Two months ago, I published a post named Why she speaks more English than Chinese? I want to find out why DD speaks more English than Chinese even I have been creating a Chinese-rich environment since her birth (see How I help my baby acquire a second language?).
One reason I figured, maybe also the most important reason, is that I didnâ€™t strictly follow One Parents One Language (OPOL) rule. I read to DD in English as well, only because sometimes she got tired of our limited stock of Chinese books and wanted something different. This is the only time I donâ€™t speak Chinese to her.
Is it the very reason causing her to speak more English than Chinese?
I am not sure. But I do agree that OPOL is the the best and the easiest method for parents to bring up a baby bilingual.
The question is: how strictly or consistently do we need to follow OPOL?
There are a lot of theoreis and a lot of debates. I found two interesting articles from http://www.multilingualliving.com. One is The OPOL-Fanatics from Christiane KÃ¼chler Williams. The other is An Apology for Being â€œInconsistentâ€ from Alice Lapuerta.
In The OPOL-Fanatics, Christian, as the title of her article suggests, frantically followed the OPOL rule to help her sons acquire German as a second language.
For example, books were strictly segregated into â€œPapa booksâ€ and â€œMama BÃ¼cherâ€ and no parent would ever cross the line of reading the other language to the child. Only German DVDs could be watched and no commercial American television was allowed.
When they started preschool, she made sure children learned the ABCs in German first, provided the German equivalents of the new words and tried to not fall into the trap of using English expressions of the preschool terms. She tried to find acceptable German alternatives for things like â€œPotty Timeâ€, â€œPlay Dohâ€ and â€œCraft sessionâ€.
She even went further to assist childrenâ€™s math homework in German, talked it through in German, calculated in German, formulated the answer in German, then let the children translate the answer into English and writes it down.
Alice, on the other hand, takes a different approach. She thinks it is not possible and realistic to be always consistent in OPOL. â€œWe just need to switch languages, code-switch, mix, and sometimes invent our own words to communicate. We need to be flexible. We cannot stick to just one method forever and always. â€
In her opinion, consistency simply means: â€œdonâ€™t give upâ€? Be â€œpersistentâ€. Therefore, when parents start their bilingualism adventure, it doesnâ€™t matter how they do it, what methods they chose or what rules they have to bend to make them work: be consistent in keeping the faith that it will all work out somehow, in the end.
I am not a linguistic expert. So I cannot make the judgment who is right and who is wrong. But I have to admit, Chrisâ€™s article made me sweat and Aliceâ€™s made me relaxed.
And I found Susan, my admired linguist and a multilingual mother (see Advice from Susan H. Siu, a multilingual mom), gave a perfect answer to this question: â€œalthough we recognize the need for a reasonable amount of focus in order to do things well, we do not want to be arbitrarily rigid in our habits and potentially limit our capacity for enjoyment of language or life in general.
Some families may need and enjoy the predictability offered by a strict OPOL arrangement (or similar plan), and that is wonderful; others, like mine, may not. I hope that no family will feel guilty about doing what works for them. We are, after all, giving our children a gift by helping them to become bilingual, and it is an amazing gift no matter what specific form it takes.â€
Why she speaks more English than Chinese?
How I help my baby acquire a second language?
How babies acquire languages?
Stages of babyâ€™s language acquisition
How children acquire second languages?
Stages of childrenâ€™s second language acquisition
Never too early to learn second tongue
Being bilingual boosts brain power
Bilingualism and cognitive development
More resources on bilingualism and its effects
Why my baby isnâ€™t talking yet?