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i’m an american married to a dutch woman and living in the netherlands. i speak english to my 9 month old son and my wife speaks dutch. my question is, what language should my wife and i speak to each other? we have be doing it like this… she speaks dutch to me and i speak english back to her, but i’m afraid that that is confusing to my son.

any help would really be appreciated.
Erik K

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If the child will be staying in the Netherlands for a long time, you can assume he will learn Dutch from other people. In this case, you and your wife can both speak English all the time (except when Dutch is required by circumstances).

If you all will be moving to America soon, you can assume he will learn English from other people. In this case, you both should speak Dutch if that’s possible (or just use the current system you described).


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Thank you for your help.

Daira Moruss

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We live in America. I speak only Latvian to our daughter, her father speaks only English (although sometimes he makes a small effort to learn and say some things in Latvian, as well).  When we speak to each other, we usually do so by speaking English, he doesn’t have any other option and I just assumed that’s what should/would be done, but in the last year, I have switched tactics and began often (though admittedly not always) speaking to him in Latvian and then immediately translating what I say.  Sometimes, if what I say is simple enough, no translation is necessary, “Who took my sour cream?” I would prefer to always speak only Latvian to her father (and translate), but it would probably get a little tedious, for me, and for him, as he is a little moody and sometimes doesn’t desire the added blurb he can’t understand. But it is good for the child receiving the additional linguistic stimulation, and to hear and recognized the differences in the translation of the languages. She often doesn’t pay so close attention to what we say when just the two of us are talking. When we play board games as a trio, she usually immediately goes into the English for the sake of her father, and then I have to spend the game coaxing her to translate into Latvian. She doesn’t like or get the idea well of translation, yet (4.5 yrs.). She has, oddly, recently begun speaking to her father in Latvian. I can see that sometimes he doesn’t understand, though he doesn’t let on to her, and I imagine this came as the result of some private daddy-daughter conversation.  It is not that she is confused, she is very well aware of who is Latvian and who is not, and who she speaks what language to.  So, this probably hasn’t helped you much. It is your and your wife’s decision to make. You could try different methods, but it doesn’t sound as if you are uncomfortable with your current practice. I don’t think you are lending confusion to the situation, because clearly the English input/output is yours and this you are continuing toward your wife, so you are actually supporting your decision to teach your child English all the more.  Good luck! 


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If you can speak and understand Dutch well enough for your wife to speak it to you, I don’t know what the problem is. Since English is the minority language, you might want to consider doing ML@H (Minority Language at home) when your son reaches Preschool age that way he’ll develop more English and it will be strengthened. But for now, I dont see what the problem would be with letting English be “Daddies language”

You speak English to your son and your wife. Your wife speak Dutch to you and baby. It seems like a beautiful system to me, but hey, what do I know?


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