I live in Israel. I am a native English speaker. My wife is Israeli. My five-year-old son speaks Hebrew. He understands when I talk in English.
But he has a lot of difficulty in saying a sentence in English on his own.
He will say it in Hebrew, I will tell him to say it in English, he'll repeat it in Hebrew. Then I'll tell him 1 of the words in English. Then he can sometimes stumble through the sentence, as if having told him one of the words has triggered in his mind the recollection of the other words.
He translates words pretty well from English to Hebrew. The other direction is a bit more difficult.
My questions are:
a) Is it because I am his only English speaking exposure that his English is not "natural" to him., i.e., if it were true that kids pick up languages so quickly, then, why is it still so hard for him to speak in English?
b) How can I help him improve his English: (he hates the effort that I ask him to put in to try to talk in English)
c) Could it be that my enunciation is not so good, and that is a major problem? Should I work on speaking more lucidly and clearly?
Also, another problem is that recently he has developed problems in his Hebrew, mixing up the sounds sh and s - in fact; I noticed he is copying how some other kids in his pre-school are talking :(
I expect he will learn English with time and patience and perseverance. But the question is, why is it not coming to him naturally and spontaneously and organically like everyone says it should be for kids, and like his Hebrew was?
P.S.: He also has English exposure from songs on CDs/tv shows. Instead, it seems to come to him as it does to an adult, in a rigid logical way. As if he stores everything in Hebrew, and translates all English to Hebrew before handling. i.e., as if he does not think in English, only Hebrew.
I guess that it's just a silly myth that all kids are magically amazing language learners....