How to raise a bilingual child

How to raise a bilingual child

My daughter is two and a half years old, and she talks a lot! She talks, sings, screams, laughs and cries. Constantly. She gets quiet only when she eats or sleeps. I guess she started to talk using three word sentences when she had 18 months, and everyone kept telling me how amazing it was that she can speak that well for her age. Back then she knew all the farm animals, she could name any food she eat, her actions, people in our family, her toys etc..

But I was just anxious that she would never speak well my language! Because when she was saying simple phrases in French, she would be just saying words in my language. You see, I live in French speaking place, with a lot of English surrounding us as well. But my first language is Polish, and that’s how I usually dream, think and talk to my children and cats. So I worried that she would never be able to express herself in Polish as she could in French. Because as it was only me that spoke to her in Polish on a daily basis, French was everywhere else!

Now she’s three and a half years old and she talks equally well in French and Polish. It’s been a struggle, and I know that my work is not done any time soon, but I am so happy to see as she switches from one to another translating to her grandma what I’ve just told her. Here is what I’ve been doing, and what I’ll keep on doing to raise my bilingual children :

1. There is an important association: one parent, one language.
What it means is that you should always use one language while talking to your child, and never, ever switch! Children are smart creatures, and most likely they choose the easiest and most efficient way to get what they need. So if it’s easier to speak one language than the other, they won’t try particularly hard to find the word they forgot. They’ll use whatever word that comes first to mind, and if you’ll start responding to them with the other language, they’ll see that they can get what they need (communication with you) without trying to speak your language. So while speaking to your child use only one language !

2. Talk constantly, describe what you do, what is happening around you, comment on there actions and name their feelings.
Children learn to speak by listening to conversations and being a part of an exchange. So if there isn’t much conversation around, you need to make up for it! You may get crazy, and in the end of the day you may loose your voice, but keep on talking while you cut these carrots!

3. Sing!
Singing helps to memorize grammar structure and vocabulary, so sing when you dress them up, sing when you go outside, sing when you clean and bath! If you are sick and tired of songs that you know try inventing songs and rimes, use simple melodies and sing!

4. Use creative grammar!
Switch from : I do, to mommy is doing, you are doing, he is doing, we are .. And so on.. If your children don’t hear a lot of real life conversations, they won’t learn how to use grammar. So not only you need to constantly talk, but you also need to do a lot of role playing!

5. Read a lot of books. Every day.
Start early, as soon as they get interested in objects and can sit still for 3 minutes. If you don’t have baby books in your language just take any, and translate them. Look online for children books and rimes, there are plenty!

6. As soon as they start talking, respond to their requests and questions only if expressed in your language.
It’s hard, and requires a lot of patience on your part, but it’s really the only way to teach them, that when communicating with mummy we use only this language. Of course if your child is crying in the middle of the night you won’t wait until they use the right words! But when my daughter would ask me for juice in French, I would ask her if she could repeat because I didn’t understand well. At first she would slowly repeat in French, then she would almost spell it for me also in French, sometimes two or three times! It’s hard to resist laughing when your child clearly thinks that you are stupid, but you should stay calm and not give in. I assure you that finally she would come up with a Polish word!

7. Make them repeat after you and give them ready to use phrases.
When I see that my daughter clearly has no clue how to put it in words in Polish, I give her a phrase to repeat after me. I tell her that when she wants juice she should say it like this. Or if she comes to me saying something in French I will repeat after her in Polish, and usually then she repeats after me.

8. Establish a clear rule on watching children’s show at home: only in the language that needs improvement.
There are plenty of all kinds of TV shows and cartoons on YouTube in all possible languages.

9. Let your child listen to real conversations :use Skype to connect with people that can speak your language, call your family on face time. Reconnect with old friends, and ask family members to call you and to baby sit through Skype while you are in the kitchen.

10. Engage in as many social situations possible. Try finding a grocery store, a weekend school or a shop where your child may engage in a conversation in your language. Find them playmates with whom they could communicate only using your language .

Most important, stay persistent, and it will pay of !

More information at multilingualchildren.

And if you’d like to find out more about living a bilingual life check out this great book:Bilingual: Life and Reality !

Similar Posts


  1. This is so interesting! I would love for my child to be bilingual, if only I were! My husband and I are recently married with no children and are considering moving abroad in the future. I think it would be a great experience. He does fairly well speaking German and would love it if it would become a second language. Who knows what our future holds though. Thank you so much for linking up!

    1. Thank you Katie 🙂 exactly, we never know what the future holds for us: when I was twenty I didn’t expected for my kids to be bilingual , nor for me to become trilingual, but it all happened 🙂 thanks again for hosting !

  2. This is a wonderful article! I don’t have any children and I only speak English but I would love to raise bi or tri lingual children! I’ll make sure to book mark this and perhaps I’ll be able to learn along with my little ones.

  3. Hi Joanna, I’m happy to say that you’ve just got yourself a new follower! 🙂 I’m going to face the same language challenges in near future – exactly the same as I’m Polish mom with French daddy :D…I must admit that it’s already tricky to be strict and stick to Polish only as between each other we speak English. Any other suggestions in such a case? I often wonder (and worry) if my baby girl will manage the challenge of learning three languages at the same time…Thank you! Ula

    1. Hi Ula ! I know it might be difficult, since your baby can’t speak yet, but your partner can, and he doesn’t understand a thing you are saying, but: try speaking only polish ! Since it’s not a big conversation that you’re having with your baby, he’s not really missing on anything, but for your baby it’s critical to make an association : one person- one language. And after a year, your partner will learn the basics of polish 🙂 I mean, with a baby, you repeat over and over 😉 so this is most important, that you use only polish while speaking to your baby. Than, YouTube for songs, and later shows. And kids ( according to research ) can take up to 6 languages ! So no worries, she can learn : actually one of my good friends, speaks to her partner only in English, and to her son only in polish, while his dad ( he’s Belgian) speaks in French. So while at dinner, they speak 3 languages 🙂 and it works 🙂 powodzenia Ula, jak byś miała jakieś jeszcze pytania pisz na maila 🙂

      1. Thanks for sharing.
        I’m now feeling more confident to continue speaking to my baby girl in Mandarin Chinese, and to my partner in English, while my partner speaks in Spanish to her.

      2. Although association one person – one language is good and productive it actually not critical. There are many moms who decide to raise their children bilingual and the language they teach is not a mother tongue. The most important thing is actually persistence and regularity. Since we live in Hungary and I am Croatian I spoke both English and Croatian to the boys (not at once of course:)) They also have a babysitter who only speaks German to them, and even though she is with them only twice a week they also speak German…not as good as languages they use every day, but they ARE using it. I think there is no one right method. I used to meet moms who raise bilingual, and there were so many different ways people chose to do it, and so many different ways that worked. The most important is I think not to deprive your children of that gift:) So go moms (and dads)!

      3. Dear Ula & Joanna, I really like this article & I agree 100% with you. I speak Polish, my husband Spanish but at home we communicate in English. I did everything like you advised and everything went smooth with raising trilingual kid until he went to kindergarten at age 6. Unfortunately he doesn’t want to speak Polish nor Spanish 🙁 it breaks my heart. I realized this is happening to all my friends’ kids who are in similar situation. Any suggestions?

        1. I fully agree with you. My children were brought up in three languages and yes, it is important that you stick to just one language (1 person 1 language). What I miss in your post is the importance of speaking the language you speak the best! Remember that children will learn it from you and if you are not native or close to native your child will learn your mistakes and your (not so good) pronunciation! Their use of articles might be wrong, the prepositions, accent… let them learn the other language with the other native speaker. Although my French is almost perfect I have never spoken to my children in French, it was their French speaking granny who did that, with all the colours of her dialect (Belgian), their father spoke Dutch to them while we communicated in French between us (he is bilingual) and I spoke only my mother tongue. For a while they would only respond in Dutch (starting school etc) but now they are back on track (they are 14 and 17). I even remember a pre-school teacher and psychologist asking me to use only 1 language with my kid because “too many cultures are so confusing for children” – can you believe it??? Yes, each language brings also the cultural aspect, but that is the most important part of it! This is how your child gets rich in so many ways…
          And just to make their life more fun, their Godmother, a New Yorker, spoke only English to them… so there you are: the 4th language and no problems…
          They’ve got German and Spanish in school… and trust me, for them it is much easier than for all the unilingual kids…

          1. Thank you for sharing your family’s multilingual experience Maria! You’re right, I haven’t mention that we should only speak the most fluent language in this article, but I did here, in my following article about this subject. But you’re right, I should have been more clear. Thank you for your input!

      4. That’s wonderful. How about one person – two languages. His dad is spanish and im from the philippines. Id like to teach my child english and the filipino national language (tagalo), while my husband speaks in spanish. That could be possible? How?

        1. Hi Claudia ! From all the research that I have read, and all the families raising bilingual children that I’ve seen, I learned that what works the best, is one person speaking one language to a child. In families that I know, where a parent was speaking English and French, or English and Polish, their kids refuse to speak one of the languages (or speaks very little). They do understand but they choose only one language that is easier (or used more commonly). So if that doesn’t bother you, go ahead and speak two. But if you’d like your child to really speak both, what I would do, is speak only one with your child, and find another person who could play/ babysit in the second language, and add songs/kids shows in that language as well. I wish you good luck!

        2. I realize this is a very old post and comment, but I was reading on another blog about a woman who uses two languages with her children. For two weeks she speaks one language with them, and then she warns them on Saturday night that the next day they will be switching to the other language. There are always a few mistakes the first day, but she says it works well. (It’s never too late to introduce a new language; it just becomes a little harder. 🙂 )

  4. Hello! I love this article! I am so very interested in language, and believe strongly in being well-rounded and learning as much as humanly possible – and I am trying my very hardest to pass this desire down to the Little Man in our home. My question is this – how would you suggest teaching your child a new language when it is not your primary language? My husband and I speak English, however I have been learning Spanish and am slowly trying to integrate Little Man into the learning process, but am having some trouble since my husband does not speak it, and I am not exactly fluent. I also teach him American Sign Language, but that is much easier since I speak the words in English as I sign them to him. We converse in Sign Language quite often – and I find, like you suggested, that when I sign to him consistently, he picks things up very quickly.

    Thank you so much for the inspiring article!

    1. Hi ! I’m happy that you found this interesting 🙂 and surly you can encourage your son to learn another language, but I remember reading that if you don’t speak totally fluently in another language than it’s better not to speak it to your kid, because the hesitations that you might have while talking, can be interpreted by your child as incertitude in your relation (or you might pass gramatical errors ). But what you can do is : sing, use YouTube for shows, buy picture books and read them togheter, and try finding friends who speak it too . Wishing you best luck !

    2. Berlitz has a wonderful book called “Help Your Child with a Foreign Language” which offers lots of tips about how to do this. While it is true that children will pick up some mistakes if you’re a non-native speaker, they’ll also learn a lot! One of the important things when learning a language is having somewhere to use it. So, even if they learn it from YouTube or wherever, they need someone to communicate with; if that’s you, great! (Even as adults, it’s wonderful to learn a second, third, or fourth langauge! Learning together with your children could be a lot of fun for the whole family.) You could also consider finding a playgroup in the desired language in your area (if possible). There are also lots of sites online which can help pair you up with native speakers of another language (who want to learn your language) via Skype or other platforms.

  5. Asiu, z przyjemnością przeczytałam Twój artykuł 🙂 Niezmiernie ucieszył mnie fakt, że napisała to moja rodaczka!
    I’ll switch to English now because maybe someone else has the same question as I have. I live in Poland, where everyone speaks Polish, but most of my family moved to US. I’d love to raise a bilingual (PL-ENG) child as I know we’ll spend a lot of time abroad with my English speaking cousins. Both me and my husband are fluent in ENG. How do you think, should I try to apply the advices you’ve suggested? I can’t imagine speaking only English at home…
    Pozdrawiam ciepło! 🙂

    1. Witaj Asiu, bardzo mi miło ze podobał ci sie muj artykuł 🙂
      No, I wouldn’t suggest you to speak only in English to your child, because the reserches suggest that if it’s not your maternal language in which you are 100% fluent, you might pass some insertitudes to your child: like bad grammar , wrong accent, or much worst – your child might interpret your hesitations as relational distans. But, you can sing, and read in English, and set a tv( YouTube ) roule like I did ( in your case only in English).
      A jeśli poczekasz tydzień lub dwa, to napisze nowy post o wychowywaniu dwujęzycznych dzieci gdy wszyscy mówią w 1 języku. Zainspirowalas mnie do dalszej exploracji problemu 🙂 dziękuje, i pozdrawiam!

  6. Hello!
    I am getting married in a couple months, and plan to start having children right away. I speak Polish and English, my fiancé speaks only English, and we live in an area that only speaks English. I only have one living relative, and she is very old(90 years); she is the only one who speaks Polish. My fiancé and I would love to have bilingual children, especially myself as I miss speaking in my native language and would love to speak to my babies in it. However, I’m not even sure if it would be successful as I am the only one who speaks anywhere surrounding them. Would it really be beneficial to them to speak Polish in the US where they could only use it to talk to myself? And would it be successful teaching them the language alone?

    1. Hi 🙂 first, congratulations ! Second : I am the only person speaking to my kids in my native language, and they do speak it well (for their age). So I think that if you’d only speak polish, even if nobody else understands you, than yes, your kids will speak it. And for the brain development, empathy and intelligence, it’s worth teaching second language to a child. And if you’ll wait 2 more weeks, I’ll post a longer post about it 🙂

    2. I am the English speaker in the house (we live in Korea) and for a while my boy was trying to speak as little English as possible. He was just surrounded by Korean all the time. We added books and Youtube videos in English (there are a ton of educational clips out there with songs, chants, lessons, etc) and it worked quite well.

      My wife has no problem speaking to my son in Korean and English. He was easily able to figure out when it was English time and when it was Korean time.

      You’ll be great.

      1. Hi Joanna,

        Thank you for your lovely post. I am a staying home mom of a two year old baby girl. I thought her speaking delay is not a problem. Now She just turned two, and I started to worry about her delayed speech. She only can speak a very few (10-20)?simple words which has been the words she uses as early as six or seven months old. She barely makes any sentences in any languages. I speak both Korean and English to her and My partner speaks English to her (He is a Mexican American). Hope this is not too late to realize her speech problem. We are also planning to see a doctor or pathologists for this. Should I just talk to her in Korean from now on? While my partner will speak only English to her? Since we travel and move very often, I do not have other mom friends nor my daughter having interations with other kids, it is very difficult for me to tackle the problem… any kind suggestions would be highly appreciated..

        1. My second daughter started speaking using simple 2-3 words phrases when she was 3 years old! Until this time, she would use only one , two words at a time, from both French and Polish, and often she would mix them she’s almost 4 and speaks fluently in both languages just like her older sister. So I don’t think what you see is a speech delay, but a kid trying to figure out two languages. And I bet your daughter understands much more than what she can say. Thought for sure I would advise you to speak only in one language each to her- that way it would be easier for her to separate these languages in her head- so if you could only speak Korean, and your partner English, this could be better for her to learn the language structure without having to guess which word belongs where. ( this is how we always raised our kids) And as long as she interacts with you, and understands what you tell her, and tries to communicate with you, it’s all good. I would start being worried at age 4 ( and I think this is when the specialists would say there’s a problem) up to this time, a bilingual child is just learning twice as much ! So of course it takes more time. Good luck!

  7. Hi there! Thanks for the encouragement. I felt like if I spoke to my son in only English and my husband spoke to him in Swedish that he would see some separation between the two of us. Of course he’s still hasn’t entered the world yet, but you worry. My husband and I speak English to eachother mostly since I understand it, unless I ask for a word or am repeating a message to his mother. Do you think if he and I speak “Swenglish” to eachother that my child will pick it up? We live in Sweden so most people speak both so they would understand, and often speak them both in the same sentence, but would that make him never learn the missing words? I hope I’m making sense.
    Thank you so much though 😀 I’m so glad it works for your family.

    1. Hi Viola ! I’m in the same situation ( I live in a mostly French speaking community, my husband is French speaking, but the two of us used to talk in English ) now we speak to each other mostly French in front of kids , but sometimes it’s definitely Frenglish ;). But, as I wrote above, I use only my native language ( Polish) with my kids. As a result, my now 3 year old is perfectly bilingual and now she picks up English too. And my husband has learned the basics of Polish (you repeat yourself a lot with kids, ). And me too, I used to worry that it will be weird for my husband, talking in a language that he doesn’t use, but at first with a baby, you say a lot of the same things and it’s not like you’re having a conversation! And then it just feels natural. And if you speak to your child in your language, than it will only feel natural to your child too. And he (she) will be truly bilingual 🙂

  8. Hi Joanna, really nice article from a real life mum. I am currently writing my dissertation in Spanish- English bilingual acquisition of our first child Alex. I am a Spanish living in South Africa and I stick to the one parent one language formula. However, from personal experience, what really helps is pretending you don’t understand your child when (s)he uses the non target language. I noticed by saying ” sorry, not sure what you mean, or mommy doesn’t understand you well in English”, it makes my child changes automatically to Spanish. Parents’ reactions to the child’s language choice will probably determine her mastering of the minority language. It can be very challenging sometimes, but it is all for the good and at the end of the day any new language is a gift to your child.

    1. English is my mother language. My son is almost two. My husband is Croatian and we luve in Croatia. I have been so worried about my son being able communicate with me in English. Even though i speak Croatian it is not without errors. We decided to speak our prospective languages. My husband and i are both Multilingual between us we speak 3 languages each including English to eachother. Even though his family are insistent i speak Croatian to my husband. Which was fine begore we had our son. This was so informative andi have learned a few extra tips to use when communicating with my son.i know he speak English as recently visited my family and he communicated in English. But upon return he has reverted on nonverbal communication mostly which makes me sad. I will keep at it. I really want for him to communicate without reservation. My family( In South Africa) is bilingual not every speaks English. Your tips have given me more hope. Thanks so much Joanna.

  9. Hi Rebeca ! I totally agree with you, this is exactly what I have been doing :). Responding to her only in polish, and pretending not to understand French 😉 she used to reaper herself 4 or 5 times before finally swiching to polish 🙂 !

  10. This is a great article! Thank you for this. I am Portuguese and live in the USA. I am pregnant and am really stressed about making sure my kids learn Portuguese. My husband speaks Spanish but i told him to Portuguese first! LOL! But you are absolutely right in all this! You definitely need to speak to them constantly and singing apparently IS really good! My husband learned how to speak english in Nicaragua by learning english songs and reading the lyrics when he was a teenager. I met him when he was 19 and he had a horrible accent but spoke very well. Now 13 years later, he’s a pro! 🙂 It truly works! I hope i can be as successful as you when i teach my baby! Thanks for the info!

    1. I’m happy that you liked it 🙂 I understand that you worry, but I’m sure that by simply speaking Portuguese to your child you’ll make it happen!

  11. What a great post! I live in Poland and raise my boys bilingually, with me speaking English and the rest of their environment Polish. I’ve been doing so since they were born and feel as if I’m giving them the best possible gift. I follow the same rules you do and it works!

  12. Hi Joanna! I am in your shoes but in the US. My husband only speaks English with some broken Polish and I speak both. I only speak to my 2y old daughter in Polish if it’s just us, but it’s hard not to speak English when we’re all seated at dinner or out doing something as a family! She definitely understands both languages well and she speaks a mix of both that only really I understand. She picks the words she likes more or finds easier from each language!

    My question is what do you do at play dates? I feel rude speaking to her in Polish with other mommies and kids playing with us. The other kids get confused as well. Do you stick to your rule of only speaking Polish? Also, how about at the table with your husband’s family? Do you speak to everyone in French but to your kids in Polish? I’m wondering if this will get easier as she gets older and her language development is better.

    Thanks for the great article!

    1. Speak Polish to your kids as much as you can. Your husband will also improve in his Polish and it will make things easier for everyone. In playdates, I stick to my language. My friends and my kids’ friends might not understand, but if you are straight forward from the begining by telling how important is for you that your kids speak Polish, they won’t mind. They might even be curious. So give it a try!

    2. Hi Katarzyna 🙂 yes I always stick to polish ( play dates and family meetings including). I explained to my husbands family how important it’s for me. They even say they like the sound if it 😉 My husband did learn a bit, you know, talking to young kids means repeating yourself constantly ;). And if I’m on a play date people usually ask me what’s that language, and do I always speak that way to my kids. Nobody ever looked offended! Życzę powodzenia ! I naprawdę , jeśli wyjaśnisz rodzinie i znajomym dlaczego to dla ciebie ważne, napewno to zrozumieją 🙂

      1. Dzieki!! 🙂

        I speak to her in Polish, regardless of who is around and where we are, when I’m having an individual conversation with her but it’s hard not to join in the conversation at the table when everyone is talking to her in English! It feels silly for me to chime in in Polish which no one else understands. And I also feel rude not joining the conversation at all just because it is in English! But I see what you are saying in regards to explaining to people what I’m doing and why – I’ll definitely try to do that. I didn’t think to do that earlier. So thank you both Joanna and Rebeca!

        I have another follow up question; my daughter started speaking late, only in the last few months has she really started to talk more (before that it was a couple words here and there). But she now speaks a mix of both languages and flip flops nilly willy. Is 26 months old and only speaking for 2+ months not too early for me to get strict about her only speaking to me in Polish? She doesn’t know many of the Polish words that she does know in English – mainly because they are SO MUCH HARDER to pronounce in Polish!!! I don’t want to discourage her from speaking when she just finally started to speak. But I don’t want her to develop a terrible habit of mixing languages either. Thoughts? Thanks again for sharing all your wisdom!

        1. Apparently its normal for many bilingual kids to start speaking late, and I think that’s she’s still in the age when Your approval matters the most and she wants to copy your behaviour. So I think that you should start insisting right now. Because me too, at first when my daughter started talking, I didn’t want to discourage her. And I would respond in any word in any language. And then I noticed that she stopped developing her vocabulary in polish. She was just saying new French words. And that’s when I started to insist, pretend I don’t understand and make her repeat. Always with a smile, never angry or annoyed, so she wouldn’t feel discouraged. And this is what really worked. If now, by accident, by switching languages she addresses me in french, she laughs and goes back to polish in seconds. Wiec ja myśle ze teraz jest najleprzy moment. Bo potem mała nauczy sie ze może zmieniać, i zacznie do ciebie muwic tak jak jej będzie łatwiej. Wiec życzę cierpliwości, i na pewno ci sie uda! 🙂

          1. I find that repeating the same words in your language works like charms. If they say “Mom, regarde, un cheval” you just repeat “A horse? Oh, and a nice one too” or something similar… In that way they are not frustrated, no corrections and still corrected 😉

  13. My daughter is now 22 months and she will be raise trilingual…I am French, her dad is Polish and we live in London. She doesn’t speak yet but understand the 3 languages.
    I found your article very useful!
    Czesc 😉

  14. I think the challenge comes when parents are trying to teach their child a dying language that is only spoken by less than 1,000,000 in the world. Is it worth it to teach them dying language when the parents are the only ones who speak it within the community, county, or state? Or should a 2nd or 3rd language be taught instead such as Mandarin or English?

    1. I remember reading a research that pointed out the ability if young children to learn up to 6 languages at the same time! So I think that they could learn all of these.

  15. Great article.
    My son is 17 months, we live in New York. Me and my husband are Polish , serounded by English. We speak only polish to him and playing polish video, books…
    He speaks only few words, understand everything. I know he will catch English fast.I am still thinking when is good moment to introduce English? – soon he must to communicate with other kids in playground.
    It is more important for me to teach him polish. I know a lot of polish families that kids doesn’t want to speak polish any more after they go to school.
    How to make them speaking polish later in life?
    I saw few boys blocked with the speach, becouse of few languages .

    1. I totally understand your concerns! But I guess that you’re already better off, because it’s the two of you speaking polish to your child at home :). I would introduce him to English now- he’s very young, he should learn fast but he’s old enough to know that with his parents it’s only Polish. And since you don’t switch to English, he won’t nigher. Pozdrawiam i życzę powodzenia!

  16. Hi Joanna,
    It is a very interesting article, kind of the one which I needed. I have moved to Australia for my studies and my son was 2.3 yrs old then
    he spoke only my language by then but after 06 months in Daycare started to speak English so fluently ( your daughter resonant my son, talks a lot n fluently). But now I am to go back to my country and feeling quite worried that once we go back he might stop using English. So after reading through if I could maintain the activities you have suggested would be a help him to retain his fluency in English…

    1. Hi! I think that in your situation I would stick to the YouTube only in English ( and as little tv/ kids shows in Your language as possible) as well as songs and as many books as possible. You can take a book that’s written in your language and as long as he doesn’t read alone just read it aloud but changing the text to English 🙂 also try keeping some friends from Australia so you can call them on Skype :). Good luck!

  17. Hi! I wish I would have had this information beforehand! I myself grew up bilingual, German and Italian, but now live in the states and I’m married to an American. My daughter is now 2 years old and has been exposed to German and Italian but doesn’t speak it, only English. Any suggestion on how I can still catch up on it, if at all? I try to talk in Italian to her but it’s so hard because she doesn’t understand it 🙁

    1. I think that it’s definitely not to late, although I would try to choose one ( 1 parent- 1 language association) and then start with songs, naming objects, food, playing hide and seek, pretend they you’re a different animal ( name them) and so on. Start as a play, couple of times a day, implement the only this language for tv shows rule, and then start talking exclusively in this language. It’s not too late, she can still learn! 🙂 good luck!

  18. This is such a great and helpful article. My baby is 2 and half years. We live in Egypt first language is Arabic. So we speak in Arabic most of the time however my husband and all his family members speak fluent German. U may say I don’t speak any German but I would like my kid too we live in a house where they speak Arabic but they also speak very good German. Am wondering how to get him to speak German and if possible English too (am the only one who speaks English there)

  19. Czesc Joasiu:) Fantastyczny artykul, cos na temat szczegolnie teraz , kiedy wiekszosc rodzin jest mieszana:)
    I’ve got a 15months old boy and I speak to him both languages, English and Polish. My partner is English and he understands Polish a bit , he also speaks Polish not fluent but it is something:) I really would love my little boy to speak Polish fluently without mixing both languages, specially when we go to Poland for holiday , but my worries are how I should speak when we go to my partners family or to our friends when everybody is speaking English. I feel rude speaking English in those occasions. How to deal with it? Have you got any tips?

    Pozdrawiam serdecznie

  20. I was born in the U.S. To Polish parents and my husband only speaks English. I have a 7 year old daughter, who is in school and it is getting so hard for me to get her to speak Polish at home. I have always spoke Polish to her. At my mom and dads house she speaks a lot of polish. But at home she is lazy about it. But I won’t give up. I have a cousin coming from Poland this summer so hopefully it will make her speak more Polish at home. I am hoping to make a trip to Poland next summer and I know she will be speaking polish great after that as she has the last few trips over there. We are fortunate to be able to visit for 6 weeks when we go and she stays at cousins houses for weekends when we are there. I always have said that the most important thing for me to teach her is polish because I want her to always know where her family is from. Dziękuje!
    Kasia Jones

  21. Great article. Both my wife and I are native Spanish speakers but live in the US. We have raised 3 children that are fully bilingual teens. Although we have an understanding (not rule) that we speak Spanish at home, it is easier for my children to switch to English and often do.
    How do I steer them back to Spanish in the middle of a conversation without sounding like the language cop? Similarly, how do I politely correct their grammar?

    1. Thank you Roberto! I think that because teens want to be in control of their lives, maybe you could ask them if they mind you correcting their grammar. If not, just be a good example, and always stick to Spanish. If they agree, and it’s their decision, they shouldn’t mind. But you could also try to implement new rule : who’s sticking to Spanish through the dinners of the week gest money for the cinema on weekend? ( bribe, I know, but sometimes works);). In the end, just don’t switch from Spanish to English even when they do! Good luck 🙂

  22. I agree with most points but I am a single mother of 3 and all three no Spanish and English from me.. With my toddler I just say simple phrases in both languages every time. After I feel that hes got it I will use just one language to see how he does with it… He is 20 months and responds perfect to both..

  23. Nice post! I enjoyed reading it. We’re raising a tri-lingual little boy that’s 15 months (Portuguese, Spanish and English). I have many friends that have raised bi-lingual children, some w great success, others not. It’s relatively ‘easy’ to get them to use another language when they’re little I think but once school-age it becomes much more challenging as all children want to be and speak like their peers. They have the innate desire to ‘fit in’ and their ‘other language’ isn’t typically part of their new, exciting social scene- I think this becomes the greatest challenge… based on many observations of my many friends’ children. Thx! Obrigada! Gracias!

  24. Well done! Gratuluję! 🙂
    I’m not (yet) a parent/dad but I know that I will speak to my child only in…French like my father does with me (never stopped even now I’m over 30’s!) so I’m also bilingual.

    It will be hard to make it (especially in Poland) but I know it’s worth to try, to do so.

    My dad says that you can be successful only under 3 conditions:
    1. ALWAYS talk to your child in the given language, NEVER switch to another
    2. Your partner/wife has to agree for it
    3. The same for the…mother in law 😉
    Great article

    1. Thank you Olek 🙂 I think I should add your points, especially about the support of the family ( and the mother in law ) :). And if I made it with no Polish around me, you can make it with no French ( in the future that is, when you’ll be a dad ) 🙂 pozdrawiam!

  25. I totally agree with your advice , my brother raised two children , we are native Arabic speakers, he is married to a French lady , when they had their first child they both agreed he would speak to them only in Arabic and her in French , they are both fluent is both languages at 5 and 9 years old.

  26. Also, my brother gave us a clear instruction to only speak to them in Arabic , it was difficult for us as we tend to speak french more then Arabic, but did did our best. I will definitely do the same when I have children , mother tongues language it is very important for identity and personality when growing up.

    1. Kenz, I didn’t wrote about that, (I should though) and it’s so true: our mother/ father native language is so very important for identity and personality! And I love how you supported your brother, it really shows that we need a village to raise a child 🙂 thank you for your comment !

  27. Teaching English for my baby girl is one of my goal. In my understanding, repited background hearing with positive reinforsment is a best way to teach your kids to be bilingual. My daughter she’s two In a half now. She listens songs all day long in English she loves it very much. Now she can sing more than 3 songs without music. So, i think it’s because of repited listening. Help your children to listen and encourage them every single moment. It will bring you brilliant result. Good luck

  28. Hi! What an amazing article. I’m Russian/Ukrainian and my husband is Polish. We speak English at home and I’ve made a huge mistake by speaking only English to my 2 year old. Do you have any advice on how to start teaching my daughter Russian and Polish at her age? When I speak Russian to her she doesn’t understand a work of it and get frustrated. Then she thinks I’m playing with her and starts talking gibberish back to me. TIA 🙂

    1. Hello! I think that at 2 years old it’s not too late at all, but I would suggest you to concentrate on 1 language ( polish or Russian). And I think that if she responds to you ( even if it doesn’t sound like Russian to you) that means she wants to communicate with you, she just doesn’t know how. So that’s great, because she’s already motivated to learn and she wants to be like you (speak like you). So help her just like you did when she was learning to speak English. Name the objects around her, and repeat. Think about 5 new words a day to start with. Name objects, toys, animals, make up songs, and make her join in. During the meal time name the food on the table, and ask her if she wants dessert ( if you give her any) and make her repeat after you. Give her ready to use simple phrases : give me, I want, let’s go, no, yes. Make it fun, and every week extend the time in which you speak to her in Russian (or polish). If you’d really like her to became bilingual then at the end you should speak to her only in that language. And of course let your husband help, and any friends and family that you know. Good luck!

  29. Nice article. We live in the US and Iam German and trying to raise my 2 year old son bilingual. I have a question regarding teaching the ABC’s. Some of the pronounciation is switched in German as I is pronounced “Ee” in English terms for example. I worry that it might confuse him and don’t know whether I teach the ABC in German or stick to English for that only until he figured it out?

    1. ANYA, would you really teach a two year old the ABC?
      Ok in English it’s a song but there isn’t anything like it in German. I would stick to English in your case. We‘re the other way round. We live in MUC and my husband is English.
      Good luck, Nico

      1. I did, because in Polish it’s also a song.. I guess when you sing an alphabet, it can be a song in any language..

  30. I am an speech language pathologist and when my son ( now 17 years old ) was born, I was determined to give him the gift of languages. I am Hispanic, his father is French so , despite of my husbands and his family’s hesitation and reluctance, I spoke ONLY Spanish to our son at the regular speed, length sentences, commands, etc and asked my husband to communicate with him only in French. I should mention that all this was happening while living in a Anglo community ( province) which means that we all were socializing in English. Today, My son is perfectly tri-lingual and although, there were times were he refused to speak to me in Spanish, He is now very proud of this gift and finding all the advantages that his knowledge of three languages is bringing to his life. eg. Job opportunities, more fun and confidence when he travels, etc. They wont get confused , kids are sponges , they will learn and they will thank you afterwards .. 🙂

  31. My husband and I are raising our kids bilingually as well. His native language is Spanish and mine English. We live in Latin America. We’ve found that one parent one language and reading lots of books are really helpful. Our 3 year-old caught onto language a little later than her peers (though on target with her other bilingual friends) and now speaks an equal amount of both languages and understands the difference. She often asks to switch radio stations in the car from Span to Eng or vice versa.

  32. My kids, 5 & 7, are fully bilingual! We speak English exclusively at home and my kids have always gone to elementary school/daycare/summer camp in French. I must admit, the first months were difficult for them but, fast forward, years later…they can easily switch between languages at a moments notice…my first language is English but I easily get by in french but, believe it or not, I’m actually learning more french from my kids! They correct me all the time! So they have already surpassed me in the french language, even in their young lives…it’s an amazing opportunity for them and their future!

    1. As much as I know it’s difficult (my mom was a single parent) at least you’re the only one at home speaking to your child in your language. So leave learning of the other language to school/ daycare and friends, and speak just your language. The most important is to stick to the one adult-one language rule! Good luck!

  33. Hi! My name is Marcela and I’m from Mexico. So happy to read this. I have a baby he’s just 1 year old and I want him to speak Spanish and English. Do you have some tips to start at this young age? Thank you so much. I’m following you now. I have a blog called Shopper Girls. Hugs from Mexico City.

  34. Hello! I have a 4 month old baby, I want to raise him bilingual. My mother tongue is spanish but I speak to my baby in english( I learned english when I was 4 years old) Do you know about any experience like mine?

    1. From my experience and the people that I know, plus the research I read, the best way is to have one person speaking only one language to your child. So if you don’t speak Spanish , ask someone from your family to speak to your child only in Spanish ( at least once a week, for at least an hour or two). On top of that you can decide on the same rule like I have: songs and ( in the future, when your baby grows) TV/ YouTube shows only in one, less spoken language : Spanish. Or you start speaking to your baby only and always in Spanish, and let the rest of the world teach your baby English. I wish you good luck!

  35. whew, I’ll be honest. This is so spot on. I just got married and my stepdaughter is learning english. 1 and 2 are such good points. I always switch when she doesn’t understand and that’s not helping her! Thanks for a great post!

  36. „Stick to your language.“ Easier said then done when it’s the dad with the „foreign language“ and you don’t want to risk your marriage.
    I read a book about bilingual kids and how you should do it when I was pregnant, but to be honest, having kids is way more exhausting, than I imagined and even finding the right words at all can be hard enough, when you’re sleep deprived.
    Any bilingual family who makes it work, even more with 3 or more languages – I admire you.
    So good luck to all bilingual families and the other ones – go on holiday always to the same country (ok easier when you live in Europe) and hang out with the locals or wait for school.
    Love, Nico (German with an English Hubsi and two sons living in Munich)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.