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I have some problems with one parent-one language--help me understand!

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
As I mention on another thread here, I have spoken to my dd, who is almost three, in a combination of English, Chinese and Spanish since birth.

I am a native English speaker so I speak vastly more English to her than the other two languages, but she has great understanding of the expressions and words I *do* use in each of the other languages (for example, she understands "nurse/breast" in Chinese; "be careful," "what are you doing," "What are you eating?" "Let's go," "what's the matter," "It's okay," etc. etc. etc. in both languages). Although her active use of either is almost nil.

Now I am partnered with a man from Spain and he is going to speak Spanish with dd and with our child-on-the-way. So I suddenly find myself in the sort of ideal one parent-one language scenario.

The trouble is that I have *always* enjoyed speaking with dd in other languages and enjoyed seeing her understanding develop. I study languages in school and this is really my passion (indeed, DP and I speak together in a mix of Spanish and English). I feel like I'm limiting myself by not letting myself speak with my children in SOME mixture of languages.

But I know many parents and professionals advise against this. Could anyone explain to me why my preferred approach may not be wise? Or, alternatively, is there anyone who understands my feelings and has success stories of NOT following one parent-one language?
post #2 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by La Sombra View Post
But I know many parents and professionals advise against this. Could anyone explain to me why my preferred approach may not be wise? Or, alternatively, is there anyone who understands my feelings and has success stories of NOT following one parent-one language?
I can think of a couple advantages to OPOL just from my own personal experience:

1) When both parents speak a mixture of the same two languages, then the children's facility with either is likely to be worse. Eg "Spanglish" - the kids pick up set phrases in each language and don't learn the corresponding ones in the other language. Also meshing languages with different grammars is messy and not a good learning model.

2) Mixing your languages allows the child to choose his preferred language in which to speak. In a majority/minority situation this is ALWAYS going to be the majority language. If the child doesn't regularly speak the minority language he will never learn to speak it well.


In your case, you mainly speak English to your kids and they live in an English-dominant area so their chances of picking up fluent English are 100%, whether you throw in some phrases in other languages or not.

The language to worry about is always the minority language. The more exposure to that the better. If you want your kids to learn Spanish you need your DP to be really consistent about speaking to them in Spanish and requiring that they answer back in Spanish also.

If he is consistent with that I don't think your mixing your languages will be much of a problem since the kids will have a good source of Spanish in your DP and their English source is guaranteed.

Of course if you move to Spain things would be reversed, and *then* I think it would be important for you not to mix other languages in with your English.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
THANK YOU, Mambera! This is exactly the sort of response I was hoping for. What you say is clear and makes perfect sense to me. I will keep all this very much in mind!!!!
post #4 of 5
As Mambera says, in your current situation, your kids are not not going to pick up English, so you don`t really have to worry about them getting English-only from you.

That said, you might consider organizing your use of other languages a little. For instnace, rather than mixing three languages throughout the day (if that is what you are doing now), you could decide that at the dinner table, when you are all together, you all speak in Spanish. Then, at snacktime or in the bath or wherever, so long as you pick a time/place, you speak in Chinese. That should help you model more complete conversations and make understanding what words belong to what language easier.

At out house, both dh and I use a mix of Japanese and English with dd and between ourselves and she does know the difference. Individual coversations are usually in one or the other, though, and I make a point of giving her English input throughout the day (describing what we see when we are out and about, what I am doing when I am cooking or cleaning, singing songs, playing with her dolls in English as well as talking with her).

OPOL is not the only way for kids to become fluent in more than one language, but I do think it may be the simplest, in that you then have lots of exposure to both languages built in. If it is not practical, though, or simply doesn`t fit your family, I think you just have to work at finding ways to incorporate language throughout the day and be sure you don`t let it slip.
post #5 of 5
Hi! I don't usually post over here, but I just wanted to share what we do: DP and I both speak spanish to our DS (2yrs), although we speak English to each other. His Spanish is slightly dominant right now, but overall we are very happy with his linguistic development. English is dominate outside the home, so we're not at all concerned about his English.
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