3

We're an already bilingual household, neither of which is English. Parents speak the primary language, and grandparents speak the secondary language (who visit frequently and babysit)

Our son (21 months old) is conversational in the primary language and understands the secondary language well, with age appropriate extent of vocabulary of course. He's speaking in broken sentences now, and sometimes full grammatical sentences of the primary language. I think he picks up language fast though I may be biased.

We were planning to send him to daycare starting at 15 months, and have them be in charge of introducing English. But COVID happened and day cares have all been closed. He has had no exposure to English. Daycare and playschool will probably re-open when he turns 2, and I'm afraid other children at this age will already be speaking or at least understanding English, and he'll feel left out/behind.

What I'm trying now is to speak to him in English when we are out and about (park etc.). It comes naturally too, because others there speak English as well. He seems to understand simple things like "this way or that way?" "run" "lets go". But this is at the most 2 hours per day.

Can I introduce English at other times or other ways that'll be more affective? Is 21 months too old to add a 3rd language naturally?

For the purposes of this question, we can be considered to be living in an English speaking country. We're in India, so not English speaking per se, but we live in a metro city where people's language of communication defaults to English, due to the lack of a common regional language. Neighbors, schools, they all speak in English. To the point that parents have taken to speaking in English to their kids from the very beginning. We didn't want to do that and hence my fear that he'll feel left out when he goes to play school and all his peers already know English.

4
  • 1
    Context may be helpful, e.g. are you in an English-speaking country? (In that case, my gut feeling would largely be “don’t worry”.)
    – Stephie
    Oct 26, 2021 at 10:19
  • 1
    Well... more or less. We're in India, so not English speaking per se, but we live in a metro city where people's language of communication defaults to English, due to the lack of a common regional language. Neighbors, schools, they all speak in English. To the point that parents have taken to speaking in English to their kids from the very beginning. We didn't want to do that.
    – learner101
    Oct 26, 2021 at 10:35
  • 1
    ... and hence my fear that he'll feel left out when he goes to play school and all his peers already know English
    – learner101
    Oct 26, 2021 at 10:37
  • 2
    I wouldn't worry about that, @learner101. I grew up in this same situation and started preschool at 3 in the US. At that age, kids are pretty good at nonverbal communication, & there wasn't too much complex communication going on at that age either. (and many kids are shy/nearly non-verbal too) You can offer to share a toy by holding it out, for example. I was mostly conversant and functional in English by the time I started proper schooling (first grade) at age 5 1/2, albeit with a rather distinct accent. Timur's response is spot on (tho my family only did #2 + #3 from his list.) Oct 26, 2021 at 18:04

1 Answer 1

3

As Stephie mentioned in the comments, don't worry. You live in an English-speaking country, and the child will pick up English without substantial problems. A certain delay is inevitable because you do not speak English at home. This delay is to be expected, and the child will "make up" for the lack of English at home by the time they spend 1-2 years in English-speaking environment of daycare or preschool. Your plans of English-speaking daycare and speaking English when outside are both very good methods to introduce English. Below are a few other methods to help the child learn English faster. None of these methods are required. I am listing them in no particular order:

  • Read English books at home to your child. At the very least, translate a few books on the fly to English. Or read in another language and translate on the fly to English.
  • Have an English-speaking nanny or babysitter spend time with the child for at least a few hours per week.
  • Set up playdates with English-speaking children in your or their house. Children at that age may play more side by side, but some simple communication does go on.
  • Use Skype, Zoom, etc to video chat with relatives in English. This is preferred to TV, YouTube, or other similar screen time activities in English, for many obvious reasons.
  • Get a few English games, such as board games (age appropriate, as the child grows up). English wooden blocks can be introduced early on.
1
  • 2
    100% this. I grew up in a household that sounds almost exactly like the OP's (Spanish & Polish at home). When I went to preschool at age 3 or so, I had no language in common with my peers, but kids that age are great at a sort of instinctive non-verbal communication. We also switched from having a Spanish-speaking nanny to an English-speaking one at the same time. Since you want to be able to communicate more complex ideas, you'll pick up fragments of the language to do so quickly. My first words in English were, to my nanny at nap time: "No sleep." Oct 26, 2021 at 18:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.