We live in India. I'm Russian, my husband is Indian. At home we speak with each other in English, and school education here is also in English. My husband is a sailor, so he is often out of the country, and when he is here he is busy with our business.

We have a 1.5 year old boy. I speak Russian with him and am trying to teach him simple words in English - dog, cat, hi, bye. But my son does not understand English at all yet. In Russian he can do what you ask him, and understands me very well. It's only me in the house. I have to teach him 2 languages.

I want him to understand his dad and have no problems in school in the future, but how?

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    I don't think it is a good idea to teach a young children a language I in which you are not fluent. If you want him to learn english you should definitively improve yours and talk your husband into being more involved in your child's learning. Also, you could surround your child in an english speaking environment (school, day care, etc) so he can learn it from there Commented May 18, 2013 at 21:22
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    She said she's teaching her child Russian, (and successfully) so this isn't like she's denying her child a native tongue. Commented May 19, 2013 at 16:30

4 Answers 4


It's only me in the house. I have to teach him 2 languages.

Actually, you don't "have to".
In India, people in northern states speak Hindi at home. Not all Indians are fluent in English yet their toddlers know the meanings of English words like cat/watch etc.

The reason is the "playschool". Here the people usually send their children to formal schools at the age of around 3/3.5 years. Before that the children usually go to playschools where they "are" taught English alphabets/poems and words like cat/dog etc.

Actually (shamefully) English is preferred over the native language in this country. You will in fact have difficulty in finding a playschool in an Indian "city" which does not teach English!

Assuming you live in a northern state of India, how do you think your child will cope up with the other kids who will most probably be speaking Hindi?

My suggestion is to send your child to an English medium playschool as soon as possible since he has to learn English if he's supposed to study in India and other problem is that his classmates will probably be speaking Hindi so he needs to understand that language too!

If you live in deep southern India then knowing Hindi shouldn't be a concern for you. In southern India, the local languages and English are given a preference over Hindi by the locals.


Whatever the language, repetition is the key. If you want to have him understand Russian and English equally well, then you need to speak them with approximately equal frequency. Rather than just focusing on one word ("cat", "dog", "hello") at a time, use full sentences ("Come over here", "Sit down", "Let's eat a snack"). You can try telling him something first in Russian and then English (or vice-versa), or try having English-only days. Use the same strategies as you would when teaching him words/phrases in Russian -- if you say, "Do you want to eat a cracker?" take a bite out of a cracker to visually demonstrate what you mean.

As he gets older, find playgroups, preschool, and/or other activities which include English instruction.


We're in India but from a very remote and very small state of the North-East. Hence our language Manipuri is not spoken in our current city (Bangalore). It is very rare to hear our language in any other part of India.

My daughter is now 4½ years. During her early days, we did discussed how do we go about talking/teaching English but not let her totally skip our own language. We tried the one person one language method (we both are Manipuris).

However, we realize that she had picked up quite a bit of her own skills with English and even some Kannada/Tamil as she mingles with other kids in pre-school, and friends in the neighborhood.

She also realized that not everyone talks in 'her local' language and so she talks in English to other people (my friends, her mom's friends, etc). She had picked up lots of words, phrases which we have not taught/talked to her 'consciously'.

Btw, kids do not really need to understand 'languages' to be friends, play and have fun. In all fairness, I'd say, continue with your Russian, help him with English and let him pick up on his own. You'll be surprise how much they can learn. Of course, the pre-school teachers are already talking to him in English.

P.S. Don't worry so much about Hindi and other local language. If he speaks English, that will be good anywhere in India.

  • Don't worry so much about Hindi and other local language. If he speaks English, that will be good anywhere in India. Harmful advice IMO. A toddler speaking English will NOT have many friends. I have not seen kids (in schools and neighborhood) talking in English while playing or gossiping wherever I have lived in India by now. Please remember we are here talking about a "1.5 years old kid", not an adult who will know how to get his way around! Btw, kids do not really need to understand 'languages' to be friends, Kids need to "talk" to each other while playing. You don't agree to that too? Commented May 22, 2013 at 5:26
  • BTW, not knowing Hindi can be considered okay in southern Indian states where Hindi isn't given preference over the local language or English. But we don't know where the OP is living in India so simply saying "don't worry much about Hindi" is not useful and in fact harmful IMO. Commented May 22, 2013 at 6:21
  • @user462608 Being about 13 years old, most of the kid I've seen talk to other kids in English and talk to their parents in their mother tongue. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 14:18

Perhaps, you should stop talking in russian and start talking English. Som child will have no choice, and will learn and understand this language.

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