Falling off the OPOL Wagon, I didn’t realize I had fallen off the one parent one language (OPOL) wagon until I found myself face down on the ground with a chipped tooth and a mouthful of dirt.
So how did I get back on the wagon? I credit reading about other multilingual children’s progress on various blogs with flipping the switch for me."/> InCultureParent | Getting Back on the OPOL Wagon

Pin It
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Getting Back on the OPOL Wagon

Getting on the OPOL wagon/ istockphoto © Darrell Scott

As I wrote about in Part I of this article, “Falling off the OPOL Wagon,” I didn’t realize I had fallen off the one parent one language (OPOL) wagon until I found myself face down on the ground with a chipped tooth and a mouthful of dirt.

The real question is how did I get back on the wagon? I credit reading about other multilingual children’s progress on various blogs with flipping the switch for me. I knew I had to try to get back on track. It was a lot like giving up smoking—I should know as I’ve done that numerous times. What set me up for success (now smoke free for eight years) was the realization that just because I caved here and there and had a smoke didn’t mean I was a smoker again, even if my digression was a night out smoking a pack, waking up sounding like Bea Arthur. I just started the morning again as a non-smoker, forgiving my lapse and telling myself I would do better next time. I also created situations where I wasn’t tempted or more likely to smoke.

Translating that to language use, I’ve stopped berating myself every time I realize I’ve switched to English and just revert back to French. For my situational successes, I also made a point to pick actual French books at night instead of translating on the fly, which is tiring and frustrating when you end up with unknown words. I have also arranged more outings with other French people. I even called up some old French friends to get back into the flow of adult French conversation.

One of the really baffling things with language learning and kids is that you can never be entirely sure why something is working. Even if you take two distinct approaches with two different kids, every kid is different and every parent is different. A few weeks can also be a time of key developmental changes in your child that would have happened irrespective of any other language changes made. You may suspect something is working but you can’t ever categorically say for sure whether it is. Sometimes you just need to do your best and trust in the universe, or better yet trust your kid.

My three-year-old, Pacifique, was in her bath and started asking for her little seahorse. Much to my surprise, I actually knew where this one tiny piece of yellow plastic was located. I know some greater power laughs as I can’t locate my wallet or keys but can uncover a one-inch toy in a stack of 1000 others. I retrieved the toy and brought it to her in the bath. She turned to me with a big smile and said, “Yay hippocampe,” which is also one of the first words I looked up when I started reading or more accurately real-time translating books for her in French. I am pretty sure I never actually knew that word before having her. In our house, book follows bath and once changed in her room, I asked her as I always do to choose her bedtime story.

Normally, I would be met with either complete silence indicating an imminent bedtime battle or more often, “Yes Mama” or “Ok Mama.” Tonight I got an emphatic, “D’accord Maman!” Literally I am in agreement with you. I would have fallen off the chair but it is a tiny blue toddler chair so my bum was fortunately well wedged in there.

Now if only my bum could stay wedged put in the OPOL wagon! The truth is that it’s a work in progress and taking this theme one step too far, I just continually remind myself to keep getting back up on that horse.

© 2011 – 2013, Cordelia Newlin de Rojas. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:

Almost African: My Childhood as a Serbo-Croatian in Sudan

The freedom of growing up as the only Serbo-Croatian in Sudan

Ramadan Star and Moon Craft

A craft recycled from your kid's art work!

10 Best World Maps for Your Children’s Room

Because every little global citizen needs a map


Born in New York back when subway graffiti was rife, Cordelia Newlin de Rojas mostly spends her time pondering, parenting, and writing. Franco-American, she spent her summers in the Loire indulging in heart-arresting foods. An eclectic background ranging from Japanese art and postal history to environmental social innovations and rigging dinghies has taken her to England, Turkey, Singapore and now Thailand, where she resides with her Mexican husband and their two daughters. They are attempting to raise trilingual kids in Spanish, French and English with some Thai thrown in. She can also be found blogging at multilingualmama.com.

Leave us a comment!

1 Comment
  1. CommentsFalling off the OPOL Wagon | InCultureParent   |  Sunday, 01 January 2012 at 11:09 pm

    […] […]

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!

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!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
[…] the breastfeeding culture in Mongolia compared to America. Did you have any idea that something as simple as breastfeeding attitudes can […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
My mother born in the 1930's is originally from the northern part of Germany. I am in my mid fifties and have a terrible relationship with my mother. She is domineering and hurts those where it hurt...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
[…] JC Niala, InCultureParent […...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
[…] http://www.incultureparent.com/2012/03/breastfeeding-around-the-world/#slide1 […...
From Breastfeeding Around the World
Although humanity is one Man (in a generic sense, including woman)has identified himself endless groups, religious, nationalistic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, etc. Once you separate ME from YOU on...
From What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation
[…] http://www.incultureparent.com/2011/02/breastfeeding-land-genghis-khan/ […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
Some great tips here but not many working mothers could feed baby every hour especially if you work in a major multi-nationa...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
So true!!! Thanks for being so honest and self reflective. It's a proof of true characte...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
As a first-time mom I've spent the last two months of my four-month-old's life stressed out about her sleep and I recognize how crazy this is. It's clearly not working for me! I'm wondering how non-...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

More Raising Bilingual Children