Episode 70: Q&A – Am I putting too much pressure on my multilingual child?

Episode 70


On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I address a listener’s concern regarding his bilingual son.  He worries that having to speak a different language to each parent may be too much pressure!  I assure him that his son is just showing his multilingual abilities.

Episode #70- Transcript

Hello and welcome to another Question and Answer edition of the Bilingual Avenue podcast.  Thank you for joining me each week as you navigate through your language journey.  If you are twitter, I’d love to connect there!  It’s really easy to reach me, my twitter handle is just @bilingualavenue

Alright, we have another great question for this week!

Let me read you the email that came in from an English father currently in Portugal.

Hi Marianna!

I just started listening to your podcast two weeks ago.  A co-worker who is also raising bilingual kids told me about it and I think the information is very helpful. My question is that my wife speaks to my son in Portuguese, he’s three years old, and I speak to him in English.  I see him working so hard to speak to each one of us in our language and he is constantly having to repeat himself, over and over. Do you think that we are putting too much pressure on him? I am glad that he is learning two languages but I just don’t know sometimes I just kind of feel bad.  Interested in seeing what you think.


Thank you Digory for reaching out and for allowing me to share your questions with the Bilingual Avenue community.

I appreciate your question and your concern about pressure for our little ones.  I think in a lot of ways this is a personal question and the answer is going to depend on each family situation.  Based on what you described in your email, you are concerned when you see your son having to repeat himself when he is communicating with both of you.  The thing is that multilingual individuals are perfectly capable of doing exactly what you said, switch from one language to the other.  Most of them do it with relative ease and without really thinking all too much about it.

You mentioned in your email that your son is three years old.  If he has been exposed to both languages from birth he is never really known any other way.  Speaking to each of you in your respective language may require at times having to repeat himself is then totally normal for him.  I think we as adults get more worked up about it but really children are just showing us all the fascinating thing they are able to achieve in their early years.

Here is some food for thought for you to consider.  The majority of the world is actually made up of multilingual individuals.  There are estimates that indicate that over 60% of the world’s population speaks more than one language so that just puts things into perspective.  Many children around the world are doing this and it is normal to them and normal to their families.

Based on what you included in your email, I would say: “No you are not putting too much pressure on him.”  Considering he is only three, if you were making him do something he really did not want to do it he probably just would not do it.  Kids often take the path of least resistance which is why as they get older they may start using the community language rather than the target language because it is just easier for them.  For now I would say, celebrate what he is doing.  Keep up the good work and thanks for touching base with Bilingual Avenue.  I always appreciate the questions that come in.

Well that takes us to the end of today’s episode.  If you want your question answered just reach out at bilingualavenue.com/contact.  You can also reach me on twitter @bilingualavenue

May you have fun travels on your language journey. Hope to see you again on the avenue.


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