Dear Tali,

Thanks for the opportunity to ask questions. I am Brazilian, my husband and son are both English. I used to speak both English and Portuguese with my son until he was diagnosed with autism at age 3 and we started running a Son-Rise Program. It was advised we chose one language to make it easier for him. I chose English because my husband can’t speak Portuguese and we live in England. My son is really excited about Portuguese but shows no excitement about speaking English at all- he almost never follows requests to say words in English. We are really torn here on what to do.  Should we go with his interest? What about his Dad and the other volunteers who don’t speak Portuguese?  What about living in England anyway?

-Simone, Son-Rise Mom, England

Dear Simone,

This is an excellent question and one that I get quite a bit, especially since I am living and working in Israel with families who speak a variety of languages.  My answer to this question is to go with the English. The only reason why you might consider using Portuguese is if you were planning on moving back to Brazil in the near future. However, as you said, you want to use a language that will make it easiest for you to find volunteers that can work with him in language development (English), a language that will help him integrate into the society around him as successfully as possible (English) and a language in which he can communicate to all his family members (English).

Having said that, I encourage you to try to understand what he finds motivating about Portuguese and try transferring it to English.  For example, maybe the cadence/rhythm/gestures of Portuguese are motivating for him.  If so, you can try modeling English words or short sentences using the Portuguese cadence.  He may be more motivated to pick it up that way.  Once he has a stronger hold on English you can then begin to phase out the Portuguese cadence so it sounds more natural.  You can try putting English words to the tune of Portuguese songs that he loves as well.  And of course, whenever you want to express yourself to him (how much you love him), feel free to use your native tongue.

By the way, did you know that our book ‘Play to Grow’ has been translated into Portuguese?!  If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself or your team members, contact Alastair Thompson

Best of luck in inspiring love for the English language!

-Tali Field Berman, certified Son-Rise Program Teacher