My kid goes to English public kindergarten and learns there to read and write in English. We live in USA.

At home we speak Czech and Czech words are read as written with different phonetics. How long should I wait (e.g., after she masters English reading) to introduce phonics rules of a second language?

Where can I read about reading in your second language - how's and when's? (or someone's experience?)

  • Are you planning to go back?
    – Karlson
    Commented Feb 15, 2012 at 3:48
  • how old is your child?
    – BBM
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 6:10
  • my child is almost 6. We don't know 100% if we will be in US or in Europe.
    – userJT
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 2:08
  • My question here might interest you: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/1695/…. We're French/English, which is a challenge, because while English has 'random' spelling, French has lots of 'unpronounced' letters...
    – Benjol
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 6:26
  • 3
    Too late now, but I would've suggested doing it in the other order: teach her to read in Czech first, then send her off to kindergarten. It's what my sister & I did, except with Hungarian. Being able to read things phonetically was an immense help when trying to learn English spelling. (But it did lead to an interesting episode where I read a passage written in English as if it were in Hungarian... the kindergarten teacher was a bit, um, confused.)
    – Martha
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 22:57

5 Answers 5


Start teaching Czech reading and writing right away!

My older sisters and I were all taught to read and write Russian at home at the same time as we started going to school and learning English reading.

But by the time my little sister came along my mom had a full time job and couldn't dedicate as much time to teaching her to read and write. She knows how, but not nearly as well as my older sisters and I, because it wasn't as strong in her schooling.

My mother would read Russian books to us from birth on, so we learned to distinguish Russian characters from English characters even before we could read ourselves.

Some people say learning 2 languages at the same time (speaking or reading/writing) can hinder development but I completely disagree. The fact that I learned to read Russian at the same time I learned to read English means I am equally capable in both.

  • Czech and Russian orthography are more rational than English orthography, right? That's an argument for learning Czech first! Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 6:58
  • I don't know about Czech, but if its anything like Russian it makes way more sense than English! Each letter (and letter combinations) has only one pronunciation, instead of the way English has all sort of crazy pronunciations.
    – Bobo
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 7:12

The problem with introduction another language to any child is their own resistance. If your child is as stubborn as mine she will resist learning another language tooth and nail.

The best way to introduce another language would be either before 3 or when they decide to stand out from the crowd because at this age the kids are looking for conformity and most try not to show their foreign background.


I assume from your description that the child already speaks Czech, just can't read and write in Czech yet. In this case I guess you are reading Czech tales to her at home, from Czech books. I think that soon after she learns to read in English, she ought to get interested in reading those Czech tales too (Krtek rulez! :-), which gives you a natural opportunity.

Our elder daughter is right now learning to read and write more or less parallelly in Hungarian and Finnish. The phonetics of these two languages are fairly close to each other, so - although she does have some minor ortography issues - we know she will sort it out sooner or later. English, however, is so different, in your situation we would definitely teach reading and writing one language at a time.

  • your assumption is correct
    – userJT
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 2:08

Two things :

  • firstly, do maintain and develop your child's Czech language. The ability to hear (and subsequently produce) the subtle sound contrasts correctly vanishes with the critical phonetic period... at the age of 1. So you should not miss it.

  • secondly, for alphabetical languages such as English and Czech, I recommend you just wait until your child has grasped alphabetical reading altogether. In other words, do not try to do it before English. But as soon as the child starts to read in English, you will be surprised to see that the child seems to pick up the two almost simultaneously. No need to wait much longer before introducing the child to Czech phonetics.

You can find more about critical phonetic period on www.vivaling.com/perceiving-sound-contrasts-1-year-age-never/

Regards, Bernard (disclaimer : I work with VivaLing)

  • When you link to your blog, can you please link directly to a relevant post? As it is, I'd have to go hunt for something related to this answer, and I didn't find anything, so it's not very helpful to the community. Commented Jul 17, 2014 at 9:35
  • Hi Torben, apologies - I am brand new to the community and just getting sensitized to the right practices. Here is the link (which was not there when you went on our site). vivaling.com/perceiving-sound-contrasts-1-year-age-never. I will edit my first post as well.
    – Bernard G
    Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 9:07
  • No need to apologize. We've all been new here. I see you already found out how to edit an existing post. Add the "http://" in front of "www" and it becomes a link automagically. Commented Jul 18, 2014 at 9:11
  • I disagree with your second point. I think reading Czech should be taught first, because it would be easier to learn to read. The letters and sounds do what they are supposed to, instead of the craziness English has.
    – Bobo
    Commented Aug 5, 2014 at 18:25

I would suggest two things. One, teach the alphabet and reading skills as a separate but equal thing. "This is the English Alphabet and This is the Czech Alphabet" Then teach the Czech alphabet the same way any other kid would learn it - songs, games, didactic teaching etc.

The second thing I would suggest is reading, "The Bilingual Edge". It is a wonderful resource for people that want to teach their child their home tongue in an environment that does not regularly use the second language being taught. It'll give you all the details about the "HOW" of teaching Czech to your chidren even if they are resistant as well as all the ways having your kids be multilingual is to their HUGE advantage.

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