Specializations > Language Acquisition

Teaching a foreign language to a baby


Hi all!
I'm a linguist. I love different languages and I'm very interested in the way babies acquire the language.
I'm planing to have a baby and I wonder if it is a good idea to teach my baby English from birth.
My native language is Russian and I live in Russia. My English is far from being perfect, though I've been learning it for years, I still make grammar, lexical and other mistakes. My pronunciation is not perfect either, though it is better than the pronunciation of some English teachers.
Do you think it's a good idea to speak English with my baby? I'll not be able to speak English all the time, but I can devote several hours a day to it.
As far as I know babies learn the language from their mothers, but I guess that it's also very important to hear other people talking. I don't have English speaking friends, so I'll be the only person who speaks English with the baby.
I wonder if English can make it more difficult for the baby to acquire its native language and provoke a slight developmental delay.

In general, more practice and exposure is better. It seems very unlikely to me that your imperfect English would have a negative effect on a child. It is possible that if the child only has your input they would only learn to speak English as well as you do, or possibly that over time they would not really learn English if they don't speak it with others and you don't use it very often, but I don't think it would actually make learning English more difficult.

There can be a slight developmental delay when children are learning multiple languages, but that doesn't mean there is any real problem, just that it might take a little time for them to understand fully that there are two or more distinct languages and then to start using them in different contexts. Overall multilingualism has been shown to have cognitive benefits into adulthood, even if they might be a few months or a year behind when they first start school, simply because they've started learning two things. But I don't think it's always even noticeable.

The short answer is that any time/exposure/input is good. More is better.

Thank you for your response! It is really helpful.
I will try to make an ample use of authentic materials like nursery rhymes,  movies, fairytales, audiobooks etc. To give the baby the opportunity to listen to native speakers of English.
I mostly worry about pronunciation mistakes as they are more difficult to get rid of than grammar and other ones.
I hope I can help the child love English, not to treat it as a boring school subject.

Listening to English music or watching English tv and movies could help, as well as eventually talking with native speakers. But it is very unlikely that your pronunciation will be harmful.


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