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Hi folks,

my daughter is now three years old and about to go to the local nursery school. I am not a native speaker (spent a year in the US as an exchange student) and have talked to her solely in English since about her first birthday. She is a bit on the slower side in all aspects of her development, so we weren’t really worried yet that her language skills weren’t up to par with kids the same age as her.

The pediatrician recently suggested that we should no longer raise her bilingually, because otherwise she’d lag behind too far. So now we face several questions:

1. Should I in fact stop talking to my daughter in English? We think that her language skills are on the same level as her other skills, that is, that her lagging behind is due to her general development speed and not me speaking English. What are your opinions on this matter?

2. I have thought about switching from OPOL to ML@H once our daughter is in the nursery school, because she will pick up the native language there for half of the day, and the other half she could speak the minority language English at home. Right now, she is only exposed to English after I come home from work in the evening and on the week-ends. What are you experiences with such a switch, especially if the mother does not feel she knows enough of the minority language (I tend to disagree and believe that it might be a little difficult at first, but will work out), and do you have any tips on how to proceed?

Also, I have tried to find more materials with respect to English fingerplays etc., but I couldn’t find anything useful that teaches how the fingerplays are actually done! Since I am not a native speaker, I haven’t learned them when I was a kid. In case anyone knows of any useful material, please let me know!

So what are your thoughts on the issues raised? Do you agree with the pediatrician? Or should I go “the opposite way” and give ML@H a try? What are some of the pros and cons?

Thanks in advance and kind regards



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Of course I dont have all the specifics of your DD’s “delays”.
Can she walk easily? Run? Jump? How about manage stairs on her own? Can she slide and roll around, skip and hop? Can she speak at all? Does she respond when spoken too in either langauge? Can she put together a 5 word sentence and solve basic jigsaw puzzles?
If she cant do half of those things then language isn’t at all her problem and she should see a specialist. If she is doing even 75% of these things then I think that they hand out doctor and pediatric degrees to freely. I think your DD needs a new doctor.

I see no reason why you should stop speaking English to her, based on the limited explanation you have given. Your daughter is not stupid, your Dr. has no right to act as if she is, you should inform your Doctor that its impossible for children to be stupid. Adults on the other hand….

Look, Matt, the way that I see it, if you aren’t speaking to her using college-level words, then she’ll be just fine. If anything, I suggest you actively spend more time with her, even just 15 minutes more a day can make a tremendous difference in a toddlers development.

When you dress her, tell her what each article of clothing is. Say to her “This is a shirt. It goes OVER your head, it keeps your tummy, arms, and back warm.”
Do that for each thing she puts on, after a few days, have her tell you what the items are, then have her tell you what each thing does.

Take her outside for 10-20 minutes every chance you get. Point to things, talk about them. Explain to her that this flower is purple, that ball is green, etc.

Give up a dose of your daily TV/personal entertainment and devote just 1/2 an hour
extra of your time to your little girl. Help her jump, clamp, stomp, crawl, wiggle, dance, and laugh her way through toddlerhood. Most “developmentally delayed” children, the ones who have no such problems like down syndrome, autism, etc, are just under stimulated.

In a month, you should see TREMENDOUS improvement in her. All the while, make sure you speak as much English as ever, lead her in conversations in English.

Say to her “Hi pretty girl, whats your name?” when you greet her. Prompt her to respond.
When feeding her, say “You want some more?” then a few minutes later, ask her “What do you want?” and prime her to respond “more” or “more {food}” when you can. Applaud, applaud, and applaud some more. Ask her flash cards, show her a cow and ask her “whats this?” when she responds, smile and say “Yay”

Ask her about her day and lead her through the questions, her mom caregiver can help you out by talking to the baby constantly throughout the day. Get someone else involved in the process so they can say “You’re wearing a pink shirt today. Its pretty” to her several times throughout the day. or “Did you like the banana you had for breakfast?”

When you come home, ask her. “Did you wear a pretty green dress today?” when she is able to respond. “No, I wore a pink shirt” without priming and several minutes of thought, then you know she’s got the idea and is retaining very well.

Best of luck.


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Dear Siya,

thanks a lot for your reply.

I must have created a thoroughly wrong impression, though, by saying that her general development lags behind. It does, but it’s not as if she is stupid or immensely limited in her skills.

So, yes, she understands and responds when spoken to in either language and can manage most of the things you have mentioned, albeit not as well as the average child her age. We have been to another doctor already, and he considered her to be “harmonically developed”, just lagging behind. “If she was a couple of months older, there’d be absolutely no reason for you to be here.” The general consensus of the doctors was that she was just that, a little slow.

And yes, we do many of the things you have suggested, like telling her in detail what we are doing and what we are seeing. What we probably should do is spend more time outside, but the thing is that she really likes drawing, building stuff with Lego bricks, moulding things with dough and most of all solving jigsaw puzzles, all of which you do inside. In fact, she can easily do puzzles that are meant for kids of age 4+, and could do them when she was barely three years old. That’s an area where is actually ahead of most of the children about the same age.

As for the TV, we have discarded it at the beginning of the year. And even before, our daughter had never spent time watching TV. It is of no interest to her either. We do spend A LOT of time with her, maybe even too much for even to be more autonomous. That is another thing we must improve on, gently forcing her to do more stuff on her own and not doing it for her.

The thing that’s maybe limiting her the most, though, is her timidness. If there are 29 children racing from one side of a gym to the other, the one child standing on the side watching from a safe distance will be ours. We’re working on that, too, and she is currently making great progress in “letting her hair down” as she is getting used to spending more and more time alone (without mommy) at the nursery. I think going to the nursery will result in her making great progress, so we don’t really worry TOO much about her lagging behind. We both were late bloomers and timid, so why should she be any different. 🙂

But anyway, that wasn’t the focus of my post, although I do appreciate your feedback! I’m still very interested to hear what others have experienced when switching from OPOL to ML@H, and pointers as to what resources for English fingerplays exist that show how they are actually done are still very welcome. 🙂


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Hiya Matt!

Oh no! You didn’t create the wrong impression, I figured your kid was just fine. She sounds brilliant and it seems like you, mama, and all her caregivers are doing a great job with her.

I didn’t mean to make it seem like I was doubting your DD’s abilities. I was trying to respectfully criticize your DD’s doctor. I’m so sick of “professionals” acting foolish. They are often afraid to admit that the truth of a matter is that “they simply dont know the answer.” Well, guess what? Sometimes there isn’t an answer, sometimes things just happen without rhyme or reason. But sometimes, the answer is known and well-established. They just wont do the work, or take the time to search for it.

Your DD’s doctor was wrong to even suggest that your DD couldn’t handle two langauges. I hope you file a complaint with the medical board of that area. Someone in that exam room was obviously missing a few screws and it wasn’t you or your DD, if you catch my drift.

I had watched a show on the Early Learning Network about a little girl who was a little slow. Her parents were worried when at 3 she was barely talking and still very clumsy so they had her evaluated.

The girl wasn’t as agile as her peers, nor was she speaking as normally as she should be at that age. A quick physical revealed that the child was simply lagging because she was under-stimulated throughout her day and she hadn’t developed the coordination and muscles that most 3 year olds would naturally develop. She had a lot of tech-toys and watched a bunch of cartoons, though they did flash cards in the evenings after a bath.

The specialist put her on a regiment of playing specific physical activities everyday for a few weeks, within 6 weeks the girl was able to climb in and out of toys, speak, walk more easily etc…In other words, the physical stimulation helped her develop in leaps and bounds.

So, that was why I recommended the things that I did.

Anyway, maybe what we should be worrying about is Mama’s uneasiness at speaking English with DD. I think that switching to ML@H is probably a good idea.

Mama should probably get an English workbook or something, some kind of learning material to work through to help her feel more confident in speaking English with DD. You seem to speak excellent English so I’m sure you could help Mama through the work books but you only need about 100 phrases and a few hundred words to get through your day with a 3 year old. Also, make English a big part of you guys’ family together-ness and I’m sure your 3 year old will revel in it.

I’m sorry I cant offer more help or anything. My families pretty much monolingual.


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I agree with Siya that your original pediatrician was very much out of line in his recommendation.  My daughter age four has done very well with a ML@H approach.  My concern is for Mom.  I have lived in a few situations in which I could not speak the majority language.  I found it to limit my quality of life significantly.  My thinking that  would be that Mom’s mastery of the Majority language would grow right along with your daughter’s as you commit time when the three of you are all together to the Majority language.

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