Episode #16 – Transcript
Hey there! Welcome to another Question & Answer edition of the Bilingual Avenue podcast. I wanted to take just a moment to thank everyone that has supported Bilingual Avenue and the podcast so far! I’ve received many emails from parents and educators letting me know that they are enjoying the content in the podcast. Thank you very much! We have many insightful episodes ahead that I really think you are going to enjoy and I am looking forward to share with you.
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Alright, so today’s question comes from Jennifer and let’s take a listen to her question.
Question: Hi Marianna, this is Jennifer. I am calling from Switzerland just a little bit outside of Zurich. My question is, you and your guest often use terminology about language acquisition and learning that seems to come from academia for example L1, L2 or One Parent One Language. Could you give us a little audio glossary so that I am up to speed. Thanks so much, love the show!
Thank you Jennifer for taking the time to send in your question. We are at episode 16 and it’s probably a great time to just sort of pause and take a minute to review some of the concepts that are in fact coming up time and time again to make sure we are all on the same page.
I want to dedicate today’s episode to clarify some of these terms and like Jennifer suggested create a little audio glossary for you. If there’s anything beyond this list that you are still wondering about, just send me a quick email and I’ll be happy to explain further.
In Jennifer’s question she mentioned OPOL which stands for One Parent, One Language so I’ll go ahead and briefly touch on the two most common strategies for raising multilingual children for clarity.
The first strategy and the first term for our audio glossary is One Parent, One Language Method (OPOL).
The title for this method leaves very little to the imagination. In this strategy, one parent speaks one language consistently to the children while the other speaks a second one. This method allows for what is called simultaneous bilingualism meaning that children learn two languages at the same time.
Typically with OPOL, parents use their mother tongue to communicate with the children. However, this is not always the case for all families. Michele Cherie discussed how she is speaking French as a non-native with her children on Episode 3.
This is the strategy that I am currently using with my family. I speak Spanish to my daughter while my husband speaks English. I also I feel like in some ways we practice One Family, One Language because my entire side of the family knows that they must speak Spanish with my daughter at all times while my husband’s family speaks exclusively English with her. OPOL is a very popular strategy!
The second term for today is Minority Language at Home.
This is another strategy for language acquisition. When using this method, both parents are using a language at home to communicate with the children that is different from the one used in the community. This is a great strategy to ensure that your children are getting a significant amount of exposure in the minority language.
So let’s say you live in the United States and both parents are speaking Spanish to the children and the children are being exposed to English outside of the home, they would fall under the Minority Language at Home category.
The majority language is usually learned from peers, care givers, other family members and the community in general. Minority Language at Home typically leads to sequential bilingualism which is when an individual becomes bilingual by first learning one language and then another.
There are some variations to this strategy. There are instances where both parents speak the same language to the children, yet they speak a different language to each other. For example in episode 5, Andrey Kneller discussed how he and his wife consistently speak only Russian to their daughter yet they speak English to each other. Again, minority language at home but with a slight twist.
There are a few other strategies that are less common. I have a blog post dedicated to these other strategies and you can get additional information on these at bilingualavenue.com/languagestrategies
But back to Jennifer’s question, she also mentioned L1 and L2 references.
L1 stands for first language acquisition while L2 stands for, you guessed it, second language acquisition.
Let me preface what I am about to say by mentioning that there are a lot of technicalities and interpretations around these terms but in an effort to simplify things, I will keep it rather general and to the most basic definitions. L1, again first language acquisition, is typically referred to as the individuals’ mother tongue. While L2 is any language learned in addition to one’s mother tongues.
These terms can get a little more complicated when you are talking about a child who was raised using One Parent, One Language. Like I mentioned before through OPOL you have children that are learning two languages simultaneously. In theory, children would then be acquiring two languages at an equal rate and can potentially have two languages that qualify under the L1 category.
Now other terms that were not mentioned in Jennifer questions but do come up time and time again are terms like minority vs majority language or we may also say community vs home language.
Minority language is a language spoken by a smaller group of people and for bilingual families this smaller group is typically, the family nucleus. Which is may also say refer to the minority language as home language or heritage language.
Just to be clear, the term minority does not mean that this language is less important or less valuable. It really just comes from the definition of it being a language spoken by a smaller group of people in a given community.
Majority language, on the other hand, is the language spoken by the larger group which for most multilingual families is typically the language spoken by the community.
Well Jenn, thank you for submitting your question. I hope you found the answer helpful and that this mini audio glossary comes in handy for you and for other listeners.
For anyone else, if there are any other lingering questions about the terms we talked about on the show, do not hesitate to ask. I’m always happy to provide more context about our conversations.
Remember if you have a question, make sure to leave an audio message at bilingualavenue.com/contact and we’ll answer it on the podcast.
May you have fun travels on your language journey. Hope to see you again on the avenue.