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Hello, my husband and I will be having my first child this spring and our child will be exposed to the three languages we speak, as a matter of course... and I’m a bit nervous about him mastering all three so young.
I’m a native anglophone, my husband is Russian, and we live in France. My family, who will occasionally come visit us, are all English-only. Most of my husband’s family, who will also come live with us at times, are Russian-only. His stepfather, who will be baby’s grandfather figure, is French-only. All these people will speak to the baby in their native languages.
We’ll be doing OPOL, naturally—I’ll be speaking English to our son (I couldn’t imagine it any other way), and my husband will be speaking Russian to him. However, while my husband and I understand each other’s native languages, our default language with each other is French. We’re simply too slow at expression and comprehension in each others’ languages for constant everyday communication with each other. I know we could try to commit to only speaking Russian and English to each other but that won’t last very long—instead of repeating or rephrasing several times per day I know we’ll end up speaking French to each other, in front of the baby.
Has anyone had this work? OPOL with a 3rd language between parents?
(Obviously the baby will end up learning French in preschool anyway because we live in France.)
Thanks so much for your feedback!
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Hi Victoria - I'm Japanese, my husband is German, and we are living in Thailand, where our 3 kids are born & raised. We've been doing exactly what you are describing: I've been speaking only Japanese to the kids, my husband only German, and the language between the parents is English. Oh, and the community language is Thai.
All 3 of the kids (9, 7 and 3 yo) are strongest in Japanese and Thai (community language - so they get the most natural exposure). English, I think the kids picked up from watching a lot of YouTube! more than hearing the parents speak 😉 Since you're living in France and I presume your child will be getting a lot of exposure to French, I wouldn't worry about that 3rd language being confusing. Children are really quite remarkable and will be able to make a distinction, especially in terms of what they can speak to whom. For us, the biggest challenge is keeping up the German, as their dad doesn't spend as much time at home to give the kids enough exposure...so good luck with the English and especially the Russian! Have a safe birth and enjoy parenthood!