Although I’m still six or seven weeks away from being an official expat mamma, the stress, worries and insecurities have crept in and in addition to over-thinking diaper brands, bottle warmers and car seats, I’m perhaps even more concerned about our baby’s eventual bilingualism.
Like many modern bi-cultural families, my husband and I want to teach our children both English and Italian. We plan to implement the OPOL, or One Parent, One Language rule, which means I’ll speak English with our child 100% of the time while my husband speaks Italian.
Sounds simple, right?
Well the over-anxious, analyzing perfectionist in me is already thinking about the future. While the baby is, well, a baby, it is easy to speak one language to him and for us to communicate with each other using whichever language we prefer. However, what do we do when we start communicating together … as a family, sitting around the dining table, watching TV, talking politics or rocket science (because certainly he’ll be the next child genius to take the science world by storm …). What happens then?
Sure, we can plan to speak the minority language at home, but at some point the language he studies at school will take over and the other language will become his second language. I’ve seen it happen with my expat friends and heard tales of bilingual children who can’t cut it in a university in their second-language country.
I know I’m years away from that dilemma, but the topic and surrounding debate are interesting. One of my favorite blogs on the subject of rearing bilingual children is The Globetrotter Parent. While she doesn’t post as often as I’d like (I did say it was one of my favorites … daily would be good for me!) her posts are always well-researched and documented.
Other things I’ve been reading include:
Bringing Up Baby Bilingual, written by an American ex-French teacher who is teaching her children (and niece and nephew) French.
Raising Bilingual Children, written by a Venezuelan lawyer living in Germany, who is teaching her children Spanish, German and English.
Sue Scheff, particularly this article on 100 Tips, Tools and Tricks to Raising Bilingual Children.
An article in the Orland Sentinel about continuing the language immersion once they are “out in the real world.”
The FAQs at Linguistlist.org, with answers to questions about the OPOL method, imperfect accents, poor pronunciation and a Q&A that dispels the myth that multiple languages slow speech development.
I know there are a million things to think of-and worry about-as a parent and that with time, our child’s language skills will come. But even before we’re officially a mother or papà, we worry we’re going to mess up. I guess that’s just part of this new experience called parenthood.
Are you a parent to a bilingual child or do you plan to teach your children more than one language? What process did you / do you plan to use?
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