Our daughter is now three. Her verbal skills are very good with English. We are attempting to introduce bilingualism in the household as we are bilingual. We were English only for certain reasons.

We are only putting on shows with foreign language.We are reading to her new books in foreign language. We are attempting to introduce new words throughout the day.

Unfortunately, she re-iterates what she believes the term of an object is. Look at my blue cup. If we attempt to tell her the color of the cup in foreign language, she repeats "blue" and says "No, it's a blue cup" and becomes sad and teary eyed and visible upset.

What are better methods to introduce bilingualism? Or, is this just typical response when introducing new communication?

  • We are monolingual in our house, but even in english there are multiple words for the same thing. Sometimes we say "tummy" but the proper name is "stomach" some people say "garbage" and some people say "rubbish". Have you tried to explain that there's lots of names for things in lots of languages? Wonder if your child just thinks she's now mysteriously 'wrong' about what things are called.
    – R Davies
    Jun 20, 2023 at 8:16
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    what is your native language and what language you are trying to learn your daughter? Jul 7, 2023 at 22:00

6 Answers 6


I think the most common way how bilingual kids learn multiple languages is by associating the different languages to different people. So from the childs perspective there is a mum-language and a dad-language or something similar with different people. So neither parent actively translates or teaches a language as you would teach a grown-up, everyone just naturally uses their language whenever they speak with the kid.

If that is what they are used to most kids will quickly sort this out and only use the 'correct' language for each parent. If their skill in one language is much stronger that in the other they will occasionally use vocabulary from the strong language when speaking the other one and that is a situation where you can translate and tell them the word in the other language.


I adopted the bilingualism OPOL at my home with my kids when they were born, and I see that it works quite well. I talk to them in English (the minority language), while my wife communicates to them in our native language (the majority language). In your case when your child is already 3 years old, I believe that she would argue over the use of language. You should emphasize with her that a word can be described in two different words (i.e. in two different languages). Hope that it would relieve stress on your toddler.


You should each speak to her in your native language, and as much as is feasible, only in your native languages . You need to start as soon as possible. The earlier the better.

She will probably not respond to you in kind. This does not matter in the slightest. You will probably find that when you change environments, she suddenly prefers to speak a different language from the one she normally does.

Being bilingual is a huge asset and affects not only your ability to speak in one extra language, but, more importantly, your ability to learn new languages in the future.

There are great organisations around to support and inform parents and others about bilingualism. Here is a very well-known one:

Oh yeah, being bilingual can be fun, too!


Here's an article from National Institute of Health (USA), that is written specifically for parents about teaching a child two languages.

Bilingualism in the Early Years: What the Science Says

The article has lots of good information, and is a bit long, but well worth reading.

My to three take aways are 1) start now, and 2) use both languages in meaningful ways, and 3) make a plan for using both languages that works for you (there is no one right way to use two languages with children).

About your daughter correcting your use of a new word for blue, I suspect that in being dedicated teachers for your daughter, you may have introduced a belief that there is only one right answer.

If you see it from her point of view, if she called her blue mug green, you would correct her, and when she called her blue mug blue you celebrated with her, and this could reinforce the idea that there is one right word for the color of her mug.

Now, you're changing things on her, and that's causing confusion and concern because you seem to have forgotten that there is only one right word to describe the color of her blue mug.

This is temporary, she's old enough that you can talk to her about two languages, two words that both mean blue. You are her first and most important teaches, and her confusion will quickly pass once you explain and demonstrate both languages.


Well, we had 3 kids and just used both languages as normal.

They are now 18+ and bilingual. Kids learn languages like sponges and if they grow up hearing both they eventually sort them out.

Our daughter could count to ten in English and French but the day she realised it was two different languages was great :)

So, now they speak 3 languages - one not as good as the other two.

So you should just use the second language but not force it on her or argue about it - she will pick it up.

  • 1
    At what age did you introduce the second language to your children? I believe it can make a big difference if that is the day they were born or after they have achieved some language skills. Jun 19, 2023 at 6:56
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    @BartvanIngenSchenau "just used both languages as normal" so from the day we brought them home from the hospital they heard both languages.
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 19, 2023 at 7:02
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    The downvote was mine. This is nothing but an anecdote. The question was, "What are better methods to introduce bilingualism? Or, is this just typical response when introducing new communication?" You answered neither. "Just use the language..." isn't very helpful. Lots of folks have bilingual kids; my kids are trilingual or quadrilingal. (I am trilingual and can read two more languages.) Yet I have no real wisdom regarding the OP's dilemma. Jun 20, 2023 at 17:34
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    @anongoodnurse Then you should have set a better example by commenting at the same time as downvoting - so many on Stack complain about the "invisible" downvoters.
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 21, 2023 at 4:28
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    I don't believe downvotes need a comment. If the answer isn't useful, it's not useful, and the down vote reflects that well enough. But the braggy nature of your comments (including under the other answer) did induce me to explain my DV. Jun 21, 2023 at 14:30

I think that at three, your child could be old enough to understand that there are different languages and that each language uses different words for the same thing. If you explain that to her, it might make it easier for her to understand that when you say something in a foreign language that you are not saying something wrong.

I have no actual experience in raising bilingual children, but I always understood that it helps if there is consistency in which language each parent uses when communicating with the child. So, one parent speaks one language to the child and the other parent the other language. And expect your child to respond more and more in the same language that the parent uses.


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