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My daughter is 14 months old. My husband speaks to her exclusively in Russian and I speak to her exclusively in English. Her comprehension of both languages is about equal; any command or instructions spoken in either language are understood.

However, when it comes to speaking, she will only use one language or the other for whatever word we want her to say. For example, she will ONLY say “kitty” in English and ONLY “goat” in Russian,  ONLY “eat” in English and ONLY “more” in Russian, etc., no matter in which language it is asked of her. The language she first learned the word in is the only language she will use for that item. She knows over 20 words in English and about 8 or so in Russian (I speak to her more often).

Is it just a matter of time before she can say both the Russian and English word for things?

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Hi Jessica,

What you are experiencing with your daughter is very normal – my boys grew up with three languages and it was pure “pick & mix” for the first couple of years. At some point when they started to speak in full sentences, it was still a mixture of all three languages – we’ve had some really funny situations, and since we chose to just laugh at it and not worry, it didn’t turn into pressure, failure or defeat. Your daughter is still very young, and she’ll learn to seperate her languages as she gets older. Some (like my youngest) learn early – around 2 y.o. – and some (like my oldest) don’t master the tecnique fully untill much later – at 5 y.o.

Enjoy raising your child with the gift of two languages, try not to worry or compare her to other mono- or bilingual children – and she’ll be just fine in her own time! 🙂
Erik K

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Yes, it is just a matter of time before she can say both the Russian and English word for things. In fact, she might be able to say all of the words now but she does not want to.

Maybe you can buy flashcards that each show a picture of a different object, with the English word for that object printed on the card. On each card, you could write the Russian translation next to the English word. Then you would start showing her the cards and saying both words. That way, she learns both words at the same time. This will be good for her language learning, and you can use this as a test to see if learning both words at the same time causes her to use both words.

But don’t worry if she continues to insist on using only one language for each word. She will grow out of that tendency.

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Thanks so much for the input!

When I ask her what something is, she uses English most of the time but she will use Russian for a few select objects and I CANNOT get her to say those particular items in English. My husband has the same difficulty but vice versa with certain objects. It’s like she prefers the say certain things in one language or the other and that’s it!

I agree that she should be able to say both the Russian and the English word for a given object in time but I guess I was getting impatient I need to let her develop at her own pace.

Thanks to you guys for the encouragement!

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My son is 13 months old, and is doing exactly the same as your daughter! I actually thought it was because he used the ‘easiest’ words in each language!

We have three languages in the family, Norwegian, English and Ateso (local language from Uganda). He tells everyone ‘takk’ (Norwegian for thank you), and pepe (Ateso for hot), and dirty! So it seems to me he uses words which he hears a lot, and are easier to pronounce (much easier to say ‘takk’ than ‘thank you’, in my thinking, but then mabye that’s because its my language??). The nice thing about it, is that everybody around him learns a bit from all the three language as well!

I’m sure your daughter and my son will sort it out over time


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