Bilingual toddlers - when did they understand which language to speak to who?

Discussion in 'Toddler & Pre-School' started by MrsHedgehog, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. MrsHedgehog

    MrsHedgehog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2010
    Messages:
    2,047
    Likes Received:
    8
    My LO is 2 years old. We live in Italy and I speak to her in English and DH speaks to her in Italian. At the moment she speaks predominantly English as she's with me most of the time. She speaks in 5 or 6 word sentences, has a wide vocabulary and really good understanding. Her understanding of Italian is very good too and when prompted she can say quite a lot of words and the occasional 2 word sentence. She spends 3 afternoons a week with my in-laws while I'm at work and she continues to speak to them in English even though they don't understand. She's beginning to get more and more frustrated that they don't know what she's saying and it's hard for my in-laws too. I know that eventually she'll work out which language goes with who but I was just wondering at what age other people's LOs did this, more so I can reassure my in-laws apart from anything else!
     
  2. aliss

    aliss Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2009
    Messages:
    25,989
    Likes Received:
    2
    My son has a bad speech delay now and still only speaks English to everyone at 3.5, LOL, but all his bilingual friends at about 3 years, not 2.
     
  3. sun

    sun Mum of 3

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2009
    Messages:
    13,710
    Likes Received:
    0
    My son also has a speech delay and only speaks english at almost 4, though he fully understands french.

    My daughter is almost 2 and doesn't have nearly the vocabulary of your 2yo (no sentences, etc) but she will speak french with me and english with everyone else. Your daughter will figure out what language to speak when - she's still so young. My son's friend speaks 2 languages at home and a third at school + english daycare and by 3.5yo she could speak 4 languages and if someone new didn't understand what she was saying, she would just switch languages until they did! :haha: She didn't start speaking until she was 25months either.
     
  4. Duejan2012

    Duejan2012 mommy of dd, ds, & preggo

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2011
    Messages:
    4,105
    Likes Received:
    0
    Natalia is 4 and is just learning how to speak the right language to the right people. She speaks English and spanish. english mostly. But she used to talk to my mom in spanish and my mom was constantly saying what what what ugg i was frustrated having to translate for her haha. BUt she is just now learning xx
     
  5. Septie

    Septie Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2009
    Messages:
    1,431
    Likes Received:
    0
    My guess is she already knows...but prefers English as she is more fluent. My just turned two year old is mixing languages at the moment (he is growing up trilingually), including in his 3-5 word sentences, yet already answers switching from "nein" to me to "non" to my OH, for instance. Eventually your daughter will respond in Italian, they just need to persist. And soon enough, you'll struggle getting her to respond to you in English, from what we have heard people tell us lol.
     
  6. Natsku

    Natsku Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    17,406
    Likes Received:
    2
    I noticed in July (so around 2 and a half) that Maria had started to speak English to me and Finnish to everyone else and she's getting better and better at separating the two languages although she does still talk some Finnish with me but thats usually when she's overexcited and forgets or when its something she doesn't know how to say in English.
     
  7. dgirllamius

    dgirllamius Lena's Mutter

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2011
    Messages:
    2,439
    Likes Received:
    0
    My lo is still quite young and not speaking either yet but I believe she understands English more than she does German. Probably because she hears it more. She does understand a few things my oh says to her (nein especially...) but seems to understand me more. I hope she doesn't struggle when she goes to kindergarten when she's 3.
     
  8. Piper84

    Piper84 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2011
    Messages:
    558
    Likes Received:
    0
    LO is 2 years 2 months and speaks a bit of both and even has his own words for certain things :haha: He understands most of what DH (German) and I (English) say to him.

    I've noticed in the past few days he's started talking to me about "cars" instead of "Autos". He mainly speaks to me in German though, as he does at nursery, with DH and with his grandparents. There's a shrinking list of words he still uses English for. I'm worried he'll only ever speak German to me :(
     
  9. Itsychik

    Itsychik Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2010
    Messages:
    3,076
    Likes Received:
    0
    We're in a similar situation. We live in the Netherlands and I am the only English influence for my DS, as he gets Dutch from DH and everyone else (friends/family/daycare, etc). He's at home with me and DH from Friday - Monday, and with a (Dutch) child minder from Tues - Thurs during the day (9am - 6pm).

    My DS is 2 years and 3 months, and his language really started growing by leaps and bounds when he was 22 months. He can now speak in 4 - 5 word sentences. He speaks mostly Dutch however (which I also speak fluently, so at least there's no problem understanding him most of the time) but he uses a lot of English words. Sometimes he'll combine both English and Dutch into one sentence.

    Like Piper said, my DS is learning that he needs to speak English with me, so whenever we're going somewhere, for example, he'll say "mama's car!" but when going with DH, he says "Papa's auto" (Dutch word for 'car'). When he wants something more than once, when with me he'll say "again" or with DH he uses the Dutch word. Same thing when saying "shoes," or "bird," or a few other things. He seems to understand most of what we say to him though, no matter what language we use.

    All children learn at different rates though. I can understand it must be frustrating for all parties involved. My FIL/MIL just recently took an English course actually to help improve their English, and they also hope it will help them understand DS better. I'm a little concerned when my parents visit next time though as they speak 0 Dutch (although maybe this will help them pick up a few words :) )

    Good luck though! :flower:
     
  10. OmarsMum

    OmarsMum Well-Known Member
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2010
    Messages:
    17,040
    Likes Received:
    0
    At 2 yrs. my nephew is almost 3 & he also knows when to use English or Arabic. Omar is an early talker & he was talking in short sentences using both languages at 18 months, nephew was 2 when he started to talk. xx
     
  11. AliBiz

    AliBiz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2011
    Messages:
    1,115
    Likes Received:
    0
    My LO is a year old, I speak English to her and DH speaks Arabic, and she understands both. I have read that children who are learning more than 1 language have a speech delay and have been assured by my aunt who is a special needs teacher that this is the case. She is advanced in all other areas but I already notice the difference, a friends lo is 2 weeks older and can say lots of things. I do believe though that they will favour one language over another.
     
  12. Saphira

    Saphira Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2011
    Messages:
    3,082
    Likes Received:
    0
    Interesting thread. It's giving me hope! I feel like we're holding our daughter back with our weird Germglish convos. :/ She's nearing 2 years and still doesn't say much other than babbling and a few words. She responds by actions to both languages but not vocally yet.
     
  13. sun

    sun Mum of 3

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2009
    Messages:
    13,710
    Likes Received:
    0
    She's not nearly 2 yet - still a few months to go! My daughter started saying a couple of words at 21mo, and is talking WAY more now at almost 2 (she's 2 in 3 weeks). She has words in both languages. I bet by the time your LO is actually 2 she'll have lots more words since she already has a few at this point! :thumbup:
     
  14. tokyo_c

    tokyo_c Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    796
    Likes Received:
    0
    My daughter is almost 2y7m and has been, where she knows the correct word/phrase, using the correct language in the correct situation for a few months now. She does code switch (use both languages in the same sentence) a lot still but generally only when she doesn't know how to say what she wants in just English or Japanese.
     
  15. OmarsMum

    OmarsMum Well-Known Member
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2010
    Messages:
    17,040
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's easier to switch between languages when both languages are used on day to day basis. For us the 1st language is Arabic in the country. many schools teach Arabic as a second language for all students with English as a 1st language, but native Arabic speakers are taught Arabic A which is comprehensive, other schools teach English as second language & Arabic as 1st language. So all kids are exposed to both languages.

    In shops etc there are some native Arabic speakers but most sales people don't speak Arabic so they use English. Both languages are used heavily in day to day interactions, this is why it's easier for kids to learn both languages without having preference & it's easier for them to know when & with who to use each language.

    English is not even considered as a second language, it's the "street" language.
     
  16. Irish Eyes

    Irish Eyes Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2012
    Messages:
    1,833
    Likes Received:
    1
    I nannied for a German/English speaking child & at age 2 there was the same issue with the German speaking grandparents. To help, me & her mum who are the English speakers started talking to her in German when we were around them & it really helped her learn when to use it. She would sometimes mix the 2 languages up but having the one parent per language rule really worked
     
  17. new_to_ttc

    new_to_ttc fidget is a baby boy!

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2010
    Messages:
    13,714
    Likes Received:
    0
    We speak mostly English, and I use the few Welsh words/phrases I know. However friends, my eldest, nursery etc all speak to George in Welsh and he seems to understand. He says a few Welsh words but speaks mostly English.

    My eldest used to speak English at home, and when telling me Welsh words (or if I was asking 'what is red in welsh') for example we'd call it 'the words you use at school' and he seemed to associate speaking Welsh with school, and English for home. George just usesthe Welsh words he does know with everyone and has no association that my parents for example have no idea what he is on about.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice