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Reply with quote  #1 
We are looking for some advice.

We are both native english speakers living in France and both fluent in French.
We are expecting a baby and want to take advantage of us being bilingual living in France to raise the baby speaking French and English.

We are not sure how to go about this.

We understand that one option is the OPOL option = but are not sure who should "get to speak to the baby in French" given we are both about the same level in both languages.  One speaks english with a British accent - the other speaks english with a Canadian english accent.  We have about the same French accents.  WE wondered that if we chose one of us to speak to the child in english - if she would grow up speaking with that parents english accent? Which might alienate the other parent.

Also - i grew up in a family that spoke a minority language at home while in a French Quebec Canadian community - and it took me many years to perfect my french since i always spoke english at home and tended to refuse to speak the community language to my parents - I did eventually perfect it - but with a lot of work - so I am concerned that a minority language at home scenario for our child would not work since it didnt work for me.  To be fair, i was already 5 years old when my family moved to Quebec and placed me in French school so perhaps i was too old for the system to work?  And our baby is yet to be born so would be born into the system from day 1 - Do you think that makes a difference?

We also dont know how long we will live in France - it will likely be long term - but are concerned that if plans change before baby perfects French and we move = what might happen.

So we wondered if the following would work:

We speak english as an entire family anytime we are at home.
Anytime we are out of the home (in the community) we speak french to eachother, our baby and those around us.  Grocery shopping would be in French for example but bed time stories and dinner table discussions would be in english.  Baby will be put in daycare from the age of 3 months in a french daycare so will have french 9 hours a day then whoever goes to pick her up = does so in French  but upon arriving at home - switches to english.

Our question is which is a more dependable solution - minority language at home or the OPOL?

Daddy does music and sings so its important he sings with the baby -however he sings in english - so if we chose the OPOL system and he chose French as his language for baby - would he not be able to sing in English to the baby and would his singing confuse the baby?

Many thanks.

Reply with quote  #2 
In your situation - both parents with the same mother tongue - I would speak everybody English at home, everybody French out or with (French) company over.*  I think it will make a difference that your child is born there, not moving at the age of 5, and that she will attend daycare from an early age.  The greater risk is probably that she won't learn a high level of English without great effort on your part.

Also, in our family everybody sings together without regard to language.  I think music gets a free pass.  It's clearly delineated anyway, music v. speech, so it shouldn't be confusing in the way, say, speaking English but saying every third sentence in French would be.  We also sing in languages we don't speak, sometimes, if we know or can read the words.

Basically, all the above is to say, I think your proposed solution would work.  You don't want to get too complicated, so it's great that this would allow you all to have conversations in the same language without short-changing anyone's mother tongue.  Our version of OPOL is fun, but makes for a lot of switching between languages, even when home with just the three of us.

* We live in UK at the moment so my husband is the minority speaker, but when we were home in Prague I did this with English, speaking Czech when around (non-English-speaking) people.  I'll pick the system back up when we move back in a few months.
Reply with quote  #3 
Hi Sonia

Let me give you my own bilingual experience, which resembles the situation your child will be in. I'm bilingual English/Portuguese born and brought up in South Africa to Portuguese monolingual parents. My home language was always Portuguese, which was the language I also used with my extended family. English was the language I used outside the home, in school, with neighbours, sister, cousins, tertiary education and now my job. At the age of 9 my parents decided to put me in the local Portuguese school where I learned to read and write in the language and where I discovered the history and literature of Portugal. I am eternally grateful to my parents today for having spoken to me exclusively in Portuguese, and not a mix of English and Portuguese, because it enhanced my minority language, it forced me to think in Portuguese, it kept up my vocabulary, and eventually made me want to further study the language - I did an BA Honours in Portuguese Language and Literature. I had no problem with switching from one language to the other, between the home and the rest of society - it was actually quite normal.

The idea of English at home and French outside sounds good - the relationship you will probably create with your children will be in English - your child though will be both English and French. French is a strong, pervasive language and could easily take over especially if your child will be in French child care as from the age of 3 months. All the more important to create an English environment at home.

I also work with bilingual children in France and come across many parents who regret not having spoken their mother tongue to their children from birth.

Good luck with bringing up your child bilingual - it's a wonderful adventure!

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