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Hi everyone, it’s my first time browsing the bi-lingual baby community online, and I stumbled on this site and read through the forums for a bit.  Thought I would see if anyone can offer us some specific advice on our situation!

I’m American and my wife is Czech, and we plan on having each of us speak only our native language with our newborn (4 days old now!).  Here’s our dilemma:

We live in the States, but we came to the Czech Republic for the delivery (family and health insurance reasons mainly).  Mom and baby will be staying in the Czech Republic from birth to 6 months, while I am just here from birth to 1 month (I’m a PhD student, and need to get back for school).

How best should we handle the 5-month gap?  Our babies extended Czech family and Czech doctors and such will obviously be speaking Czech with her.  My wife will be the only fluent English speaker around during the whole period.  Should my wife speak English with the baby for those 5 months?  But once back in the States, we’ll need her to speak only Czech with the baby. 

So in short: is it better for no one to speak English with our newborn from 1-6 months of age, or is it better for mom to speak English over that period, then switch to Czech (permanently) when they move back to the States?  Or does it not matter much since it’s just for 5 months?

Thanks for any advice you might have; it’s our first baby, so we’re totally new to this!

Adam Beck

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Ahoj Jeff,

My name is Adam. Once upon a time I was also a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Czech Republic, where I taught English in Plzen at the University of West Bohemia.

First, congratulations on the new baby! I’m sure it’s hard to be apart from your daughter so soon after her birth, but you’ll be together again before you know it.

As for the circumstances you describe, your absence will naturally be felt, but the impact on her language development won’t be long-lasting so I don’t think you should be concerned. In fact, as time goes by, your greater challenge will prove to be supporting her Czech, since her English will quickly come to be dominant if you settle in the U.S.

During the time apart, though, I would suggest connecting with your daughter regularly through Skype. I realize you can’t really “interact” with her from afar, but reading simple children’s books to her will certainly help accustom her to your voice and provide some early exposure to English. And if your wife has a friend who speaks English well, perhaps this friend could help by offering some English exposure, too.

Best of luck to you and your family, Jeff!


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