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Monica Torres

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Hello everybody,


Glad to know that there are other people trying to teach their children a non-native language.  Good to have somebody to talk to who will understand my concerns.


Before our baby girl was born 11 months ago, my husband and I decided that I would speak to her only in English and he would do it in Spanish.  I learned English in school in Mexico City and then went to get my college degree in the US.


Eventhough I do feel confident speaking English with adults, I´ve found myself short of words or ideas when talking to my baby.  I usually repeat the same question and/or word over and over again  (is that normal ??)


Besides, my husband is usually at work and has little time to talk to her in Spanish.  All our relatives live in another city and we don´t visit our Spanish-speaking friends too often.  So my baby is not really having a close encounter to the majority language and I don´t know how good it will be for her socially to speak a language not spoken in her community and not know the one the majority uses.


That has made me wonder if teaching her my non-native language is a good idea right now.  What if she´s not learning either language well enough?? 


Besides, what to do when taking my baby to a class where nobody speaks English and all the instructions and class are given in Spanish.  Is it good if I talk to her in Spanish during that time ??


I am really confused, and will appreciate any feedback I can get from your experience.




Baby: Vania Navarro.  11 months old


Adrian Villalobos

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Hi Monica,

I thought that maybe I could help since our situations are similiar. I am a native English speaker but I learned Spanish well enough that I now teach it in high school. My son, Diego, is about to turn 9 months. My husband and I speak only Spanish with Diego in the home. It is very important to us that Diego learn Spanish because my in-laws do not speak English. I think that is very normal for people who learned a foreign language in school instead of growing up with it to not know how to talk to a baby in a foreign language. When my son was born I realized that I did not know many of the words and phrases I wanted to say to my child. I did (and still do) often say the same thing over and over again. I personally think that this is fine while our kids are little because they need the repetition to learn new words. I do realize though that the day will come when I need to be more sophisticated with my speech. I have started keeping a journal of phrases/words throughout the day that I wanted to use but I was not sure about. I later ask a Native Speaker and incorporate the new words into my speech with my son. Maybe we can help each other with this. I would be happy to help you with any phrases you are not sure about..

If you would rather email me, my address is [email protected]

Good luck and don’t give up. I know it is a challenge but you are giving your daughter a wonder gift.

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Hi Monica!

Don’t worry too much about repeating yourself so much. Like Adriana said, kids learn by repetition. The simpler and shorter the sentences the better. Just take your cue from children’s books and you’ll be the perfect teacher for your girl! If you browse through a few kid’s books you’ll notice that the main difference between Board Books, First Reader books and Easy Readers is that the written sentences become longer and more complicated as the age of the reader progresses. By the time she’s 2 -and able to communicate- she’ll be probably be watching DVDs or TV in English and Spanish and that will take good care of whatever possible voids you might have left.

Definitely concentrate in speaking English to her. It’s really worth the effort!


Monica Torres

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Thank you both Adrian and Lana for your words.  


I will keep up on talking to my baby in English.  I have seen that she´s already  recognizing some words I´ve taught her. 


I guess when I imagine seeing her speak English as her native language,  everything is worth the effort and the weird feeling of sometimes not feeling completely connected to her.  


Adrian, of course we can help each other with questions we may have.  You can also email me at [email protected]


Do you always talk in the not-native language to your baby ??  Even infront of people who don´t speak it ?? 




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Hi non-native speakers!
My name is Alicia and I’m really glad I found this website since I’m too have the very same concerns like you and finally I’ve realized Im not alone!
I’m a Spanish mum who talks to her 5 month baby boy in English since the day he was born and so far so good since I dont feel ackward at all.
Being an English teacher to little kids helps me a lot because I have access to lots of material, songs, stories etc besides I always speak in English  to my students, they even think Im English! and that is how I believe any language should be taught, by means of using it and avoid any kind of translation in the mother  tongue.
We live in Spain so Im positively sure my baby will aquire Spanish with no mayor problems or so I want to believe! but in addition my husband speaks to him in catalan since it is his mother tongue!
Now, it is true that most of the time Im pretty sure we are doing the right thing since we’ve studied and learned about the advantages of such language scenario etc but every now and again I bump into quite nasty people who feel free to give me their views on the issue and critizies our methotd. They say I should use Spanish with my baby since it is my mother tongue and not English and the go on saying it is too artificial and fake to speak to my baby in a language not my own.
I have to admit that sometimes these unaproppiate comments had got me and made me question the whole thing but thanks to my husban’s support as well and my family and close friends that I keep using english with my little boy and feeling quite comfortable!
Do you think Im doing the right thing here ?
Do you use your mother tongue with your babies to talk about certain things?
Please I would love to hear your opinions and tipsd on this!
Thank you!
Azucena Reyes

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Hi, everyone!! I am so glad I found this website. My name is Azucena and my native language is Spanish, but I lived in the USA and Germany, learning English. When I had my first baby boy, an English teacher told me that I should speak English to him, which I did since I thought that would be good for him to be bilingual. Now he is almost 3 years old and he barely speaks, saying few words in English and Spanish. I am getting a lot of pressure from relatives and doctors, telling me to stop speaking to him in English, that the poor kid is so confused and that this is the reason  why he is not speaking. To be honest, this has made me cried, especially when a doctor didn´t allowed my kid to go to day care because he didn´t speak, he mentioned that he thought that my boy has some “special needs”.  So, I just would like some advise, what should I say to relatives and doctors who question my method? A teacher told me that some kids just cannot handle two languages, and maybe my boy is one of those. HELP!!

live in Mexico.
I speak to him in English, everyone else in Spanish.

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Hi Azucena/Everyone
Sorry that I only have a couple of minutes spare at the moment so can’t write a long reply but I just wanted to address the idea that some children just can’t cope with 2 languages.  In my opinion this is nonsense.  I used to work in an international school where the language of instruction was mainly English but the mother tongue of the majority of the children was Spanish.  The children were very mixed ability (there was no kind of selection process to enter the school).  A couple of the children had real learning difficulties.  One in particular I remember was brain damaged a birth and had real trouble learning to write and mathematical concepts.  However after a few years of immersion in the language, not one child was unable to communicate in English orally (not even the child who had the most problems).  Of course the children had accents and had interference from Spanish in their English but I would say they were all fluent.  I am sure that some of the children would not have learnt English in a normal school setting, with just a couple of hours instruction a week (maybe this is what your doctor is basing his comment on ) but as their lessons were mostly in English,it was a matter of survival for them.

As far as your son is concerned Azucena, does he have difficulty understanding you at all?  This is the most important thing at this stage.  Do you feel he has learning difficulties?  I’m sure as his mother you are more likely than anyone else to have noticed if this is the case!

Erik K

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I am replying only to the last person who posted on this thread, Azucena Reyes.

My mother has told me that I did not speak until I was three years old. I did not have any
“special needs” that I know about. So there might be nothing wrong with your boy.

However, it is possible that your child really does have “special needs”. You should get a second opinion from a doctor who specializes in treating very young children with speech disorders and delayed development problems.

Your relatives lack the expert knowledge to give good advice about this, unless they are doctors specializing in that problem.

These issues happen so often that this website talks about them. See:


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