One Parent One Language (OPOL)

Key Bilingual Strategy 1

        3 outcomes and 5 reasons why it’s the best approach

The One Language One Parent (OPOL) approach is the first of the Five Key Strategies and is about the language you speak to your child. To make this method work, you need to implement this strategy strictly. Luckily, this is one strategy that you have complete control over! Nobody can make you speak the local majority language to your child if you do not want to.

5 reasons why the OPOL method is best for success

1.      You express yourself best in your native language; subtleties and nuances are very hard to acquire and use in a second language, however well you learn it.   In some cases, parents may speak the local majority language very well, even to near native level, and they may ask themselves why they do not just speak in that language.  By speaking the local majority language, you are giving no added value to your child. They will get all the input they need in the local language(s) from native speakers.

2.      A language is not just a communication tool, although we use it for communication. When you speak your heritage language, you are transmitting your identity, values and culture to your child. Think about the thousands of colourful idioms, and the way a language shapes our perception of the world; it is so much more than just another subject to learn at school.

3.      You are maximizing the amount of time when you speak the language with your children. You may be their only contact in your language, so my advice is not to mix your heritage language with the majority one (the part-time approach). I have read some books that give examples of families who mix languages, and it works for them, but in many others is does not work. I have never spoken to my son in any language except English in over thirteen years. It is possible and it soon becomes the normal and natural way to communicate.  

4.      When they are teenagers, if you have poor language skills and a foreign accent, your children may make jokes about how you speak. You may lose your authority and their respect. If you speak your native language, you will be able to express yourself far better. 

5.      It is possible that later on in life, when children realise that they were not given the chance to reach native level in a language because the parent didn’t speak it enough, they may feel bad about this. Children will not thank you right now for being strict, but they will when they are older – probably!

There are many variations on this strategy, but why make your life harder than it needs to be!

The OPOL method has been tried and tested and is the one I have used successfully to raise my son to a native level of English in Spain.

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