I am not a native English speaker nor is the country I live in. However since English is given a higher preference here over the native language I would like my kid to learn English from an early age.

English teaching starts here from playschools.

We do not talk in English at home. I wondering how should I treat the English storybooks which I am supposed to read to him?

Should I read them in English loud only?
Should I read them in English loud first and then translate them in Hindi sentence by sentence explaining the meaning of each word? Will that not be terribly boring for him?
Should the English story books be considered only at the age when he is big enough to understand and read the words?

The child isn't born yet. What process w.r.t the problem in the question should be followed at what age?

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    Just read the English books to them. Don't worry about explaining it - just read it. Your youngster will probably grow up bi-lingual, and will mix up Hindi and English sometimes - that's what bi-lingual kids do. Don't let it bother you. Don't waste time correcting them. Kids are wired to learn languages. Just talk to them, read to them, and keep exposing them to the languages you want them to learn. They'll do fine. If there's an English language channel on TV flip it on - they'll pick up English by hearing it. Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 4:32

3 Answers 3


If you start reading immediately after your child is born (or even before!), which I highly recommend, and if the goal specifically to exposure your child to English language, then I'd read the English story books in English only.

However, I'd suggest taking it a step further than just reading a selection of stories in English.

The more exposure to each language, the better, but being consistent with how and when each language is spoken makes it much easier for the child to learn. Choosing a clearly defined language system, and sticking with it, will not only help you establish the right balance between the two languages, but it will also help your child keep the two languages separate.

So perhaps, in your case, you might decide to read all stories in English, or establish that certain times set aside for stories (such as bedtime, or before a midday nap) are for English stories, and other times are designated for stories in Hindi.

You'll have to evaluate your family interactions and routines to determine what works best. Keep in mind this advice from the Multilingualchildren.org link above:

It's true that the more consistent you are, the better and faster your child will learn, but consistency shouldn't come at the expense of the child or the family. In the long run, what feels most natural to you will work best. Remember, raising a multilingual kid is at least a 4-year commitment to reach basic speaking skills (and obviously, continued exposure for maintenance after that), and the commitment is longer if your goal is full literacy. Circumstances in your family life may change during such an extended period of time. It's best not to put undue pressure on yourself, but to find a routine that works for you and can be adjusted as your situation changes.

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    If you start immediately, it won't matter what language you're speaking; either way it will be babble :) Language comprehension takes time, regardless of whether the exposure is monolingual or bilingual. But early exposure, even in the womb, has been shown to increase a child's level of responsiveness to specific languages, which (presumably) facilitates learning the language later on.
    – user420
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 15:41
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    Tone of voice and physical proximity are the biggest sources of benefit for newborns, although the cadence and sentence structure of languages appear to be what triggers the preference described in the study I referenced. It would seem that reading a newspaper in English would likely be just as beneficial, so long as you used a similar tone of voice as what you'd use when reading a story.
    – user420
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 16:12
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    Here is just a follow up - A girl child was born who is 2 years old now. I have been talking to her in English ever since she was born. She understands English properly. I have never spoken to her in Hindi till date. All the story books are read in English which she understands perfectly. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 7:34
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    @TheIndependentAquarius That's wonderful to hear! Thanks for coming back to this with an update. It's always nice hearing how these situations work out.
    – user420
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 13:01
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    Another update: This child started speaking English properly around 6 months back. She always talks to me in English (even when she wakes up at 3 AM in the night), she has some grammatical problems though. She understands English much more than Hindi. She can translate between Hindi and English. She had learnt Hindi in the daycare and she knows very well when to switch the languages. Commented Feb 17, 2017 at 3:17

What's the spoken language policy at home? One parent-one language is a popular policy in Europe. India & Philippines are remarkable for the nonstop language switching and that system seems to work fine.

I'm working on teaching my son Russian (I'm also not a native speaker of Russian). We follow a one parent-one language policy, so I sometimes read the same books that my wife does, but in Russian. My son's grandmother speaks Tagalog so likely will graduate to the non-stop English-Tagalog switching that ins the norm for speaking Tagalog.

Age appropriateness, according to a book I read (Screen Time) is important for all ages, baby & up. At the baby stage, kids prefer you to just talk about black and white pictures (it's was surprising how fixated my newborn son was on black and white pictures). Also reading style matters for the youngest, they need help with context, pointing things out on the page as you read.

An exception to the rule about age appropriateness is for infants who seem to enjoy listing to sing songy poems, which definitely are not simple nor easy to understand.

My first son didn't start studying any foreign language until he was ready to read. This is far too late & dramatically reduces the odds of success. US education policy around about World War 2 shifted language education to high school, it was a policy aimed at reducing the odds that anyone actually learned a foreign language.

Oh, and if you don't have the luxury of one-parent-one language then I've read that if you switch languages by environment (ie. consistently use one language in one scenario, one in the other, than kids will benefit from that, the normal scenario is like, English at home, Hindi out of the home, or some other split.)


I think the most important thing is to use languages you are proficient in. That way the child can learn language nuances.

If you don't think you're proficient enough in English to read those books, try getting someone who is proficient enough to read them in English.

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