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Reply with quote  #1 

I am an English speaker and live in Israel.  My daughter is almost 2.5 and I have always spoken to her in English and my Israeli wife only Hebrew.  Although English is her minority language, she seems to understand everything I say but other than a few words doesn't speak English too much. 


I speak Hebrew, but I'm not very good at switching between the two languages and since my daughter is not exposed to English other than from me and some videos and books at home - I try my best to make sure that when she's with me I only speak English. 


But when she's with friends at her nursery (or other social circumstances involving other children) I'm never too sure how to speak to her.  Since it's difficult for me to switch between the two languages without confusing myself I can't talk in English as the other children don't understand me and find myself talking in Hebrew only to her and her friends.  Is this a mistake?  Will it have an adverse effect on her English?  I find myself being pretty obsessive about her speaking English as I think it would be such a waste if she doesn't learn English - is this normal too? 

Reply with quote  #2 
Congratulations -- that is exciting news!

First, about your obsessiveness — you’ll have to get someone else’s input on that ;-) For obvious reasons, my children’s languages are very important to me, and perhaps I’m called obsessive by some. But hey, my children will grow up speaking two languages, guaranteed, probably three. So yes, I’m definitely ‘goal oriented’ when it comes to language maybe because I’ve seen first hand how many times the ambition is there but how easily it can fizz out — and of course you always only hear about the success stories. Personally I think it is a parents absolute right to emphasize the things that we think are important for our children — if we don’t care, who will? And, we can’t take into account what other people think all the time. It is easy to offer opinions when one is not responsible for the outcome...

Anyhow, since you obviously want to maximize your daughter’s English interaction I’d say stick with English in most situations. Still, it is a highly personal question, really. Some people feel very uncomfortable about speaking their language in front of others, concerned about being rude etc, while others don’t particularly care about what others think. This article about ‘social etiquette’ (the last half) discusses what you talk about.

Also, just fyi, this tip-sheet with ideas on how to boost your child’s language exposure may be interesting to you as well... Oh, and finally, perhaps these pointers on how to coax her to speak a bit more English is useful. Sometimes it takes some nudging to get children over the hump.

Best of luck.
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Christina Bosemark
Founder & List Moderator
Multilingual Children’s Association

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