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I know that time it’s very important when learning a second language, but when you’re a single working mom, time it’s quite difficult to find, you DO have time but you have so much to do that time flies away…

I read that for a child become an active bilingual he/she has to listen to the language at least 30% of the time he/she is awake, for my 5 years old that would be 4.2 hours daily.

My problem is: I spend only 5 hours a day with my girl, yes that more than I need to teach her English but you have to consider that I also have to give her school support (in Spanish) so that takes an hour from us, then is time to clean the house a little, etc, etc, etc… I do speak English when I can but when you’re trying to make your 5 years old pick her toys up or stop cutting her dolls’ hair speaking a language she doesn’t understand it’s quite fun for her (because she doesn’t have a clue what you’re saying), so I was wondering if would be easier for me and more valuable for her if I only speak English to her during an hour, this will be the hour before she gets to bed when I finish doing all I have to do and I’m free to give her all the attention she wants, to do so I though that maybe I should follow a book, start teaching numbers, colors, then family members…etc, that way I can keep track of what she’s learning, of course it would be while we are playing, or watching a movie.

What do you think?

Erik K

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What if you say each sentence twice, first in English and then in Spanish? This way, she can compare the English words with a language she knows.

This would take extra time, but I think it will be the fastest way for her to learn English.

Hopefully, she will eventually understand English well enough that you can always speak it to her.


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You said that she’s 5 years old and I wonder, have you been speaking to her in English since she was born? Because if you have, I’m sure she understands!
I think you sould just speak English to her, not Spanish at all. That way, she’ll know that communication with her mom is in English, and that can even create a special bond.
Another idea, why don’t you try to send her to a bilingual school? Spanish speaking countries usually have very good bilingual schools where kids learn the subjects in Spanish in the morning and in English in the afternoon.
I wish you all the best! Don’t ever give up! I’m a native Spanish speaker who lives in Brazil, but I love English!


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Greetings, Viviana! Well, I’m not a single mother, but often it feels that I could be.  My hat is off to you, for the job you are doing.  I think you have assessed your situation well and the hour of uninterrupted total English sounds like a practical and well-thought out solution.  I agree, this will give you also the ability to monitor your daughter’s progress, and perhaps in time, the hour will grow.  But I think you will have to really stick to that hour being ALL English. It sounds as if your daughter has a strong character, and though she may not “understand” your English pleads to stop cutting her dolls hair, she understands enough to know you are saying something, but is preferring not to hear.  My brothers and I were raised bilingually, no English in the home allowed (though in later years… it crept in some, due to our American environment). We also were raised in a bilingual community, we had our own schools and churches supporting and reinforcing our culture and language, but we also had to attend the sanctioned American schools, of course.  All of my family members are bilingual, as our parents all escaped the homeland (to live) and so, all of my cousins, too, were raised bilingually (though we are scattered some about the globe).  I now am (so far successfully) raising my daughter, who is four, bilingually, (Latvian, English) though she is in her second year of Chinese immersion (maybe, trilingual down the road). So, we have other Lv./Eng.families we surround ourselves with (not many).  But in observing and being active in such things, I have found the double language doesn’t seem to work.  When something is said in the minority language, and then repeated in the majority language, the child knows it is coming. The child doesn’t have to think, feel or try to understand the other language.  Why do something “extra” when they will receive the information in another way. I have seen it with the children around me, those whose parents speak what they say in both languages (all the time), the child in a sense, and either deliberately or naturally, closes their ears, like when you reprimand about the hair cutting. The hour is a great idea, and maybe once she feels comfortable and starts to enjoy it and opens her ears and heart to it, you could increase.  Again, stay strong, you don’t have an easy road ahead as a single mother, but a beautiful one nonetheless, eh?

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Thanks for your help.

In case you were wondering why I haven’t started English when she was younger, let me tell you that I adopted her a year ago and was so busy being a mom and taking care of health and development issues that I didn’t even though about teaching her English.

I agree that translating every sentence it’s useless, as Eugenia said; they just wait for the translation and don’t learn to “think” in the second language.

Thank you Daria for your support, yes, I wanted to put her in a bilingual school but here they are too expensive for me, she has English classes in her school but the classes are very weak and they just translate everything so there isn’t a meaningful learning.

I’m planning to start that “1 hour only English” rule today, give me a week and then I tell you if it’s working or not.


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