My toddler answers me in the “wrong” language, what to do?


First of all, don’t panic – this is something that happens to more or less every parent bringing up a bilingual child, especially if you are the one passing on a minority language. At the stage where children spend more time in an environment where everybody speaks the majority language, such as nursery or school, they will get used to speaking that language more and more. When they return home, the majority language is on top of their mind and maybe they want to tell about something that happened during the day. It is so much easier to use the language which was used in the situation than to translate it. Have patience, allow your child to speak out without interruption, then ask questions in your language. If you think there were words relating to the situation that your child might don’t know, use these words in your questions. You can even start by rephrasing the whole situation in your language.

Further reading

The uphill battle: getting a response in the “wrong” language