Suppose I have a kid and I want them to be bilingual. Does it confuse a child when you speak two languages to them? If so, how does one avoid this? But I don't know much about how language develops so I'm not really sure how to approach the problem. But I have read numerous times that children become bilignual far more readily if you introduce the languages early during the critical years between roughly 0-5 years old.

For instance, one strategy I thought of was to speak a particular language when in particular rooms in a house. For instance, suppose I speak Spanish when in the kitchen but English when I am in their bedroom reading a book to them.

1 Answer 1


This is an interesting question and kudos for wanting to give your child such a head start in languages.

Most long-term successfull cases I know rely on different persons speaking different languages. Some examples:

  • Two parents with different native languages, each using their language with the children.
  • One parent using a learned language only.
  • Grandparents using their native (non-local) language, lots of interaction/meetings/invonvement neccessary.
  • One language spoken at home, different from the language spoken at the place of residence.

Whatever language you choose, try to have teachers who speak well. The child can only learn the language as well as it hears it. A few decades back here in Germany we had a lot of children (second generation immigrants) who ended up knowing neither language well. Also note that to generate results you have to commit to "active bilingualism" long term, that means ideally for years.

But please do not try to do this all by yourself, especially the "kitchen = language 1 / bedroom = language 2" idea. Not because you might confuse your child, but because you will confuse yourself. While I don't doubt that you may be a very intelligent person, I know first hand what restless nights and constant vigilliance over ever-active toddlers (aka "parenthood") can do to a brain. This approach would IMHO be likely to fail.

  • Are you saying then that language learning occurs best if you have particular people (likely those who play a major role in their lives) consistently speak one language to them as opposed to one person speaking several? Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 3:07
  • @StanShunpike: No, I'm saying that it's easier for the adults. Hence more likely to be kept up for some years. There is nothing wrong with one person speaking two languages, just more difficult. My answer is based on observation, not psychological studies.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 3:58

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