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About This Blog

This blog is for anyone interested in raising their children in a foreign language--meaning a language which neither of the parents speak natively.
We have used the approach where both parents speak the target foreign language (in our case, German) to the children. Neither of us is a native German speaker, yet we have spoken German in our home for the past 20 years and have 8 German speaking children. In this blog, we hope to share our successes, our lessons learned and a few of the insights that we've gained along the way.

OPOL or ML@H

So, once the decision had been made to raise our children bilingually, we had to decide exactly how we were going to do it. There are two basic theories or methods when it comes to raising bilingual children.

In a bi-cultural family, where each parent speaks a different native language, the OPOL or One Person, One Language is, by far, the most popular choice, because each parent just speaks his/her own native language to the child and the child is exposed to both languages. In our minds, the ML@H, or Minority Language at Home seemed to make more sense. I'll discuss the reasons why we chose ML@H in later post, but in the meantime, here is a good description of both methods from Omniglot.com.
  1. One Person, One Language (OPOL) is the most common family language system in use. For instance, Kees speaks his native Dutch, while his wife speaks English. Each parent or caregiver consistently speaks only one language to the child. Sometimes OPOL requires extra "language supplements," such as playgroups, visits from family, a trip to the country, or a native speaking nanny or au-pair. It helps tremendously for your child to hear that his parent isn't the only one who speaks this language. Kids are savvy little creatures who are quite capable of reasoning that they don't really need to know a language if it is only spoken by one other person.
  2. A second option, slightly less common but tremendously successful is Minority Language at Home (ML@H). It simply means that everyone speaks the minority language at home, even if this language is not the native language of both parents. It is probably the most reliable method for raising truly native speaking children since it ensures consistent interaction from birth until the child leaves home. However, the ML@H parent has to be able to quell doubts and stay the course unwaveringly. When your child isn't speaking the community language on the same level as his or her monolingual peers (generally the ML@H child doesn't reach parity with them until around 5 years of age), it's difficult not to worry. The McColloughs in Germany remember "We were watching other children jabbering away in complete German sentences, while Patrick seemed incapable of getting out two or three connected words." Within months after starting preschool, however, he had transformed completely. "Now he can't stop talking in either language." Even when you know that your child is going to catch up, it can be daunting to watch him struggle. Some parents fear that he will never learn the primary language, even though this really only occurs when children are isolated from the primary language within a minority speaking community.
Ager, Simon: Citing Sources: [http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/bilingualkids4.htm]: para. 3-4: [Jan10, 2014]

There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding on which method to implement in your family. One of these factors is whether or not both parents can speak the target language and another is the family's country of residence. Rather than explore all the factors, I will try to explain the reasons why we felt that the ML@H method would be better choice for us. (stay tuned for the next post)


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