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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

What are your thoughts?

Reply: I fully agree with you. You are doing and thinking exactly what we parents did and thought in my family, when school authorities also “suggested”, in the same strong terms as they did to you, to use English at home. They invoked all sorts of cognitive, academic and emotional underachievement if we “persisted” in using “so many” languages to our children. Our home languages were Swedish and Portuguese at the time, those that my husband and I used.

Our children learned their English in school, from and with their peers. So much so that English became their own peer language, which they use among themselves still today, as adults.

It’s precisely as you say: there’s no need to give “the learning English part much thought.” In circumstances such as yours and ours, the school/community language will not fail to be learned.

Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      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    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (08-Jan-2013)

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