I am a native english speaker settled in the Netherlands; I speak fluent (but not very grammatical) Dutch. I now have a granddaughter Rosie of two months and her mother (my step-daughter) has suggested that I speak only English to her, so that she will grow up bilingual (a variant on the One Parent One Language (OPOL) approach). They live close by and we see them almost daily.

This sounds like a good idea to me, but which language should I use with third parties (typically the mother and the grandmother, my wife) in Rosie's presence? Should I answer their Dutch questions in Dutch or English? All parties involved (family and friends) speak enough English to handle both languages. My automatic reaction would be Dutch, but I think I can train myself to always use English in Rosie's presence.

Conversely, how important is it that the Dutch people speak Dutch? For example, I recently said to Rosie: "That was a nice big burp" and my wife echoed me with "Another big burp then" instead of the Dutch equivalent "Nog een grote boer dan" which she would have otherwise said. Will Rosie get confused in such situations?

Fortunately we have a few months before Rosie will actually begin to recognise words, but I'd appreciate advice, both for me and the other parties.

Extra information if it's relevant: the father is absent but visits occasionally, is Dutch-speaking. Rosie will have very little other exposure to English apart from TV and adverts (English is very trendy in Dutch adverts). Rosie's biological grandfather died in a car accident, I married his widow and have excellent relations with the children (Rosie's mother and uncle).

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Bilingual babies connect languages to persons and to situations eg. if you speak to her MOSTLY English then she will answer to you in English once she starts speaking. If you speak Dutch in the grocery then she will ask questions in Dutch at the counter. It is naturally that she will mix up some words. If you repeat the correct sentence then she will learn the good example. Remember not to repeat the wrong expression since babies learn by repetition.

It is a general observation that the language development of bilingual babies is a bit late. You should not worry about it as she will put everything to the right place during her brain development. Keep up repeating the good expressions.

It is also not mandatory that she starts speaking sentences at 2 or 2.5 years old. My big daughter started speaking easy sentences containing 3-4 words at 20 months. I was fascinated how quickly she learned words day by day. We sung a lot of songs and rhymes since the very beginning. The speech development of babies is just amazing. First, they learn the rythm of a language: where are the stops between words and which sounds do you use. Then, with the motoric development and with the ability to grab and study objects they will be able to connect objects and activities to expressions. Their desire for being understood is so strong that they will strive to use the correct expressions.

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    Seems that tl:dr is "babies are robust". Thanks for the reassurance, I'll wait a few days before giving the checkmark.
    – NL_Derek
    Aug 5, 2019 at 20:48

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