Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The OPOL method

One of the the most recommended methods for teaching your child to be bilingual is called "One Parent One Language", or OPOL for short. This method is exactly what it sounds to be: one parent interacts with their child solely in one language, and the other parent interacts in another. Consistency is key (uh-oh!).

Let's talk Pros and Cons:

1. It is one of the most common methods for intentionally teaching your child a second language from birth. It encourages an active knowledge of both languages.

2. It will allow my husband and I to interact with our son in our native tongues, which is "automatic" and comfortable for us both.

3. From personal experience, I know this works, at least to some extent, as we are all creatures of habit.

Case in point:
When I moved to Madrid, I spoke very little Spanish. (Adding insult to injury, my friends there joked that all I did know was Mexican Spanish: carro for car (which is a horse and buggy in Spain), pluma for pen (which can be a feather or a flamboyant gay man), etc.)

When I began working, even though English was the company's "official language", I took advantage of the opportunity to practice and perfect my Spanish Spanish. Anyone who has immersed themselves in a foreign language knows that it can be exhausting. There were days when I arrived at work thinking "This is crazy! I am just going to speak in English today. After all, others are doing so and I'm just not up for another day in Spanish." Then, wouldn't you know it, I stepped off the elevator, ran into a coworker with whom I always spoke Spanish and (I'm serious!) the Spanish just rolled off my tongue. Even before coffee!!

4. This is the method that most of my friends are using with their children, and they seem to be happy with it. (added bonus: I can ask for help/advice!!!)

CONS: Okay, I don't really have any "CONS"; let's call them "Concerns":

1. As a SAHM, I am the primary care-giver. I am also native in the "Majority Language". Will Victor have enough exposure to Spanish to become fully bilingual and (perhaps more importantly) recognize it's importance to our family?

2. The research that I have done on OPOL seems to focus on generalities or on very small children. Since my friends and I are "late breeders" I don't even have any anecdotal evidence that OPOL works after the kids start school. Or how easy is it to keep it up (for both the parents and the kids)?

3. How do I converse with my husband in front of my kids? Do I speak in English and he in Spanish? Do we pick a language (perhaps Spanish as it is the "minority language")? I'm also not a big fan of excluding friends and family (my speaking in English with Victor when we are in Spain or Oscar speaking in Spanish around our friends here).

4. I would miss speaking in Spanish with my little Victorcin!

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