Hindi is the native language and English is a foreign language where I live. The toddler (2 years old) gets sent to the daycare. They speak Hindi there.

I speak English at home with the child and the other person too.

I have found that child is more comfortable with Hindi words rather than the English.


Child easily says:
"Paani" rather then water.
"De Do" rather than give.
"Aao" rather than come.
"Dekho" rather than look.

I do force the child to say these English words and she does comply.
I can feel that it is not easy for her. When I ask her to say give, she says pig. I ask her to say look, she says took.

She can say thank you, please, mole, eyes, nose, hands, snake (with not so correct pronunciation though.).

She speaks tortoise, monkey, and money correctly.

She is NOT hard of hearing. She does understand what I say. She does understand the long English sentences I speak to her.

Should I actually force her to speak these/the English words at this age (by repeatedly asking her to speak)?


Should I continue talking in English and pretend to be deaf and let her learn at her own pace when she grows up?


Is there a third option?

  • 1
    This is an anecdote; not an answer, but it might be of interest: A former colleague (British) has a daughter with a now ex-wife (Japanese). His ex-wife now shares an apartment with another lady (Italian) and her young daughter. The daughter, when last mentioned aged 4, spoke English, Japanese and Italian as fluently as anybody might expect for a 4 year old, and had begun to either pretend she no longer knew any given language, or to not know that a certain word from one language doesn't belong in another. This amused her and as far as her father could tell it was for no other purpose.
    – Tom W
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 20:08

5 Answers 5


Just talk with your kid. Have a lot of conversations. Kids have an amazing ability to digest language and separate words into the correct language. They also have the ability to be stubborn, willful and belligerent. If she doesn't want to speak it, you may not be able to change that yet. My daughter is fluent in a second language (her mother's) but it has always been difficult to get her to talk it.

You don't have the win the battle now, she'll be learning for the next 20 years. The most important thing is that your child is learning the words. She'll use them when she wants to.


I would suggest a 3rd option.

Our kids are bilingual in English (used in preschool) and Danish (used at home). They are currently 2 & 4.

We speak almost only Danish to them, though we do read some some books in English. Both of them, when starting to speak, started in mostly Danish, then switched to some words in English, some in Danish.

We never pretended to not understand, or forced them to speak Danish at home. What we did do, is to point out what it is called in Danish, and continue on. When a little older (2.5-3 years) we would sometimes ask: Do you know what that is called in Danish? He would either tell us or say no, then we just told him.

At around 3.5 years, our oldest became very aware of there being 2 languages. He will sometimes ask, when he learns something new, what it is called in Danish.

I think encouraging the kids to communicate (no matter the language), and appeal to their natural curiosity is the best way to go.


Well, I am a Pakistani and I am a bilingual. My mother taught me both languages as I was a toddler, but she mostly used Urdu (which is extremely similar to Hindi) at home. She did teach me English words but those that I could relate to or those which a child finds at home.

You should take it very gently, teaching her English words gradually but do not speak in English throughout. Use Hindi as well, that way she will not feel alienated or burdened. Never force her; it might make her hate English.

Younger children learn a new language very fast, you will be surprised.

And in the end do not worry you can speak Hindi and English and so will your child but please be patient. Hope I helped.

(P.S.: Read this article for a little insight Two new studies look at how infants and toddlers acquire language


The third option is to introduce English-speaking playmates. It may take some doing to find them. A playgroup would be ideal. A variety of ages is okay.

It is helpful to continue to speak with your daughter in English consistently.

You can do some play acting with stuffed animals, puppets, or whatever. There should be a character that speaks English consistently, and maybe doesn't even speak Hindi. This should be an ongoing saga, so your child remembers the character types when you come back another day to play with the same animals.

Make notes of the English words that she utters comfortably. She doesn't have to use those words consistently -- but this will help you learn her vocabulary, or repertoire of active words in English. Make plenty of conversation that includes these words, to give her lots of opportunity to use the ones she's comfortable saying.

Don't get discouraged -- many children mix their languages willy nilly up to age three, and even then it can take a couple more years to (mostly!) stop mixing.

If you can reduce her hours of day care a little bit, that might have a big effect.

Edit: I am basing my answer on my experiences in a multi-lingual family, having lived in several different countries.


Firstly, she is only 2 years old, so I personally think you should let her learn the language she is comfortable with. Because kids under 5 years can learn 3-4 languages effortlessly. Or Alternatively, you could send her to child care centre where they speak only English. At some stage kids generally learn the native language fluently as they grow.

If your mother tongue is English or you are fluent in English and always speak in English when with friends and relatives and try to always play English channel programs on TV ( as she begins to watch TV Programs).Then you will be able to teach her English with less effort on your part and as she matures she might learn to speak in English as well. That's what I did with my child.

And, If your mother tonguei or you speak in Hindi with your friends and family, then I think you should send her to a day care centre where they speak English.

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