Berkeley Parents Network >
I am due in July and investigating child care options for when I
return to work, in September or so. I found a family day care
provider about 2 blocks from my office in SF -- SO convenient.
The provider seems great, the kids seem happy, it would be great
to stop by during the days for breastfeeding visits, etc....
BUT... her English isn't fantastic (even I have trouble
understanding her sometimes) and the other languages she speaks
(Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai) aren't ones I know myself or can
reinforce at home. (I speak some Spanish.) Most of the other kids
in the day care are Asian. This lady seems great but I worry
about my child's English language development and I am not sure
how we would ''fit in'' as a Caucasian Hispanic-Origin family. I
have so many thoughts on this and would love input from anyone
who has experience or advice. Thanks in advance.
We have our son (now 2.5) in a daycare in which the caregivers speak
other languages better than English (Spanish and Chinese), and it hasn't
hurt my son's ability in English at all - I think he's got great English
language skills. He learns mostly from his parents, as I think most
kids will. And as a bonus, last week he surprised me by counting to 10
in Spanish, perfectly, with great pronunciation - and I know he learned
it from daycare.
DO IT! As a daycare provider for over 10 years, I have seen many, many
children and teachers of different ethnicities working together. It is
amazing and gratifying at how well a child can understand an adult with
an accent (WAY better than adults). And the benefit of your child
learning a third culture/language is beyond beneficial: traditions,
foods, and even the language! Your infant will know no difference when
growing up with this childcare provider, and he'll be home enough with
you, family and friends (and eventually in preschool and elementary
school) that his English development will be just fine. My opinion is
that your child has an enriching and stimulating oppurtunity in store
for him and should not miss it! GREAT LUCK!
It sounds like your future baby will have a great opportunity to easily
become trilingual in probably the 3 most common languages in the Bay
Area! I would encourage the day care provider to speak her native
language to your baby while you and anyone else you live with do the
same, in your respective native languages.
How your baby will ''fit in'' depends on how you present the situation
to him. If you, or the day care provider, treat him as ''different''
than the babies will pick up on that and treat him differently, and your
baby will feel ''different.'' If you all just treat the situation as
''normal'', then it will be.
I changed daycare last year because I couldn't communicate with the
Chinese-speaking caregivers of my previous center. It drove me crazy
trying to figure out if my daughter drank all her milk, or played with
the other kids or anything about her personality. Of course, they wrote
all the basics down on the chart, but I wanted more. Having switched I
can now say that I miss some things about the first daycare. It was
much smaller, which I think is better. I would take that into
Also, my daughter was in her first daycare from 10 months to 14 months
of age. Not really a stage that needs anything more than some attention
and a safe environment, not structured learning yet. I was also
concerned that they weren't reading to her in English because they
couldn't. This was another factor in my decision. On the whole, I'm
glad I switched.
This isn't really the same situation, but I thought I'd share my
thoughts. My non-English speaking mother watched my daughter for the
first year. My Chinese is not that good, enough to communicate with my
mom, but with a really limited vocabulary.
My daughter had no problems with two different languages being spoken to
her - we only spoke English to her as my husband is Caucasian. And she
has always been very verbal and articulate for her age.
My sister-in-law situation's is more similiar - she has a Hispanic nanny
for her kids whose English isn't that good, but who has watched her kids
since they were babies (oldest is now 11, youngest is 8). Her kids love
their nanny, and had no problems at all with their English development.
I wouldn't be concerned at all about your child's language development.
The question in my mind is whether her difficulty with English would
hinder your communication with her, because it's pretty important that
the two of you can communicate about what your child is experiencing and
any issues or concerns that may come up. Good luck!
I had to respond because growing up bilingual, I can say that learning a
language other than English from the start was not a detriment. In
fact, I'm pretty sure the best time for children to pick up languages is
when they're very young. Our nanny speaks Mien and Thai and neither our
son's half Asian/half Caucasian father nor I
(Spanish) speak those languages, but we welcome the fact that our 16
month old boy can/will understand them. He also signs very well with
us, so I don't see that learning different languages is negatively
affecting him. I don't think it matters that neither you nor your
husband speak the languages either. It sounds more like you don't want
your baby to learn those specific languages, but I could be wrong. If I
were you, my main concern would be whether your care provider perfectly
understands your concerns and can follow your directions and can
communicate well with you, not so much that she speaks Mandarin to your
baby. As for being a Caucasian baby amongst mostly Asian babies, well I
just have to say we are in California, the Bay Area, and I didn't even
think these issues were raised anymore. A good care provider will treat
all babies the same, whether or not they are Asian or Caucasian or
no need to worry
I'm from an English speaking family, and I went to a Chinese speaking
day care, from 1.5yrs-3yrs. old, and I'm fine!
Unfortunately, I forgot all the Mandarin that I spoke then, that's the
only downside. But, I do speak several other languages now, so who
knows, maybe that early language exposure did something good for my
Learning more than one language is great for kids. They can handle
multiple languages with ease. My parents tell me that I had no problems
understanding my Mandarin speaking day care provider, and I do remember
If anything, your child might bring home a few new words. My 2.5 yr old
son is bilingual, and while he mixes up the two languages right now,
he'll have it all straightened out one day, I'm not worried at all.
Good luck with your decision. Children also figure out at a pretty early
age who speaks what, so it's unlikely that he'll speak Chinese/Thai with
other English speakers.
Language lover mom :)
When my son was two-four years old, we had him in a mostly
Spanish-speaking daycare situation. I hoped that he would develop some
skills in Spanish at that time, even though my Spanish is pretty
rudimentary and I would prefer ultimately that he learn one of the other
two European languages I use in my work life. But guess what? He
didn't want to learn ANY foreign language. He has a passive
understanding of Spanish (that has faded over time), but always refused
to use the Spanish words he knew. He was focused on English. This is
just to say that in my limited experience, kids decide when to integrate
another language into their repertoire, and your son may not have any
interest in picking up the languages used in the daycare.
BUT if he does, it is unlikely to interfere with his learning either
Spanish or English. Kids can (when they want to) expand into a number
of languages, and some languages interfere more than others -- those
that are closer to English (or Spanish) are more likely to do so. Asian
languages are less likely to ''interfere.'' So I think your fears
should be allayed.
language person with monolingual kid
I would be grateful for any advice or suggestions regarding the
benefits and disadvantages of caregivers speaking in their native
tongue to children in their care. We have a newborn baby, and
would like to have our nanny speak only in her native language.
The nanny would be spending approximately 50 hours a week alone
with our child. Neither my husband nor I are conversant in the
nanny's language, but think it would be valuable to expose the
baby to different sounds, as well as offering her the possibility of
becoming bilingual. However, we wonder: are there any potential
problems in doing so? For example, might this limit our child's
ability to communicate in English with us?
I think it's great to get a caregiver to speak to your child only in her
language. While it's possible that it could delay your child's ability to
speak in either language (and some of that seems to depend on the
individual child's innate language abilities), my observation is that over
the longer term the child will pick up both languages and have richer
cognitive and verbal abilities because of the early challenge.
Our child had an exclusively Mandarin-speaking caregiver from ~4 months
through 20 months. At that point, he was speaking very little, but clearly
could comprehend both languages. When "Ayi" had to move away, his English
language skills zoomed ahead, and he has been considered verbally
precocious ever since (but does not speak Mandarin).
I can't say what would've happened if Ayi had stayed longer, but I believe
he would have begun speaking both languages fluently within a year.
With a non-English-speaking caregiver, the alternative is worse: My
sister's children have a Vietnamese-speaking caregiver who refuses to speak
Vietnamese to them -- and her English is really quite bad! Both kids had a
really difficult time learning to shape their words properly.
My provider speaks Spanish, and although I have some proficiency, I don't
have enough, clearly, because on several occasions there have been big mixups
based on what she thought I said. There are several points I'd make in
thinking about how we have navigated this situation so far. (we love this
woman and have nothing but respect and admiration for how well she cares for
1. a sense of humor helps.
2. Our caregiver has teenaged children who translate for us now when it is
important and/or complicated. ("If she has a fever I won't ask you to come
except on Tuesdays but not on this Tuesday")
3. Whenever there is a schedule change I give her a calendar in writing to
take home. When I see her next she makes comments indicating she has clearly
looked it over and digested it.
Can't think of any more right now -- good luck -- I know it can be
Has anyone had experience with kids learning another language
from a nanny? Our daughter is 9 months old, and we have a
wonderful Mien speaking nanny (from Laos) with whom she spends
about 20 hours a week. Now that our daughter is starting to
speak, we are wondering about the effect of spending so much
time with someone whose grasp of English is poor and whose
native language we do not believe is the most practical to
learn. Ideally, we would like her to grow up speaking Spanish.
Her father is almost fluent, and I am starting to learn. Have
people found that their kids actually pick up Spanish from their
nannies? Does anyone have a sense that 20 hours a week is enough
time to be relevant? We like our present nanny and worry that it
is too esoteric to let her go in order to find a Spanish
speaker. On the other hand, this might be a golden opportunity
for our daughter to absorb a language when her mind is most open
to it. Any advice?
Our daughter had a Spanish-speaking nanny for 20 hours a week from
the age of 4 months to 2.9 years. This nanny could speak no
English. My daughter learned to comprehend Spanish very well and
could speak a few words, but once she really got interested in
language (at around 2 years) she refused to speak Spanish. This
caused so much difficulty (the nanny was confused and embarrassed
and my daughter was extremely frustrated) that we had to find
another care provider.
Yes they can!
We are two families who have shared a Spanish-speaking nanny
since the babies were a few months old. The other family speaks a
little Spanish, we speak none. The nanny speaks enough English
for the grownups to communicate with her, but we wanted her to
speak Spanish to the babies because we wanted her to talk to them
a lot, and we knew she'd talk a lot more if she could talk in
Spanish. Also I think it helps her feel closer to him since she
is talking in a language she is comfortable with. It has worked
out great. Now they are 15 months old.
Mine is with the nanny 4 days a week, and theirs just 2 days,
plus theirs isn't talking much yet in any language, so I will
give a report on mine only! He has 10 or 20 words in his
vocabulary and they are mostly Spanish: water, park, ball, cat,
dog, bottle, cow, things like that. (We took him to the beach a
couple of weeks ago and he was shouting ''agua!'' with the right
sort of accent!) Most days the nanny has a new
word to tell us about that he has said (and sometimes she has to
tell us what it means!) He understands simple commands in both
Spanish and English, such as ''open your mouth'' and ''come here'',
and says a few English words like ''cracker'' and ''book''. A lot of
words are the same - mama, papa, etc. I'm really happy with the
way it's worked out. I don't expect him to be truly bilingual,
since his nanny is the only one in his life who speaks Spanish,
but I think even this little bit of a second language early on is
bound to be beneficial.
My son learned some Spanish from his nanny - -he had her from
the time he was a year old to the time he was almost two, and
during that time he understood her Spanish perfectly and was
able to express himself somewhat in Spanish. (I should say that
he is a very verbal kid, who was an early talker and has an
extraordinary vocabulary for someone his age.) So yes, I think
it's possible. But here are the caveats, and there are several.
First of all, he would never speak Spanish with anyone who
wasn't his nanny, not me, not my husband, not our Spanish-
speaking housecleaner, no one. It was his special nanny
language. And when she quit, unexpectedly, just before his
second birthday, his Spanish went with her. (He ended up going
to preschool rather than staying with a nanny, and there's
limited Spanish at his preschool.) He no longer seems to
understand it, although he does have an affinity for books with
Mexican themes and Spanish words in them. So I think the
usefulness of learning a language from a nanny is limited unless
you speak Spanish at home, or have some plans for how to keep it
going after the nanny relationship ends. But there's one more
thing that seems important about this -- and this relates to
another post in this newsletter about a nanny who doesn't do
housework -- the relationship your child has with a nanny is
important. Ours ended abruptly, and our son did fine, but I
would have kept it going if I could because the love affair
between them was a special thing. I don't think it's worth
firing a nanny for something that doesn't have to do with the
quality of the care your child receives. Enrichment is great,
but the ability to form and keep relationships is paramount.
Our daughter has had a spanish-speaking nanny since she was 6
months old, and my husband is almost fluent. I know almost
nothing. My husband reports that my daughter's comprehension of
Spanish is almost as good as her English. She definitely can
speak in Spanish as well, but there is a differential and I
suspect that it will grow as her English becomes more and more
sophisticated. My sense is that she won't retain the language
skills unless we continue to develop them as extensively even
after her nanny departs, which may be difficult. That said, I
would vote for a continuous, loving nanny over spanish-language
skills any day. My daughter is now 2.5, and I am much more
worried about the loss of individualized and loving attention
than about loss of bilingualism when she goes to preschool.
Yes, absolutely your child can learn Spanish from his/her nanny.
My daughter was exposed to Spanish as a toddler and, as a nine
year old, understands about 50% of the Spanish she hears spoken
in the house whether her father and I are talking (we are fluent
non-native speakers), or whether her two year old brother's
Tu/Thu sitter is talking to her or her brother. My two, almost
three year old, son seems to understand about 85% of the Spanish
that is spoken to him. He has, in the past, less so, now,
integrated Spanish words into his English (he favors ''mano'' over
''hand,'' ''agua'' over ''water,'' for example), and used to employ the
Spanish convention of putting the adjective after the noun. He
speaks fine English now, although his ''h'' and ''w'' were a little
''delayed'' because Spanish doesn't employ the sound of those two
letters. His expressive (spoken) Spanish is not what his
receptive Spanish is. Additionally, the head of language at
Children's, who is a friend of ours, cautioned us that in
embarking on bi-lingual exposure to make sure that our son was
not exposed to a foreign language more than 50% of the time. She
said that with boys, particularly, the language centers of the
brain are less developed and smaller, and that they will default
to less speaking, and thereby less practicing of certain English
language sounds/letters when they are bombarded by too much of
the non-parental language. I hope this helps.
My kids had a Spanish-speaking nanny for a year beginning
when they were 2 years old, and 3 months old. They
definitely understood and learned the language from her.
I had a Spanish speaking nanny for two and a half years and when
she moved out of the area, I hired as her replacement a nanny
who speaks Mien (and whose English is not nearly as clear as the
first nanny's was). My child never learned any Spanish with
nanny #1, but within a month or two of being under the care of
the Mien nanny has used Mien words. (It is really funny to hear
how well he can get the intonation, too! much better than I
could do). (Both nannies were full-time, by the way - about 45-
50 hours per week) Frankly, I'm thrilled that he is learning any
language other than English -- for me, the main point is the
brain development that comes with learning a second language,
any language. In my case, I loved my first nanny, and I love my
second nanny - but I have definitely seen that each has her own
strengths and weaknesses. If you like the nanny otherwise, I
personally wouldn't change for that reason alone -- it isn't
like a car where you can trade in one model to get a particular
feature in a new model. Here you might get the CD player but
lose the floormats, if you'll pardon the rather crass analogy.
You have a nanny that you like and trust and are considering
letting her go because you wonder if it would be better to have
a Spanish speaking nanny so that your child can learn Spanish,
at 20 hours a week?! I would consider myself fortunate and
stick with someone with whom I trusted my child and consider
myself (and my child) fortunate to learn any amount of another
Exposure to any second language, however esoteric, at an early
age will benefit your child making it easier to learn other
languages in the future. My daughter's nanny speaks only Spanish
and my daughter is now bilingual and understands as much Spanish
as English. She has been with this nanny for approx. 1 year,
since she was 10 months old, for 30-40 hours per week. Her prior
nanny was Portuguese speaking as is her father so she has been
exposed to languages other than English from birth. This would
have been an additional help to her in picking up the different
Language and affect are tightly connected. If a family encourages and
supports the relationship between their children and the children's
caregivers, learning a second language might come naturally. If
children feel that their parents value other people's cultures and
languages, they are more likely to be open to learning a second
We have a nanny share going where the nanny is Span/Eng bilingual
(Spanish is 1st language)...my child is 18 months and very verbal and
communicative...in the past we have always encouraged our nanny to
speak Spanish "if she wants to", but now I am thinking it might be a
good idea to only speak Spanish in order for my child to really learn
something...however, we are in a share with other families who may not
be interested (one family is Mandarin/Eng speaking)...is it "good
enough" for our nanny to speak in Spanish only part of the day or on
certain days or does learning a language at this age mean that Spanish
communication should come from her all the time. Anonymous please.
I am Mexican-American and I grew up in a biligual household where I
DID NOT learn to speak Spanish. My mother and grandmother spoke
fluent Spanish to each other, but spoke to me primarily in English.
Because I was not forced to think in Spanish, I did not learn it at
home. They always chose Spanish speaking caregivers for me and they
hoped that it would "rub off" on me.
I felt tremendous guilt about not learning Spanish until I got to
college. My instructors at UCLA explained that language cannot be
learned if you aren't forced to use it, and if you know that
communicating in a language that is easier for you is an option, you
probably won't learn the new language. I think your child can learn
fluent Spanish if spoken to in Spanish exclusively. Any other
scenario will leave your child speaking "Spanglish", like I did until
What is your purpose for having your nanny speak only Spanish to your
child? I am asking because I have seen other parents who speak fluent
English speak only their native language to their babies/toddlers and
then they have to enroll them into bilingual classes once they hit
school as the children themselves can not speak English. From an
education standpoint, don't you think it would be better for your
child to learn both languages at the same time instead of handicapping
him once he is in the school system? You didn't say if you spoke
Spanish only at home.
As far as the nanny share goes, I would not presume that the other
parents want Spanish only spoken as well. You should ask. They might
feel the same way you do and wish their children to learn their own
native language or they might want their children to learn English..
The only problem I have with any of this is it creates more of a
burden on the school districts when children are not taught English
from birth when they can be. I know some bilingual teachers and I have
heard how they feel about well-educated parents bringing non-English
speaking children to school. They have enough newly-arrived families
with students from non-English speaking households who really need to
be in these classes. To deliberately withhold English from a child
seems selfish. To compromise, teach both lauguages at the same time.
What damaged can be caused to a child if he/she learns more than one
Doctors have provided statistics that have favored both arguements. I think
it is up to the individual parent to decide what is best for their child and
not concern themselves with what is best for children in general. Every
child is different!
I, and 10 of my cousins, were raised primarily by our grandmother who only
spoke spanish. We went through school with no problem, and now we are all
professional adults. My son was also raised around my grandmother, and he
knew that when he wanted to say something to her he needed to do it in
Spanish and then he would switch over to English when talking to his friends
or father. He was doing this by age 2-3.
Children are like sponges....they are capable of learning many different
things. Let's not limit them because of our insecurities!
To the mom having nanny speak in Spanish, I personally think that
two languages during the toddler up to Kindergarten stage is a great
experience for children, and I've seen it work successfully a number of
times. My cousin's daughter was spoken to in Spanish only until she was
four. She is fluent in Spanish. Her parents started introducing
through books at age four, and she picked up a little English there.
she started English only pre-shcool about three months ago. When we
out to dinner together on Sunday, she talked to me in English THE ENTIRE
TIME, non-stop. She understood what I said, and I understood her
Every once in a while, I would ask her what the Spanish word for the
equivalent is, to see if she had the concept down, and she answered
hesitation. I've seen the same English, Spanish learning situation work
four other children. I've also seen the parent speak English, and the
speak Portuguese. That worked out just fine. I've also seen where Mom
speaks Italian, Dad speaks English-- and that worked fine, too. I am
pregnant, now, with a Cuban/American baby. We (Mom, Dad, and Abuela)
speak Spanish only to the baby until about age 3-4, the start a slow
addition of English. Brother will speak mostly English the whole time.
anticipate that our child will be bi-lingual by Kindergarten. I've seen
work over and over again. I'm pleased to think our child will be
tolerance and respect for many cultures and languages from and early
Good luck, and have faith in your little sponge!
Our caregivers have always spoken only Spanish to our
children because I wanted them to be bilingual. It's
worked out fine.
Don't worry, there won't be any problem with the children
picking up English! The hard part is keeping the Spanish,
because the children want to speak only English.
When I was young my parents (both immigrants) deliberately
spoke only English (instead of their native Spanish) to
me and I have always regretted not being able to speak
Spanish with a native accent.
We have many friends who raised their children bilingually
and even trilingually. There is never any problem picking
up the language of the country a child lives in. Now
that the children are adults, they are extremely grateful
to their parents for forcing them to speak the other
languages! Being fluent in another language, especially
Spanish, is a wonderful gift to give your child. Census
predictions say that by 2010 something like half of
California will be Spanish speaking, so think of how useful
it will be when your children are adults.
The only problem I've run into is the Berkeley school
district does not allow you to put two languages down
on the form when you enroll your child in kindergarten.
You are only allowed to say they speak one language.
I tried to talk to the school officials about this but
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