I am Egyptian so I speak Arabic and my husband is Italian. We speak together in English but we don’t speak English with our son. In his daycare they use English and Arabic and a little French. My 3 year-old son is speaking both but he is much, much better at using Arabic – I think this is because I am more talkative than his father. My question is now: our boy likes to watch cartoons in many languages – German, Russian, French – is this normal? Can I allow him to watch cartoons in many languages or should I stick only to Italian and English?

Thanks, Yasmine


Dear Yasmine

Thank you for your question. It is wonderful that your son is surrounded by so many languages at a young age and is well on his way of becoming bilingual. It is natural that he knows Arabic best, as he has probably has most interaction with you. This is the important point, children learn best through interaction – by using the language in different situations and with different people. Watching cartoons is a good help when learning a language, but no replacement for chatting, singing and reading books together.

Yes, it is completely normal that your son wants to watch cartoons – in any language. Cartoons are usually made in a way that very little understanding of the language is needed, so are easy to follow regardless. You don’t mention where you live, but I presume it is not in Italy, so it may be a good idea to try to find cartoons he likes in Italian, as this would increase the time he hears the language. That said, I can’t see any harm in him watching cartoons in any language – within the time you allow him to watch cartoons over all, of course. Hearing different languages in cartoons will not confuse him, nor slow down his learning of any other language. It may give him a certain level of understanding of additional languages, though.

All the best,