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Ok, English is not my first language. My mother tongue is Vietnamese. There are 5 people in my family: my parents, my wife, my son and me.

I decided to teach my child bilingually. So, about 6 months ago I started speaking English with my son. He is 2 years and 2 months old now.

My parents and my wife speak Vietnamese to him while I speak English to him for about 3 hours per day.

In the beginning, he didn't speak any English words although he could understand some such as "pick it up, go to the bathroom, go to bed, etc".

However, since 2 months ago, he has been speaking English more and more using some phrases such as "where are you?, they're sleeping, I kiss the bunny, etc...", but the problem is that sometimes he uses articles and plurals incorrectly.

For example, he sometimes says "a Mommy's sleeping" instead of "Mommy's sleeping"

or "the bunnies" instead of "the bunny" (there is only 1 bunny in my house).

Maybe, she mixes up "a & the" ("the bunny sleeping" and "a bunny sleeping") as I sometimes say "give me the bunny" and other times say "that is a bunny" (show a picture of a bunny)

My question is

Is it common that 2 or 3 year old children use articles and plural incorrectly?

Note: I only use phrases that I found in textbooks or in dictionaries because it is safer due to the fact that my English is not as good as natives'.

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    I only speak English and I still mess it up! – goodguy5 Mar 5 at 20:16
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    For example, he sometimes say(s) you're how old and still get it wrong? Not trying to attack you or anything, I get things wrong all the time. Just pointing it out, and it's going to be even harder since they're learning multiple languages at once, one of which isn't even your native language so it's going to be doubly hard. If you notice an error then you can correct and explain why it was incorrect. – Aequitas Mar 5 at 22:39
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    If you're only using phrases from textbooks and dictionaries, how do you expect your child to learn to distinguish singulars from plurals, or understand when an article is needed? Really a better thing to be doing would be to actually have conversations with the child about things around them. If your English isn't up to this, then please don't even try, as you could do more harm than good. – Dawood ibn Kareem Mar 5 at 23:23
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    You say you have a son, but refer to him as "her" and "she". There will be a lot of confusion in his mind if you're using the incorrect pronouns. (It's OK, my wife has spoken English as her native language for her whole life and still messes up her pronouns.) Also, the kid's only 2, his language skills are just developing and errors are expected and common. – FreeMan Mar 6 at 15:09
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    @psaxton That one's really common, and makes a lot of sense if you think about it. When you point to yourself and say "me" and point to the child and say "you", they treat the words "me" and "you" the same as they think of names. From my perspective, I am "me", and you are "you", but from your perspective, you are "me" and I am "you". It takes a bit to learn that concept. (And I am the walrus?) – Darrel Hoffman Mar 6 at 21:58
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On the question of if it is common, I would personally say "yes". I currently have 5 children (ages 2 to 6) in my life that I have close contact with and they all do it when speaking English (not their native tongue). Seeing as your child is already able to do full sentences in two languages, he rather seems more advanced than lagging behind.

Be proud of his accomplishments and don't worry about grammatical mistakes, it's normal :)

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  • But she can speak Vietnamese very well, I seldom hear her speaking Vietnamese incorrectly. So, I deduced that English with all its hard grammar rules & exceptions is way much harder than Vietnamese. We do not conjugate tenses or care about plural and articles in Vietnamese – Tom Mar 5 at 15:34
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    @Tom The problem is that when learning a second language children tend to translate the words instead of the sentences. They will try to apply grammar rules form their native tongue to their new language but they will eventually outgrow it. – A.bakker Mar 5 at 15:56
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    That would be true of a ten-year-old, but not a two year old. I think the problem the OP's daughter has is she has only been exposed to English for six months - and English spoken by a non-native speaker at that. An English native-speaking child at nine months old (about same level of exposure to English) would have trouble with singular/plural and definite/indefinite/no article. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Mar 6 at 12:58
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    @MartinBonnersupportsMonica From my experience a native speaking child at nine months has big trouble saying "dada" and "mama" consistently for dad and mom, much less articles. The point you're making is valid in some ways but the development of second language skills is much more complicated. – DRF Mar 6 at 14:54
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    Also, the child has a lot more opportunities to hear and talk Vietnamese. It's no wonder he/she has a better grasp of Vietnamese. – Llewellyn Mar 6 at 19:39
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This sort of mistake is fairly common for native English speaking children. For 2 years and 2 months, he's doing pretty well.

He may find the syntax harder than normal if he's only learning from you, and you sometimes make mistakes, or deliberately limit yourself to avoid mistakes. It's difficult to teach anyone to do something better than you yourself can do it.

However, I wouldn't let that stop you. Even an imperfect language is still useful. More importantly, he's learning that he can learn another language, and can communicate even without being perfectly fluent. Even more importantly, he's hopefully learning how you handle making mistakes, correcting yourself, and being corrected.

Reading stories from books, and watching TV can help with grammar, but at 2 he's mostly building his vocabulary (for example, learning that 'bunny' is a specific animal, not the generic word for 'animal').

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  • Yes, exactly, I always ask myself "Am I using correct idiomatic structures?", it's rather struggling but I learn as well, whenever I doubt I check the dictionary. And correct them the next day talking with my son. It's quite interesting to do like that. New words come up every day & it is just like a voyage into an unexpected space. – Tom Mar 6 at 13:08
1

It is common to make mistakes, but the examples you gave would sound very odd and unusual coming out of the mouth of my almost-3-years-old daughter, and I can't recall either her or her older sister making mistakes in quite that manner. Suppose you had the statement, "The bunnies are sleeping." I would expect a young child to transition through the following over time, more or less in the following order:

  • Bunny sleeping.
  • Bunny's sleeping. (Or Bunnies sleeping.)
  • The bunny's sleeping. (Or The bunnies sleeping, or Bunnies are sleeping.)
  • The bunnies are sleeping.

I would not expect the child to go through a phase where they say "a bunny's sleeping" or "a bunnies sleeping", because "a" becomes an actual assertion of singular, while also using the plural for bunnies.

I might not be surprised for a child to singularize a plural, but I would be surprised for a child to pluralize a singular (in English, anyway). It seems unusual to me. That's more the kind of error that comes from learning a second language where you're changing the grammar rules, than a first language where you have a blank slate.

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  • Maybe, she mixes up "a & the" ("the bunny sleeping" and "a bunny sleeping") as I sometimes say "give me the bunny" and other times say "that is a car". – Tom Mar 6 at 1:21
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You should buy your kid a lot of bunnies!!! 🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰🐰

I usually explain:

  • this is a bunny
  • these are many bunnies

then count:

  • one bunny
  • two bunnies
  • three bunnies
  • ..
  • seven bunnies. wow, we have seven bunnies!

then let the bunnies do something:

  • this bunny is sleeping
  • these bunnies are sleeping
  • all the bunnies are sleeping
  • yes, they are all sleeping

if you don't want your house full of (stuffed) animals, try drawing them on a paper, or use some mobile phone/tablet with a drawing app.

so the kids not only learn a single word, but also how it is used currectly in many contexts. worked great so far with two kids, but it's really a lot of work.

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0

This is extremely common for young children, even if English is the only language they're learning. My children grew up bilingual too, and I heard quite a variety of creative grammar. For example:

  • My son spent many weeks mixing up his pronouns. He'd say to us "You're hungry" when he really intended to say "I'm hungry." "Are you hungry?" is what we said to him, so he'd parrot it back to us. Then at some point suddenly it clicked in his brain, and he started saying it correctly.

  • My daughter had a very difficult time with the plethora of irregular English verbs. (She's 10 and still has trouble sometimes!) Both children would say things like "catched" and "goed" and "eated". They had learned that you add an "-ed" on the end to make a past tense, and now to their dismay they had to learn that this logical rule doesn't apply to many of the most common English verbs.

  • Especially when they were little, lots of sounds were morphed into ones they found easier to say. My son liked to start sentences with "Actuawwy..."

Though my daughter still stumbles over points of grammar occasionally, both kids speak good English now.

If your son keeps practicing English and hearing you say things correctly, he'll gradually assimilate the rules and correct himself.

You should also read aloud to him in English as often as you can, as that'll give him more varied vocabulary and grammar to model from.

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Given the limited exposure to English, I am impressed your child is speaking it at all. You are doing well! Keep doing what you are doing, and do not worry so much that your English is not good enough. It is.

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