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Can I teach my child a foreign language if I don’t know one myself?
Mary Lowell
Don’t worry about where she gets it, Mary. Just enjoy it—and nourish it. But don’t try to push it too much. With such a bright daughter, you will be tempted to do that. Since you do not know any languages other than English—something that is true for most of us—you won’t be able to help her learn other languages directly. But you can perhaps expose her to school settings in which she can learn another one. Many high-quality programs for 3- and 4-year-old children offer at least a brief exposure to a second language, most typically Spanish. It sounds as though your daughter has already learned a new language the best way possible—being around people who speak it.

May I suggest that the most important language you want to help her learn now is English. I’m not putting down other languages, as I think that all American children should be as competent in more than one language as European and Canadian children are. What I mean is that mastery of one’s major language is the most important learning task of the first five years of life. That is where literacy begins and where much of your daughter’s development is concentrated just now. It is what she needs to get ready to begin formal reading in a year or so. Talk to her—and listen to what she says in turn. Read to her daily, and make trips to the library a part of your weekly routine.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education