Saturday, 4 June 2011

If you are a non-native speaker...

...but still want to teach your baby a foreign language, you might find this article interesting. Take a look at it, I think it will be worth:
Ask an Expert: Should I Speak to My Child In A Language Not My Own?
June 1, 2011, posted by Ana Flores

“Hola!!! I’m a Spanish mum, mother of a beautiful one-year-old girl. We live in a bilingual community, where both Spanish and Valencian (a dialect from Catalan) are spoken. At home, my husband and I speak Valencian. My family are Valencian speakers as well, and my in-laws speak only Spanish, but they can understand Valencian. So, in this environment, we are sure that our daughter will grow up being bilingual too.
My question is whether I should speak English to her instead of Valencian. I am quite proficient, even though it’s not my mother tongue, so my phonetics and grammar are good but not perfect, and sometimes it can be very tiring for me to do it. But still I would do it gladly if I knew that it would be good for our baby. My husband understands English quite well but he has some trouble speaking. The only native input my daughter would get would be on TV, computer, music, etc. Please help me! I don’t know what I should do. Thank you so much.
Dear Mamen:
What a wonderful way for a little girl to grow up – surrounded by different languages and parents who are so motivated to fill her world with all the richness of the different languages they can offer.  I think it is important that your daughter grows up fully able to communicate in Spanish and Valencian so she can learn and communicate in her family and in her community.  Whether or not you decide to add English to her language experience is purely a personal choice.
One of the books I recommend most often is Dr. Barbara Zurer Pearson’s Raising a Bilingual Child.  She summarizes research that shows a child needs to spend about 50% of their waking ours using a new language – not just hearing it but conversing, singing, and producing it – to become fully bilingual.  Some children do grow up speaking more than two languages but they may not speak all three languages equally.
If you speak only to your daughter in English, she will surely learn it.  Hearing it on TV is not going to contribute much to her learning because she needs to talk in English to really become fluent.  If she is not going to encounter many people in her environment that will encourage her to speak English as a child, then she is not likely to become as proficient in English as she is in her other two languages.  With that in mind, you might not get as much benefit as you are hoping for with all the effort you would put in to try to speak only English to her.  I’m not saying it is a bad plan.  I am saying you shouldn’t feel that you have to do it. Research has shown that children who grow up bilingual have an easier time learning a third language than monolingual children.  So, you might start teaching her English later if you wanted to.  Learning English at some point would certainly be an advantage for your daughter.  It is not necessary for her to learn it from a native speaker, and it is not necessary for her to learn it from the beginning.  She will already have all the advantages of being bilingual, so her English proficiency will just be an extra ability.  It is up to you to decide how much time and effort you want to devote to adding English as a third language.
I wish you all the best on your language adventure!
Do you have a question for the bilingualism experts? Submit it to madre{at} and get free advice.
Karen Nemeth.- has an M.Ed. from Rutgers University with specialization in language acquisition. She is the founder and CEO of Language Castle LLC, featuring professional development, consultation, resources and teaching strategies for multilingual preschool populations She is the author of Many Languages, One Classroom, and she is a writer and consulting editor for NAEYC.  Karen is a member of the executive board of NJTESOL-NJBE. She serves as the Dual Language Learning Advisor for Teaching Young Children magazine and she has presented at many early childhood education and language-related conferences.  Karen has worked with early childhood programs throughout the United States to improve teaching practices in preschools with multiple languages.


  1. Gracias por el articulo Mamen!Me ha sorprendido lo de la tele, porque yo se la pongo en English pensando que le puede venir bien. Anyway I think every little detail helps!

  2. My baby wacthes some DVD in english, and when I offer him spanish cartoons he dosent like it, and tells me: car, car! (because a car appears on the english DVD). When we read a book I try to do it in english (i invent the story). I hope he is learning english.


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