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I'm a native english-speaker. My wife is bi-lingual. She speaks only Spanish to our son, and only english with me.

I made the mistake to choose to speak spanish to him only because it sounded 'warmer' and he understood it more.

Next month he will start kindergarten only in english. He also watches a ton of youtube videos all in english.

Should i just start speaking 100% english to him right now? what else can i do to bring him up to speed so he is equally strong in both.. lets say 1 year from now?

thanks!

I forgot to mention that we live in Argentina!

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    Our children started daycare early (under a year), but we only spoke Danish to them at home. They picked up English fine from the daycare/pre-school. I suggest you talk with the kindergarten and see how much English they expect and how they are willing to work with. In my opinion, if you live in an English speaking community, then the 'one language at home, community language outside' works just fine. – Ida Jan 26 '16 at 23:28
  • Chill out. The kid'll do fine. Sure, if he's comfortable in English speak English to him. It sounds like he's already bi-lingual, so he's good. He'll adapt. There'll be some rough days, but it'll be OK. – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Mar 4 '17 at 4:34
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I am not qualified to give you a real response as I am not a professional in this field in anyway, but I am bilingual and my mother taught me how she made both my sister and I fluent in both Korean and English.

First of all, she made sure only to speak in Korean with me, while I was learning English in an American school.

She also made sure that I NEVER mixed both languages and had me speak either fully in Korean or English. This was extremely important because it made me learn words for both languages rather than cherry picking easy words.

She taught us elementary school level Korean during summer and winter vacation while we were in elementary school (I only went to an American school).

Finally she exposed us to Korean media by leaving the TV on Korean shows while we were playing. We would constanly be exposed to Korean at anytime, and would tell us what certain words that was spoken on the TV meant.

Based on my experience, I would suggest speaking to him in the language he wont be learning in kindergarden (Spanish) as he will naturally speak English with his friends and teachers. I would also suggest to keep an eye on his educational progress in English and teach at a similar level education in Spanish.

Make sure he NEVER mixes both languages when he speaks and make him choose to either speak in English or Spanish. You could also watch some videos together in Spanish and teach him words that he does not know the meaning of.

It seems you are planning on having your son be educated fully in English through the school system, which would mean he would communicate in English most of the time outside of your household. Which would make English his dominate language (As I am).

Again, I am not a professional in this area in any way and this is 100% based on my personal experience.

  • I forgot to mention that we live in Argentina! – Arturino Jan 28 '16 at 17:31
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The one parent-one language policy is popular in many advice books on how to raise bilingual children, that said many policies work provided that the child gets enough exposure to each language (ballpark of 20+ hours each)

Different language communities have different customs on language switching. In the Philippines, US boarder with Mexico, hipster Scandinavians rapidly switch back and forth and mix them up. Other communities switch from one to the other and don't mix much. Everyone is expected to live up to the standards of their community (i.e. expectations on how much language switching is acceptable), but that shouldn't be confused with if it causes problems. In "Babel No More" the author describes communities in India where families switch among up to five languages as just ordinary business. With enough exposure, kids have a huge capacity to deal with linguistic complexity.

As far as language strength goes, at school you learn to read and write. This is a order of magnitude more complex than colloquial chit chat at home. The more likely problem is in a few years, your child will be native fluent in English and read and write it, but merely speak Spanish very well and will be less able to read and write in Spanish than his counterparts abroad.

I follow this tag & generally the favored genre of answers is "uninformed cautionary tales", lots of fear and loathing.. However, I can only think of one informed cautionary tale, which is that if you aren't fully fluent in Spanish, you might have a better relationship with your children using your better language. As long as your wife continues to only speak Spanish, it won't lessen their progress in Spanish. On the other hand if you have balanced fluency between your English and Spanish then I wouldn't worry about it.

  • I forgot to mention that we live in Argentina! – Arturino Jan 28 '16 at 17:31
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    @Arturino oh! Switch back to speaking English all the time. Exposure is everything. Us Americans don't know how to raise bilinguals but we know how to kill a language-- just stop speaking it. I count 6+ lost languages in my family. (I admit, it would be a chore to have to grow up knowing that many) – MatthewMartin Jan 28 '16 at 21:23
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I am bilingual and an immigrant too. I speak Hindi, English and my wife speaks Malayalam, French, English among other languages. Assuming you are in an English speaking country like the USA, then I suggest you both speak only English to him in the home.

Reason? It is tough to speak two languages equally fluently especially when one is learning both at the same time.

Why choose English? As a parent, I am sure you want your child to be on an equal footing in school, college and the workplace with native English speakers. After your child's grasp of English is strong, then you should also include Spanish at home so he will be in touch with his heritage. He will thank you for giving him a competitive strength in this world.

My wife and I are far stronger and more fluent in English than we are in our 'mother tongues'. We think in English, not in Hindi/Malayalam. This has helped us. If we were strong in our 'mother tongues' and spoke and wrote broken English, we would be at a disadvantage in today's highly competitive workplace.

People may not like this answer because it says that we give English 'a higher place', or consider it to be more important. It goes against the narrative that "all languages are equal".

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    This is a VERY BAD strategy for being bilingual. Numerous studies show that the earlier a child learns a language, the easier it is. We live in the US, and we don't use English at home. Our children are fully bi-lingual, with a preference for English (which they speak in pre-school). – Ida Jan 26 '16 at 23:26
  • @Ida "We live in the US, and we don't use English at home". Well, your children will not thank you for it once they realize it has handicapped them in this competitive world. – likejudo Mar 6 '16 at 14:54
  • I think your answer is being downvoted for taking a strong stance without backing it up with strong evidence, rather than being "politically incorrect". – Acire Mar 6 '16 at 16:04
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    It's anecdote, which has value and is true for your personal experience, but does not necessarily apply universally. – Acire Mar 6 '16 at 22:16
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    note: I deleted some comments since this discussion is pointless. The author of this answer has a false premise: That learning multiple languages from birth will make it harder to learn languages than if you learn them later. In fact it is opposite - learning a language later makes it harder. – Ida Mar 23 '16 at 22:15

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