My husband and I are raising our two-year-old daughter in a bilingual home. I speak English, my husband speaks Afrikaans, and we speak each of our respective languages to our daughter. (We basically do OPOL, and we speak mostly English to eachother)

My husband and I both read to her at different times, but we both choose from the same pool of books. We have differing opinions on how to handle opposite language books. My husband will only read Afrikaans books to her, but I will read both languages and if she chooses a book in the opposite language, I'll just translate it on the fly (They're big picture books, so there aren't too many words in any case).

I'm concerned that reading the exact same book in two languages may be confusing to her. Sometimes when I'm reading a book, my daughter will use the Afrikaans word because she knows that one best (which is fine!) and I just say "yes, that's a {english word}".

I'm just concerned that I'm un-doing her learning of the other language when I read to her the exact same book in another language. Is this something I should be worried about? Should I just stick with one language per book?


3 Answers 3


Don’t worry.

I have 3 kids who are now fluent in 3 languages...

When the youngest was learning to count we were giving her the numbers in either of two languages - because she was also at nursery where she only got one language.

One day she was asked to count so she did in French. Then her brother asked her to count in English - she did and then it seemed to dawn on her that she had two ways of naming numbers ...

So, upside is kids will assimilate two languages with ease.

Downside is that because they are processing double the vocabulary then progress can be slow at times. Just don’t worry and it will get sorted.

She was slower than her peers at reading for a while, but then caught up and was reading in two languages in front of the class... At school her peers are now learning English and she is coasting...

Have just remembered a book that we had in both languages - but the format and pictures were the same: Big Hare and Little Hare discussing "How much I love you" (answer all the way to the moon ... and back). She loved it in either language - good bedtime read.

One issue I did face was my kids pointing out my limited vocabulary in my second language as theirs increased, as well as my pronunciation.. :) That is a good indicator of their progression though.

  • 2
    Re. coasting, aka 'gifted' which comes with its own set of problems : How can I teach a teenager to plan better and procrastinate less in his studies?
    – Mazura
    May 9, 2020 at 22:51
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    @Mazura don’t think you got the idea... coasting in one subject does not always mean coasting in all, but her grades are very good all round especially maths.
    – Solar Mike
    May 10, 2020 at 0:21
  • 4
    @SolarMike I coasted through most of school, excelling in all my subjects, great grades, until senior year of high school in my ap courses, when it wasn't all easy anymore. I had other ambitions and taught myself programming in that time, sure, but missed some valuable time management lessons. Maybe not the case here at all, just saying, I do wish someone took the time to work with me on procrastination. No one was worried because my grades were high. Just saying success by grades doesn't always equal successfully taking away the most valuable lessons education can offer.
    – TCooper
    May 11, 2020 at 23:12
  • @TCooper I'll let you know when she is 21, only 13 now...
    – Solar Mike
    May 12, 2020 at 20:47
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    I'd venture a guess @Mazura was following along the same lines of thinking - what may be irrelevant to your situation could be valuable to another parent in a similar enough situation to read this post, your answer, and our comments.
    – TCooper
    May 12, 2020 at 21:40

I wouldn't worry about this at all. It's entirely expected with young bilinguals that they will switch language mid sentence and use whatever noun (say) is most readily accessible to them, not necessarily from the same language as the previous word.

While we only have one language spoken in our household, I frequently don't read books exactly as written. And I don't read them consistently each time I read them.

Reading to your kids is a great way to get them interested in reading, which will serve them tremendously well. It will also expand their vocabulary beyond the smaller set of words you'd otherwise use. It is also a great way to connect and get some quality time together. It can also be a powerful tool to open their eyes to worlds beyond their own limited experience and raise their curiosity for just about anything. Books are fantastic at all these things, and these are some of the reasons you should read to your children every day. Your reading does all of this regardless of language. So that they would have a knowledge of what the exact words in a particular book is, is not one of those great reasons, and that's all that you're missing.

On the contrary, I could just as well imagine that these books could serve as a Rosetta stone for your children, a handy key to how one story translates to another language.

  • 3
    Regarding the rosetta stone example, sometimes I'll ask for something and she won't know that English word, Instead of pointing it out to her, I'll say "In Afrikaans it's a {word}" and she'll immediately know and find it. So it's a useful way to be able to refer to things in two languages without immediately giving her the answer.
    – stan
    May 10, 2020 at 10:25

She must have had the basics of both languages. If she does I don’t it can be confusing. Unlike we adult the child’s brain is easy to learning. Make sure he or she is interested in that language then Enjoy

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