Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world. LINGUIST is a free resource, run by linguistics students and faculty, and supported by your donations. Please support LINGUIST List during the 2017 Fund Drive.

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: Trilingual child, day care suggests teaching English at home
Question: Dear experts, We live in the US (community language is English). My wife is a native Chinese speaker and I am a native German speaker. Our child is 2 years old. She has been in daycare since she was 6 months old. We use OPOL with no English spoken to our child. But we do usually converse in English between us in front of the child. Our daycare teacher strongly suggested in a recent conversation that we should teach her the English words as well. Otherwise our child would have a high probability of acting out because of a building frustration due to a lack of communication/language ability. This does not seem to fit with OPOL or MLAH. It certainly would also not feel natural to me. Also, if our little one says an English word my reaction is to acknowledge that it is a proper word in English and that ''in German it's ...''. So far I have not given the learning English part much thought. After all it is the community language and she has 40 hours per week of scheduled exposure to it. It should come just naturally. If we get 40 hours per week of German and Chinese, I think we are lucky. What are your thoughts?
Reply: Since your child has been exposed to English since being an infant, the normal English language acquisition process should work for your child while at daycare. In fact, It sounds like your child is already acquiring English if you're hearing it home. There will be a stage where the languages are confused, but the normal acquisition process will work to adjust that out as needed. The adults just need have some patience. Just out of curiosity - Is your child actually acting out or is your daycare provider just worried? It's a question worth asking....
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
Date: 08-Jan-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Trilingual child, day care suggests teaching English at home    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (14-Jan-2013)
  2. Re: Trilingual child, day care suggests teaching English at home    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (08-Jan-2013)

Back to Most Recent Questions