I find that when I’m speak­ing to an Eng­lish per­son or writ­ing, I hope still in my own lan­guage, I feel much more flu­ent. Yet only recent­ly have I come to think of Eng­lish as my native lan­guage. It is inter­est­ing to note that the major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans wouldn’t be aware that I was speak­ing in their lan­guage and not my own when I was talk­ing to them. When I first came to this coun­try I know peo­ple only lis­tened to my accent and did­n’t under­stand a word I was saying!

I spend lots of time think­ing before I par­tic­i­pate in an Amer­i­can con­ver­sa­tion, choos­ing more cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate words to explain what I’m think­ing to be sure I’m under­stood. I guess that’s my life every day since I only know one or two oth­er Eng­lish people!

So just imag­ine how a 2 year-old feels, who has only ever heard Span­ish (or Chi­nese or Kore­an — I know of two chil­dren adopt­ed from those coun­tries and put into care with­in 6 months of their arrival here) feels when he is thrust into an Eng­lish-only pre-school for the first time.

We all strug­gle, at every age; becom­ing emo­tion­al and resent­ful, feel angry, iso­lat­ed and alone. I at least chose to emi­grate, albeit as a very naive 26 year-old who knew noth­ing about the cul­tur­al mores of the per­son she mar­ried or America.

Young chil­dren who are put into for­eign speak­ing care sit­u­a­tions because their par­ents find it con­ve­nient or are under the mis­ap­pre­hen­sion that it’s good for them to be immersed in an all-Eng­lish-speak­ing envi­ron­ment are plac­ing their chil­dren at risk for sev­er­al devel­op­men­tal delays, start­ing with their com­mand of the spo­ken lan­guage and not for­get­ting the cor­rup­tion of their emotions.

I expe­ri­ence the same emo­tions near­ly every day despite liv­ing in Amer­i­ca for over 38 years. 

Think about how lit­tle ones must feel and how it affects their behaviour.