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Hi everyone,

I’m looking for some advice for my sister in law who is trying to raise her child bilingually (she is a native speaker of English and her husband is a native speaker of the second language).  My SIL speaks probably no more than 30 words of her husband’s language, plus a couple of nursery rhymes.  Most of her words are family titles/methods of address plus basic yes, no etc.  However, she is unwilling to leave the second language to her husband and instead speaks a mixture of English sprinkled with whatever words she knows from the second language in her conversation to her child.  It’s rather confusing to myself and my husband when we visit and we’re concerned that if she carries on in this way, she’s likely to miss her goal which is a fully bilingual child.  She is the primary carer for the child and her husband doesn’t seem to particularly speak the second language to the child either.

Is this polyglot approach likely to be problematic and is there any helpful advice we could offer her to help her get to her goal?

Many thanks in advance.


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What is the language of the country they are in – is it your SIL’s language or her husband’s language? If it is the husband’s language then I’d said she’ll be fine, if it’s her language and the husband’s language is the minority language then I’d say the child won’t learn the second language unless someone is talking it to them properly, more than just a few words sprinkled around.  Can she get some resources in her husband’s language -e.g. children’s books, DVDs etc? Or could she find a babysitter who speaks her husband’s language to talk the language to the baby? 

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They’re living in the UK, so in an English environment.  The second language is Tamul (!).  Eventually they plan to move back to where her husband is from but where they currently live there is no-one except her husband who speaks Tamul and as far as I know, they don’t have any resources in Tamul which they could use to teach their child.  It’s also not helped by the fact that Tamul is a tonal language so her husband’s help is quite essential to make sure that pronunciation is right.


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