I'm not a native English speaker so my grammar isn't perfect. I make some of mistakes especially when I'm speaking fast. I would like my child to have the cognitive advantage that comes from being bilingual so her father and I decided we would speak different languages to our child - I would speak in English, while he speaks in our mother tongue (an indian language which has a completely different grammatical structure to English). If I'm using incorrect grammar, will my daughter also learn incorrect English? Or will her brain automatically fix the mistakes as she is in the critical period of language development?

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    Will she have a dozen other native speakers of English she'll hear and speak to?
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 18, 2016 at 12:01
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is probably better placed at the parenting stack exchange. Jan 18, 2016 at 12:58
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    I disagree. Language acquisition research bears directly on this question, as I'll illustrate in my answer below. Jan 18, 2016 at 17:06

2 Answers 2


This depends. Your child can only learn what she gets from the input. So, if you consistently say 'goed' instead of 'went' or drop the third person singular endings on verbs ('she run'), that's what your daughter will learn to say.

However, no input is perfect (even from native speakers), so if you make some 'errors', your daughter is likely to make the correct generalizations anyway. But there are aspects of English usage/grammar - e.g. tenses or articles - where non-native input may result in acquiring non-standard usage patterns.

Of course, you are also unlikely to limit her input to just your speech. From very early on (18 months or so), it would make sense to start showing her English-language videos for children, so she should get sufficient input there, even if she's not exposed to other speakers in person.

But you should also be aware that this approach is not always successful. See this recent blog post looking at research on the topic: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-bilingual/201504/one-person-one-language-and-bilingual-children.

  • Some good stuff here that I neglected to mention in my post. However, I think we should mention that there's a lot of evidence that language-learning videos are not very effective. Here's a blog post that nicely summarizes this research, and has references. parentingscience.com/… Jan 18, 2016 at 23:21
  • @Russell: that's interesting. I wonder how that squares with the apparent phenomenon of many people learning some English as a second language from English media. Jan 19, 2016 at 5:30
  • @sumelic, Well, the research isn't saying it's not possible, just that it's generally not as effective as interaction with a real person. Also, a lot of that literature looks at little kids, not older children or adults. I have a feeling we old farts are indeed better at learning from TV. Jan 19, 2016 at 6:04
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    @RussellRichie I'm aware of Kuhl's research but it's only been done on attentional cues with infants (under 12 months old), so it's not at all clear what it means for older children who have already developed strategies for dealing with information on screen. That's why I recommended 18 months and older. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that lots of children learn language from watching videos in it. As well as lots of adults. It's all valuable input. It just won't work for a 6-month old. Critique of Kuhl's work: metaphorhacker.net/2011/03/…. Jan 19, 2016 at 7:07
  • @DominikLukes, it's not just Kuhl's work, and not just been done with infants. The skype study mentioned in that blog post came out of Kathy Hirsh-Pasek's lab (full disclosure: I worked on that study), and was done with 24-30 month olds. Jan 21, 2016 at 18:15

Fortunately for your family, kids will typically 'fix' inconsistent language input of their elders! The most famous case of this is a Deaf child named Simon, who almost exclusively learned ASL from his parents who were late learners of ASL themselves, and hence didn't quite have native command of the language. While his parents inconsistently used ASL morphology, Simon regularized this input, which is to say he correctly used the ASL morphology at levels equal to children exposed to native signers.


  • Although children (and language learners in general) will "fix inconsistencies" this does not mean that they arrive at the same resolution as a native speaker would. A single case study (done by non-linguists, BTW) does not prove much. Jan 21, 2016 at 8:47
  • Of course it's not the case that children will surmount just about any impoverished input. But it's not just this single case study. There's other evidence that children 'improve' their input. Nicaraguan Sign Language has become richer over time largely through children's innovations (see Ann Senghas work). There's experimental evidence by the Newport group (who studied Simon) that children regularize inconsistent input. I think the fact that some of this work is done by non-linguists is irrelevant -- the authors are trained in linguistics, and the work is linguistically informed. Jan 21, 2016 at 16:44
  • The process of improvement you describe is similar to the process of creolisation. However, an English-based Creole is still different from native speaker's English. Jan 21, 2016 at 16:53

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