Dear Dr. Gupta,
My three-year-old daughter lives in Greece, is being brought up by a German nanny, speaks German perfect and German is her dominant language for the time being. She also speaks Greek and English but her accent is not very good in English as her teachers are Australian.
Should I seek a teacher with a British accent? In which language should she start reading and writing? At which age? She will definitely attend the Greek school since we do not have a foreign school in our city.
Wow! This is a fantastic bilingual success. I gather that the family are Greek.
First of all your last question, which seems to me to have an obvious answer. If she will definitely attend a Greek-medium school then certainly she will start to learn to read and write in Greek. However, a three-year-old has already learnt a lot about reading and writing. I assume that you are reading books to her in all three languages. She may already know that Greek uses a different alphabet from the other two, and may even be able to distinguish written German from written English. This is all part of learning to read and write. Most children are starting to write their name at the age of 3–do you show her it in Greek? She is already on the way to learning to read and write, and experiences in all three languages will help her, even though her formal learning will be in Greek.
As she gets older, it is likely that Greek will become her dominant language. If you change nannies, it would be nice to hire another German one so that her German does not disappear.
Your question “Should I seek a teacher with a British accent” is based on your extraordinary statement that “her accent is not very good in English as her teachers are Australian.” I am a woman of British origin, living in Australia, and writing for an American website. Your assumption that British accents are better than Australian accents is actually quite offensive. You have to understand that English is an international accent, spoken in many countries all over the world. There is no single ‘best’ accent of English: people speak with the accent of the place they come from, or grow up in, or want to be a part of. People’s accents also change over time as they find themselves in new situations.
I don’t know why you want your daughter to have a British accent. It seems a strange thing to want. Perhaps you were yourself taught English by someone who had the idea that only one accent of English was right. What is important is that your daughter is learning English happily and that she has kind and qualified teachers. Their nationality doesn’t matter. Even if they were British, you would have no control over which accent the teachers spoke. There are many accents of British English.
In addition, we pick up our accent from our peer group. If your daughter starts speaking English among a group of friends of her own age (which is something to want), they will develop a group accent. There is no way that you can control the accent a child picks up. And it really doesn’t matter. Part of being an English-speaker is learning how to cope with a range of accents. And we may need a range of accents as we grow up and have different life experiences.
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