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Subject: Multilingual family - should domestic helper speak her native language?
Question: My baby is 8.5 months old. My husband and I each speak our native languages to her: he speaks to her in Spanish while I speak to her in Cantonese. We speak to each other in English, watch English TV shows and read mostly English books. We live in Hong Kong, hence the language of the environment is Cantonese and she will learn English as a subject starting from kindergarten. However, since both my husband and I work full time, our baby's primary caregiver is our domestic helper from the Philippines. She speaks to my baby in English, but her English is not very good. Her grammar is wrong most of the time, her sentence structure is awkward and vocabulary limited. I'm not that worried about my child not learning proper English as she will pick it up in school. My concern is whether my child's language development will be hampered by listening and interacting with someone speaking a badly spoken language all the time - my helpers spends 7 hours a day with her, while my husband and I only spend about 2 hours with her a day on weekdays and all day on weekends. Should I ask my helper to speak to my baby in her native language - Tagalog - instead? Would it confuse her even more to switch at this time? Thank you so much!
Reply: It doesn't matter. What matters is that the helper is kind and loving and engages with the child. Let her speak to your child however she wants, whether it is in Tagalog or English or a mixture of both. Your child will not be delayed and will not be confused. My own daughter had a nanny who spoke Malay and limited English. At first she spoke mostly Malay to my daughter, who spoke some of her first words in Malay. But over time, the nanny wanted to learn English more than my daughter wanted to speak Malay! Anthea
Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
Date: 30-May-2013

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