Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Family Language / Community Language Method

A second, highly recommended way to encourage your family to become bilingual uses what are called the "Family Language" and "Community Language". This method also goes by other names such as "Minority Language at Home" (ML@H or MLaH), Foreign Home Pattern, etc.

Basically, when the parents are alone with the kid(s), they use the "family language" and when others are around, the "community language" is used. There are several variations on this (for example, using the family language only inside the house and the community language while out and about, etc)

Again with the "Pros" and "Concerns":

1. This method, like OPOL, is extremely common and encourages an active use of both languages.

2. It will allow the entire family to speak in both languages, using the environment as the driver. It is said to be one of the most consistent of the methods as the child hears and interacts with both parents in both languages from birth.

3. Again, I know that this works--from my very own family!:

My mother is from Latvia, but left when she was a small child. Her parents used this method with her and her sister and they still speak Latvian to this day (this is especially encouraging as Latvian is not the most common language and they were not able to visit their home country for over 40 years!)

4. This method relieves one of my concerns with OPOL in that we will not be alienating friends and family by speaking to our children in a language they cannot understand. It will also be easy to be consistent speaking with my husband as we will not need to "pick" a language (as in OPOL).


1. I am already seeing that the vocabulary varies depending on if we are at home or if we are in the park, at a restaurant, with friends, etc. I can only imagine that once the little guys start school their English vocabulary will have a different focus (notebooks, pop quiz, etc) than what they use with us and vice versa. How can we even this out? (note to self: once I learn that, I'll need to apply that to my life. There are still words/stories that are more automatic for me in one language or another!)

2. According to my reading, if you follow this method strictly, your child will lag behind during the first 6 months of school until the other language "kicks in". Will this give our children a disadvantage?

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