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I have stared to talk exclusively in English to my son when he was less than 6 months old. However, we have decided not to move to an English speaking country, so I ended up practically alone.

It's been two years since then (he's 2y7m old now) and he clearly understands (my) English (he does know colors in English, cars, can count in both languages to ten...), although he answers in Slovak. He's also able to translate what I tell to people who don't understand English. After two years, I have to admit that I'm still far from native speaker and seriously consider I cease from speaking English with him, so I don't teach him my broken English.

I have read answers on questions like Would it be bad to only speak to a child in a language in which you are not completely fluent? and referenced studies, but there is no answer on what happens if I stop teaching the second language, or possibly, at what age it is desirable.

  • Will the advantages (cognitive or developed executive functions) we earned persist?
  • Would these disappear if I cease from speaking English?
  • Are there any negative effects on my son if I continue speaking English (beside the fact I may teach him broken English)?
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If your writing is any indication, I would not say that you use "broken English". Your writing is as good as, if not better than, many native speakers! –  Beofett Dec 27 '11 at 13:14
    
@Beofett, thanks, but I write a lot. Emails, forums, ... I have time to think. You'd hear how my conditionals can go wrong, not to mention misuse of correct tense in many situations :( –  Matej Kovac Dec 28 '11 at 11:53
    
From what I gather, you teaching him English at such a young age is not likely to have many benefits as compared to doing it at say 3, 5 or maybe even 7 years of age. However, nobody claims it has any specific drawbacks either, and since you now have started, you should continue. However, kids will forget what you teach them at a young age, so if you stop speaking English to him, he is likely to forget the language. The basic skills in learning languages may very well persist. –  Lennart Regebro Dec 30 '11 at 15:56
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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Any exposure to another language is great for children. With my sample space of two children, my daughter (now ten) was raised bi-lingual and is years ahead in both languages (school-wise) even though she has limited exposure to her second language. My son (3.5) primarily speaks and thinks in his second language but can swap to English very quickly. He, also, only hears the second language from us.

Things will be easier for you since you have access to English DVDs (we have limited access to dubbed children's movies in our other language).

Aside from the obvious and well documented benefits to brain development, having a second language (especially English) was other uses:

  • English seemed to be the best, common language in my few visits to Europe (Span, Portugal, Turkey, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Turkey).
  • I am currently working remotely with a team in Russia, again the common language is English. Work opportunities like this will only increase in the future.
  • In some countries, kids learn English as their second language in school. Your child would have a great head start if this is the case for you.
  • As your child exceeds your knowledge of English, you'll be able to learn new things yourself. This has been the case with my children forcing me to learn more.

Long and short, keep it up.

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Thanks @dave. I needed support like that probably, as well as from Torben. I'll keep up for some time. Also thanks for pointing me DVD's - what I had already in mind but forgot to make it real... –  Matej Kovac Dec 28 '11 at 16:44
    
Note that being raise bilingual by native speakers is quite a different thing from being raised bilingual in non-native languages. –  Lennart Regebro Dec 29 '11 at 6:18
    
@Lennart - I am not a native speaker of the second language, only my wife is. We speak 90% in English at home, the remaining 10% was enough to teach our children a second language. –  dave Dec 29 '11 at 20:28
    
@dave: And Matej Kovac is attempting to teach his child a second language which nobody in the family speaks. So yet again, this is a very different situation. –  Lennart Regebro Dec 29 '11 at 22:59
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In general, the feedback seems to be that keeping a couple of languages going helps the brain in learning languages in later life. And English is always going to be a useful one to understand, even if he doesn't get fluent, as it is a common denominator in most countries.

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Don't stop.

Knowing English is never a bad thing, and will remain useful throughout life. And I agree with Beofett that judging by your writing, your English is very good so I would not worry about it being "broken".

As long as you can communicate 100% in your chosen language, you should do that. Even if you had chosen a lesser known language (Danish, Swahili, Korean) it would still benefit the child (as long as you master the language) because knowing >1 language unlocks a whole new understanding of what languages are and how they work. It makes learning further languages easier, and it also opens the eyes to the fact that there's a world outside your country of residence.

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Try to get him exposed to the language in other settings, especially if you can provide an opportunity for him to speak to English-speaking kids. Try to sneak into the expat community around you (works best if you live in a city, of course) and organise play-dates.

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