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Subject: How to correct a toddler when using one language while in another language environment (without causing frustration)
Question: Dear linguists,

I speak English to my daughter, my husband German. We live
in Italy. Since she turned 1, she has started going to nursery
for 2.5 hours per day, where they speak Italian to her.

She is now 23 months old. Up to now she's spoken English
(single words and 2-word sentences max.) at home and
never any Italian; a few Italian words, but never any English
at nursery school. During the summer the nursery got some
substitute staff that spoke English to her. Now that the school
year has restarted plus the fact that she is gathering
vocabulary at an increasing pace, she has started speaking
English at nursery.

My question is: how is the teacher to ''correct'' her when she
starts naming things in English rather than Italian? I have a
feeling that if my daughter says ''cloud'' and the teacher says
''nuvola'', she will get the idea that she doesn't know the word
she thought she had mastered. This might be frustrating. I
thought saying ''Yes, your mummy calls this 'cloud' but I call it
'nuvola''' might be the way to go, but I wanted tried-and-
tested advice before I guide the nursery on this matter. Can
you suggest anything?

Thank you,

Ximena Ramirez

Reply: The school must have hired English-speaking staff for some reason. Perhaps the school authorities wish to foster multilingualism among their children? If so, both authorities and multilingual staff must also be aware that child multilingualism involves the kind of issues that you describe.

Your daughter doesn’t need “correction”, as you rightly note by putting the word in quotation marks. A nuvola is a cloud and vice versa. A teacher who mistakes knowledge of words in one language for failed mastery of words in another language has no place in a multilingual nursery school, or in a school favouring enrolment of multilingual children, so you may well be worrying about something that will not happen.

Madalena

Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      click here to access email
 
Date: 07-Sep-2012
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: How to correct a toddler when using one language while in another language environment (without causing frustration)    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (08-Sep-2012)
  2. Re: How to correct a toddler when using one language while in another language environment (without causing frustration)    Susan Fischer     (06-Sep-2012)

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