How to raise a bilingual child: Choosing a policy for your family

Copy of Setting a strong foundation (1)

This is part 2 of the series: How to raise a bilingual child.  If you landed here first without checking out part one, go back and check that out first.  Then meet me right back here.

The Question

What are the different language policies?  Which one should I implement in my home?

The answer

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 simultaneous bilingualism as children learn two languages at the same time.

Minority Language at Home

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. The majority language is usually learned from peers, care givers, other family members and the community in general.

Language-Time

When using this strategy, the parents intentionally determine specific times to use one language and times to speak another language. It is worth noting that this strategy can be mixed and matched with another. In other words, one parent can choose to split their time between two languages while the other sticks to just one. The key here is to be very specific about the time distinctions and ensuring that these distinctions are clear for all family members.

One Language First

For this approach, parents teach their children the minority language at home. Once they feel that the children have firmly established the minority language they begin to introduce an alternative language. This transition typically occurs during the ages of four and five.

Free-Alternation

For this last approach, family members use two or more languages interchangeably and let factors like the topic of conversation or situation determine the language spoken.

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