What Do Small Children, Pets & The English Language Have In Common?

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

Small children, pets and the English language

Improve Spoken English

I’ve been speaking in English for the biggest part of my life, and by now I’ve achieved quite a comfortable level of fluency.

I speak in English with my colleagues and customers at work.

I speak with lots of other people in English as well – starting from sales-assistants in shops and ending with support staff in various companies.

I also speak in English when engaged in routine activities – such as counting, for example.

When I’m on my own, I also try to speak in English a lot so that my fluency is always maintained at a high enough level.

Whenever I’m encountering a small English speaking child or a pet belonging to an English speaking owner, however, I feel a natural need to speak with them in my native Latvian!

Sure enough, I wouldn’t start speaking with a four year old Irish child (I live in Ireland which is an English speaking country) – I’d just do it in English.

Yet, for some reason or another it wouldn’t come 100% naturally to me; I’d still have the feeling that I’m supposed to speak with the child in Latvian.

Isn’t that weird?

I mean – how come that after all these years living in an English speaking country and speaking in English ALL THE TIME, I’m still having moments when I have to suppress the need to speak in my native language?

After all – I can even think in English, so why speaking with small children (please bear in mind only children up to the age of 4 or 5 years make me feel that way) and pets would be any different?

I’ve been doing some thinking on that, and if you keep reading this article you’ll find out all the theories I’ve come up with!

Maybe It’s Because I’m NOT 100% Bilingual…

English is actually my third language after Russian – which I learned in my early childhood – but despite that I’ve never achieved 100% fluency in any of them… And I know for a fact I never will! Why? It’s simple enough – you can become a TRULY MULTILINGUAL PERSON if you learn the second or the third language in your family OR being constantly in close contact with native speakers from a very early age.

It wasn’t the case in my life; my Russian was always falling short of that of my friends because I didn’t use the language that much in real life and I didn’t achieve English fluency up until a few years ago – prior to that it had always been limited to my grammar textbooks and other kinds of written material.

Basically my guess is that maybe the language that’s wired the deepest in my brain – my native Latvian – makes me want to revert to it on certain occasions?

But how would you explain the fact that sometimes I catch myself thinking in English when going about my daily business? Why is my brain capable of switching over to English automatically YET I would still experience the need to speak in Latvian when meeting small children and animals such as dogs or cats?

Maybe It’s Because I’ve Very LIMITED EXPERIENCE Dealing With English Speaking Children & Pets?

When I still lived in my native country more than eleven years ago, quite obviously there weren’t any situations when I would meet a native English speaking person who’d know me and then I’d have to acknowledge their child’s presence as well.

As you can imagine, meeting a dog or any other house or farm animal who would have been constantly exposed to the English language was even less likely back then!

The moment I moved to Ireland, such occurrences became a reality, but it’s still quite a rare occasion.

I’ve met my daughters’ classmates when they were very young, I’ve attended a few Irish parties where there were babies and toddlers present, but it hasn’t been happening OFTEN ENOUGH for me to get used to speaking to the little ones in English. Truth be told, you actually have to know some “baby talk” and ways of putting things in a VERY SIMPLE way when speaking with toddlers, and it’s just not something I’d be very familiar with!

Same goes with animals.

My boss has a dog I meet almost every day at the company door, and obviously he’s been around English speakers all his life. Yet whenever I meet him, I address him in Latvian.

My daughters attend horse riding lessons during the weekend, yet whenever I talk to the horses, I do it in Latvian.

Is it all down to the fact it’s happening only every once in a while as opposed to on a constant basis?

But then again, I’m around my boss’s dog EVERY DAY, I meet horses EVERY WEEKEND, so…

Maybe It’s Just That I Haven’t Made Enough EFFORT To Speak With Them In English?

When I come to think of it, I haven’t made any REAL effort to learn “baby talk” and “animal” speech.

I realized a good few years ago that as far as spoken English is concerned, it’s all about the amount of conscious practice that’s going to determine one’s success when talking about this or that particular thing  in English.

I currently work in a knitwear factory, so I was FORCED to learn industry related terms and language; saying the same things over and over again has made them my second nature and I can say the following:

“This order has been booked in for cresting”


“Has O’Dwyer’s order been entered yet?”

pretty much automatically. It’s all about repetition and memorization, and the very same principle applies on every aspect of my life.

If I want to make sure I can talk about certain topics and communicate with certain people, I have to learn key-phrases and related language thus enabling me to speak AUTOMATICALLY WITHOUT MUCH THINKING.

Now, I have to answer the following question with all honesty:

“Have I ever made REAL effort to learn a few baby-talk phrases? Have I ever REALLY tried to find out how to speak to an animal in English?”


Well, there you go… That’s the answer to the question, and it explains everything – why I have the urge to speak with toddlers and dogs in Latvian, and why I’m unable to do it in English comfortably.

It’s all because I haven’t made any conscious effort, and the same goes with every single aspect of our lives, my friend!

You may constantly find yourself in situations when you can’t speak comfortably enough with your work colleagues at a breakfast table, and you may think your English isn’t good enough while in reality the answer is much simpler – you’ve just got to learn 15 – 20 most commonly used phrases at the breakfast table and the conversation will literally take care of itself!

You may wonder why you can’t speak fluently with native English speakers at your local gym while at the same time you simply haven’t learned the most commonly used gym phrases. Your English might be good enough when providing technical support in your job, for example, but in gym terms your language isn’t up to scratch. Yet you still keep thinking that it’s your overall English level that sucks which is totally untrue – you simply have to train your mouth to speak in a particular situation!

Bottom line:

If situations with toddlers and animals bother me too much, I just have to learn the related lingo. If not – I just have to stop thinking about it too much and accept the way things are! 😀


P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!


English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • Your two cents are worth at least a couple of dollars because you’re spot on with everything you’re saying! It’s all down to familiarity – it’s a term I would have gladly used in my article myself! 😉

  • Francisco Javier

    I think it all comes down to familiarity. You haven’t had much practice using the language relevant to particular situations, so your brain naturally switches back to what it knows best.

    A five-year-old child would be at a loss if you started a conversation with him about the economy or politics, despite being a native English speaker.

    As the Americans say, just my two cents.