My daughter is 4.5 and is very interested in letters and numbers. She wants to learn to read. She's completely Bilingual. We do OPOL with English and Afrikaans, and she goes to an Afrikaans preschool. At school, she learns letters and numbers in Afrikaans. She speaks to me at home in English.

At home, I have been teaching her letters and numbers in English. Sometimes we go over the Afrikaans ones too. She sometimes gets the sounds mixed up (the languages share the same alphabet, but the letter sounds/phonics are different).

Can I teach her to read at home in English, or will that conflict with her lessons at school?

  • As an American kid who went to German elementary school, my spelling was terrible for years, but I could read and write in both (and was taught English at home) Jan 14, 2023 at 17:08

2 Answers 2


As an addition to the answer I linked to above, my daughter was speech bilingual and at about 8 years old said to me she was worried because school was teaching her reading in one language but not the other.

So, we got a favourite book - Harry Potter 😀 and just started reading that together.

I would read a few sentences then she would read a few. Ok, so lots of mispronunciations but they came with time. She quickly got the idea that it was just words on the page in either language.

One of my sons reads books in either language with no real preference. Been doing that since he was about 4 years old.

When they are ready they will pick it up - may take some time to assimilate and can seem to slow them down compared to monolanguage kids but don’t worry they are effectively doing twice as much.

Just be with them on the journey and enjoy!


Children in general are intuitive able to differ between contexts. This means, they are able to differ between parents using different languages, houses with different rules (parents, grandparents, school) and also if they live without a second language, they would use words with their friends, they would not use at home.

So you can trust your child to differ between reading at school/kindergarden and reading at home. Maybe there will be a transition time.

As an example my son was (newly) 5 years old, when he started in a english school. Both parents are German native and my son had not spoken one word english before. While learning the alphabet and the sounds, we had discussions at home about the letters and how their sound is. So I invented some "names" for 2 or 3 most troubling letters (english "e" sounds as german "i" - we called one "the snail" and the other "the one with dot" to clearly differ in descriptions).

At home my son read not much in the beginning. Sometimes I gave him the notes for shopping and he read to me "Brot"(bread), "Äpfel" (apples) and so on. In school he learned reading in a regular manner. Sometimes we discussed the differences, when he got a question (ie special letters as ä, ü or ß).

But he adores me to read loud for him and I did and do so in german (95%).

In principle 80% of books he owns are in german language. So when he reads, he reads mainly german in his free time and english at school. He is 8 years old now and reads both languages fluently. More struggle is in the writing, but the reason is simple, that he uses english sounds to write german words, because he has less experience in writing german texts than english texts. But then he asks me "how is the german letter for this sound?".

For me the conclusion is, that if you have clear context, children are able to switch between languages. ((nearly) all at home is one language, at school the other) and to find unique "names" for unclear differences (german i and english e sound the same, so use names to differ clearly).

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    @SolarMike I read it but it was not focussed on reading. And the difference to my answer is, that my son did not have bilingual parents :) So I assumed my answer could provide additional information Jan 19, 2023 at 7:45
  • @SolarMike Comments are not for dispute or one-upmanship. The user is welcome to offer a different answer. Jan 19, 2023 at 8:17
  • Very nice answer, and quite informative. Your experience might better help the OP, so thank you. Jan 19, 2023 at 8:19
  • @anongoodnurse I am not bilingual - I speak 2 languages - the 2nd not to the level of a mother tongue. Hopefully you understand the difference when I compare myself to my kids who are bilingual.
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 19, 2023 at 8:34
  • @SolarMike - Makes no difference to me. Your comment is uncalled for. Jan 19, 2023 at 8:49

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