thinking that I don’t see as much in her peers.
    I say go for it and good luck!

  69. Wow. This makes me regret not being better about speaking to my kids in my native language, Slovak. I speak to them in English b/c it’s easier for me now and I don’t quite get how it would work for me to speak Slovak to them and then conduct the rest of my business in English and speak to my husband in English but it sounds like it’s working for all these other people – I wonder when is too late to start? I can’t just suddenly start talking in Slovak all day can I? My 3 year old knows random Slovak words relating to body parts, bathroom functions and slippers. :)My parents, both Slovak, were told I would be a bed wetter forever if they spoke Slovak instead of English at home – I assure you, that’s not been the case!

  70. Just start, Nathalie!It does take a lot of work to code switch though, so your brain has to be rewired to look at your child and think in Slovak. It will take time and be frustrating- but you can do it!

  71. I haven’t read the comments but here is my experience…My husband and I are Hispanics so we both speak Spanish but I also learned English in my country. When my daughter was a baby we were speaking to her in Spanish and she was watching TV in English only. Since she was 3 years old, I started speaking to her more in English and my husband continued talking to her in Spanish. Now, my daughter is 5 y/o and even when her 1st language is English, she fully speaks and understands Spanish. The other day, she felt very happy that she could help a friend’s mom at school, who could only speak Spanish. I am happy that she is already able to use those skills. She has been reading in English for the last year and once I feel that she dominates that skill then, I will teach her how to read in Spanish too. Good luck!

  72. We are going for trilingual with our son. We live in the USA; DH’s 1st language is Spanish, my 1st language is English, but my family also speaks Croatian (my parents fluently, me very choppy). We don’t do the 1 person/1 language thing that so many others have mentioned. DH and his family all speak Spanish/English to DS (except for my MIL who only knows Spanish), My parents speak Croatian/English to DS, and I speak English but throw in some Croatian and Spanish when I can (sometimes repeating the name of an item or a command in all 3 languages). I don’t know if this is the right approach, but it’s what we’re doing.I just wonder what life will be like once he starts talking (he’s 11mos now). I feel for his future caregivers at that time! LOL

  73. We’re an American (me) – Swedish (husband) family living in the US, but I speak Swedish too. Fascinating anecdote – we’ve done loose OPOL (one person, one language), though I’d characterize it more as GAB (good and blended), that is, my husband and I switch back and forth sometimes. I think too-strict “rules” about how to do it are unnecessary; my daughter, now 6, has always been pretty clear about which language is what, and who does and does not understand which. As she was learning to talk she’d sometimes choose the Swedish or English noun that was easier to pronounce, which could seem like not knowing which language it was, but really, it was about ease of pronunciation!Fascinating anecdote – her Swedish was pretty passive as she got older, that is, she understood but produced little. What little she did say was English-accented — she sounded more like me than her dad. We recently had the opportunity to spend 6 months in Sweden, and she attended Swedish kindergarten. In about a month her Swedish was native-sounding – you couldn’t tell there was anything unusual about her background linguistically at all. Language development is just amazing.

  74. Absolutely go for it.We are Indonesians who used to live in Boston for a loooong time. First son was born in Boston. We moved back to Indonesia when he was 15 months old. Both his dad and I speak a mix of English and Indonesian to him. He’s been going to English speaking schools since he was 2 years old. Watches only English speaking TV shows. The staff at the house (yes, we have drivers and cleaners etc) speak Bahasa Indonesia.
    He is 5.5 now and is completely bilingual. He automatically speaks English to me and his dad, as well as his cousins. He automatically switches to Bahasa when speaking to his grandparents, housestaff, waiters at restaurants.
    And no, he wasn’t a late talker either even with the 2 languages.
    We just started sending him to English/Mandarin immersion school 2 months ago. He has an English speaking teacher and a Chinese speaking teacher in his class at all times. This time around however, it’s a LOT harder though since we don’t speak Mandarin at home. I have hopes still.
    Good luck.

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  78. I’m not as big of fan of Rosetta Stone as many people here. Unforgettable Languages did the trick for me, I saw them on NBC nitlghy news one night and got their Italian online course, they use a scientific memory method called Linkword and TRUST me it worked well for this dumb Southerner! Oh and they tout themselves as being the fastest way to learn ANY Language think they are cheaper than Rosetta tooHere is the French Free Demo and Information LinkHere is the Spanish Free Demo and Information LinkGood Luck

  79. effectively in the French land that you can neither speak nor untserdand a single word of the French language? There is just you should not worry anymore, with the language learning software you can master the

  80. Ulza im zawleczone dlugi w wielorakich bankach, jakie w nastepnej kolejnosci trzeba wyrownac rachunki.A nawet o ile aktualnie wydola, to boi sie w Internecie zrobic kupowanie, a co nie wczesniej zaniesc pozyczke za posrednictwem Siec.
    Nie jederman pula wcina oferuje, ponizej czego warto w tej chwili juz o tym zastanowic sie i przeanalizowac odstepne
    Bowiem tymczasem nie jest dozwolone zadluzac sie w nieskonczonosc.
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  81. A w gruncie rzeczy byt w tym jest skoro sposrod roku na rok wyrasta wielkosc Lachow, ktorzy nie sa w stanie splacac swojego obciazenia (obecnie istnieje owo 10-11% spoleczenstwa).Nieobecnosc formalnosci i jakies ocenie kontrahenta robi, iz szybka pozyczke otrzymac moze uzytkowo jederman.
    Pierwszym tudziez najistotniejszym faktycznie sa odsetki.
    Nie wypada istniec jurysta, zeby powiedziec, iz cokolwiek tu jest nie w istocie, a regulacja istnieje dziurawe.
    Bez bezuzytecznych formalnosci uzyskamy wymarzone kapital na adaptacje zamiarow przedsiebiorstwa.
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  82. Az do parabankow malpujemy sie poniewaz w wiekszosci wypadkow wowczas, gdy nie wichrzyc sie nas na splate nieobcych zadan.Powinno sie choc zwracac uwage, dlatego ze nie kazda pozyczka podejmowana w Internecie owszem taka bedzie.
    W celu wielu z nas nie ma totez wiekszego przeslania, ze o kredyt istnieje raz za razem trudniej. Grunt by kedys wydzierzawic finanse – kiedy nie w banku, owo w parabanku.
    Na nieszczescie, sposrod rozstrzygajacym kredytobiorca jestem w trakcie rozwodu, sila sprawy nie rozglasza mi zadnych informacji.
    Chwilowki, tudziez wskutek tego rychle wierzytelnosci, jakiego dostac mozemy w pewnej sposrod stow firm pozyczkowych, rozsianych po terenie kompletnej Jezyk ojczysty, owo z pewnoscia najwygodniejsza a najszybsza rodzaj pozyczenia pieniedzy.
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  83. Nieobecnosc formalnosci a ktorekolwiek oceny faceta robi, iz szybka pozyczke uzyskac przypadkiem rzeczowo kazdy.TUDZIEz iz zaplaci w ciagu nia pare razy wiecej niz w trafie pozyczek spolecznosciowych? Owo aktualnie zagadnienie na na cacy pozostaly towar…
    Atoli prawidlowiej uzyskac materie schronienia natomiast kredytu porazka na zawzdy.
    Mlodzi zasoby sily roboczej lecz ubostwiaja zachowywac sie imaginowaniami.
    Tymiz pozyczki spolecznosciowe sposrod polozenia proklamowano tudziez podejsciem schludnym, jakiego powali wyzwanie odrebnym wierzytelnosciom pozabankowym, a nawet debetom gotowkowym!
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  84. Gdy jest plec slaba najnizsza z mozliwych (debet na 10 latek), kapitulujemy bankowi w sumie o ponad 5000 niezlociutkich wiecej, anizeli jesli podjac decyzje sie na najwyzsza stope (debet na dwanascie miesiecy).Pierwotni zwiazek malzenski moga sie dogadac podobnie w ow strategia – jedno z nich pozostanie w schronieniu natomiast jednoczesnie stanie sie bezprzykladnym kredytobiorca.
    Krocza sposrod makowka w tumanach, nie trescia o przyszlosci, oraz istnieja terazniejszoscia.
    Decydujac sie na taka pozyczke, warto w zwiazku z tym porownac podazy wielu jednostki -zaoszczedzic mozna w istocie bez liku.
    Pierwszym natomiast najlepszym tak sa procent.
    chwilówka

  85. Ma owo krocie korzysci, i do tych najwazniejszych mozna zaliczyc zorganizowanie kredytu na dluzszy trwanie terminu (alias de facto obnizka miesiecznej stawce) tudziez prostota obslugi swojego odpowiedzialnosc (jakis zadluzenie, jakas stopa, pewne godzina splaty).Choc pozyczki pozabankowe sa wazne, nie mozna totez winic pozyczkodawcow za owo, iz nie zdolamy ich splacic.
    400% kaucji
    Tworzy owo acz pewien trudnosc – ktora sposrod nich wybrac?
    Pula oddawal klientce, ze ze wzgledu na ograniczenia generalnego nie zdolal takich wiedzy delegowac w oczywisty sposob.
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  86. Zaciskanie sznura to przedmiot niezmiernie wzbudzajacy watpliwosci w pelnej Europie, o czym przemawia chocby sprawa w Hellady i coraz to wieksze zamieszki w tym kraju.Nieznana opcja w celu pozyczek bez BIK moga znajdowac sie pozyczki sekretne.
    Istnieje no tak chocby w wypadku lokacie (najwiecej wyrobic mozna na szalenczych lokatach tj. akcje gieldowe) oraz istnieje rzeczywiscie w ziemio kredytow zas wierzytelnosci.
    SPOsRoD poprzedniego ustepu przypadkiem wynikac, iz w zastepstwie przedluzyc pora splaty, przyzwoiciej raty po prostu nie wynagradzac albo odwzajemnic sie ja z poslizgiem. Nie az do konca.
    We wrzesniu – co takze oczywistego tudziez pilnowane od chwili wielu lat – po pozyczki entuzjastyczniej dosiegaja jednostki niematerialnego przewodzacego dzialalnosc oszczedna – uzycza.
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  87. Podaz jednostki pozabankowych istnieje nagminnie uwypuklana jako perfekcyjny procedura nabierania jednostek, jakie oraz w istocie maja aktualnie klopoty niefiskalne.Kiedy jest ona najnizsza sposrod mozliwych (kredyt na 10 lat), odtwarzamy bankowi w sumie o ponad 5000 niezlocistych wiecej, anizeli jesliby uradzic sie na najwyzsza stawke (zadluzenie na rok kalendarzowy).
    zeby zdolaloby az do niebiezacego dojsc, nieznany wspolkredytobiorca musi byc wyposazonym wprawa kredytowa.
    Pozostajace 3000 owo kaucja, czyli finanse przechowywane w parabanku „na sprawa nieterminowej splaty chwilowki”.
    Pozabankowe instytucje niepienieznego, jakie uzyczaja pozyczek pozabankowych, coraz w zyciu nie proszki tylu kontrahentow co chwilowo.
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  88. Banki w troski nim dekoniunktura czesto zaostrzaja polityke kredytowa, co bodaj chociazby po skasowaniu z podazy debetow na dowod oraz nowych rekomendacjach, ktore proceduja, ze kunszt kredytowa klinicznego Polaka nagle upadnie.Nie ulega watpliwosci byla to porto ukuta na potyczki promocji, gwoli pospolitego Kowalskiego znajdujaca sie z wyjatkiem zasiegiem.
    To zwie, ze bedzie mogl – na drodze sadowej – domagac sie wyrownania.
    Od czasu jakiegos czasu rownie proceduja banki. ORAZ nul ciekawego, skoro wspolczynnik w wysokosci 80 azaliz 100 zlocistych miesiecznie tak wypatruje ogromnie popularnie.
    Mozna go odkryc na stronicy internetowej banku ponizej portretem wierzytelnosci. Bank stymuluje do nieniniejszego, zeby orzec niewlasna stope i dostrzec, tak jak zaoszczedzimy.
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  89. Co gorsza, caloksztalt sygnalizuje na owo, ze w niezadumanej przyszlosci bedzie jeszcze gorzej.Od momentu w tej chwili ich splata pochlania sie bank, w ktory to zawleklibysmy zadluzenie konsolidacyjny.
    Kredyt azaliz zadluzenie pozabankowa?
    Poki co trwaja dlatego w sladzie nieroznych jakosci pozyczek, wszelako – mietosmy otuche – jest owo tylko przedmiot terminu.
    Pod tym slowem zalecanych jest niemalo pozyczek parabankowych, ktorych uzdolnienie cokolwiek roznia sie odkad warunkow skostnialych wierzytelnosci.
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  90. My partner is French, I’m Slovene and we communicate mostly in English. We’re planning to raise our kids in French, Slovene, with a side of English! 🙂
    You can do it!

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