Pin It
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

No Common Mother Tongue

By

A lot of resources on the web talk about the two most successful approaches in multilingual parenting: “One Parent One Language” (OPOL) and “Minority Language at Home” (MLAH or ML@H). Both have advantages and both are tailored to pretty specific situations. MLAH works best in an expat environment for example, where both parents speak a common language but live abroad with their children.

Because Souad and I do not share a common mother tongue, our situation is slightly more complex. Between the two of us, we speak French. This is because we met in France. When we met, Souad did not speak or understand any German and I am still unable to understand or speak Arabic to this day. When we moved to the UK, we did not change our language, and why would we?

In a way, we set ourselves up for MLAH, but then we had our first daughter and neither of us had to even think about how we would address her–in our mother tongues, of course! So OPOL it was. I guess we combined the two: we do speak minority languages at home, but three of them. And we do follow OPOL but for Souad that means she speaks what I call “Algerian,” an interesting mix of Arabic with some French thrown in, like most people in Algeria do.

We have a lot of fun watching how our two daughters’ languages change over time. To document those changes, we keep a “Family Language Diagram” on our other blog, an idea we saw on Multi Tongue Kids. Our setup is fairly unusual. In addition to it being fun and interesting for us, it also makes sense to keep records for others who might follow a similar approach. Just as we are interested in seeing how other parents’ progress, we want to share what works for us and what doesn’t.

My hope is that a (virtual) community of multilinguals will emerge over time. Maybe this community will help my daughters work out who they are and what sets them apart.

© 2010 – 2011, Jan Petersen. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Ramadan Star and Moon Craft

A craft recycled from your kid's art work!

Si­, Yes: Raising Bilingual Twins

Language acquisition in three-and-a-half year old, bilingual twins.

Is all the Hard Work of Bilingualism Really Paying Off?

I just found out the surprising answer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Jan, who is German, works mainly from home as a software engineer. His wife, who is Algerian, stays at home to look after their three girls aged 7, 4 and 1. They live in the U.K. and are raising their children multilingual in Arabic, French, German and English.

Leave us a comment!

2 Comments
  1. Commentsalex reuss   |  Saturday, 30 October 2010 at 10:56 am

    Very interesting family and article. We also mainly follow the OPOL & MLAH approach and it works very successful for our kids. Also I had to work out who I am and the same will go for my children. A first step sure is to consciously associate the languages to the parents or host cultures.

  2. CommentsMerve   |  Monday, 01 November 2010 at 5:06 pm

    This is simply an amazing article that I can certainly relate to. At home we have English, Turkish, Spanish and Arabic. Though I am part Chinese I was never taught the language so I lost it. I think is really important to teach children the languages you speak. Thanks for sharing!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!
[easy_sign_up phone="0"]

A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
Hi...I am an Asian who was adopted and raised by Caucasian American missionaries in South America. I have two kids-my daughter is 16 and my son is 11. When I had my first baby I too was indoctrinate...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
This Karina, the Karina from the article. I'm now 13. It took this article was written 3 years ago and barely coming across it right now. I was originally trying to look for my folkloric pictures fo...
From How This Single Working Mom Raised a Trilingual Kid
Nice recipe, thank for shari...
From Vaisakhi Recipe: Sarson Ka Sag
I've been in Germany Ten years now, Lived in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, specifically Leonberg. In Frankfurt I was shocked by how unfriendly the People were, how aggressive their Drivers, but in Leonbe...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
At DreamAfrica, we are a streaming app for animations and films from around the world. We celebrate cultural representation in digital media and invite you to download and share our DreamAfrica appp...
From What We Are Not About
Imagine those people who work at your typical IT Department, yeah those weirdos with low EQ, no manners, no social skills; indeed those who kiss the bosses' ass when it's convenient, but get offend...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
I contacted the editor of this magazine (Stephanie) and she told me she'd inform Jan about this article. I have since changed my mind about going to Germany because of Merkel's policies, and this i...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
@Daniela You speak BS, you have never seen Franconia, or you're a Franconian girl. In the second case, I know that no intellectual conversation could be made with Franconian people, because you'r...
From Are Germans Really Rude?

More from Our Bloggers