Multilingual Children

Buy Prints at RedBubbleAs Nayoung and I have just had our first baby boy – Leon Jaewoo – I may as well do a write up on multilingual children and the common methods surrounding the raising of them. Obviously, we would love for our boy to grow up as a coordinate bilingual of English and Korean… but how are we going to do it?

The most popular way parents achieve this goal is either the one parent, one language (OPOL) policy or the minority language at home (MH@H) policy. OPOL was our initial plan… but even a week into it, it’s pretty difficult to maintain. We code-switch a lot in our relationship and this is likely to transfer over to our parenting. On top of this, our situation is a little twisted in the sense that we are only likely to be in Australia for another 10 months or so before returning to Korea…. where our OPOL attempts may needs to switch to ML@H – minority language in that instance being English.

To lessen the impact of drastic switching between OPOL and ML@H we are considering situational languages to incorporate our code-switching… Think of our overall approach as an inverted ML@H at the moment; meaning, we speak English at home (inverted minority since we are in Australia) and Korean outside of the home as this will replicate the circumstances one we return to Korea next year. The complications with this are possibly that when he realises we both speak both languages, he may take the easier route and reject English as Korean will be the majority language at the time…. Which brings up back to OPOL.

At the end of the day, I doubt there is too much to worry about… Leon will work out what is going on in due course… And we will work out what is going on at about the same time πŸ˜‰

If anyone has any ideas or experience raising a child with more than one language… please drop a comment letting us know how it went!

Methods for raising multilingual children

One Parent, One Language
As the name suggests, one parent speaks one language, the other parent speaks another. This is sometimes called “One Person, One Language”, which allows you to utilise au pairs, etc. Basically, if mum speaks English, then dad speaks Spanish… and this is the way it stays. The child becomes aware that they must use a certain language with a certain person.

Minority Language At Home
This is where the home language is not the community language and is very common with immigrants. For instance, an Polish family in England would speak Polish at home and the community language of English would take care of itself through exposure outside.


Author: Andrew

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  1. My Children become polyglots as they are living in a multilingual environment. To my surprise they are able to differentiate the languages and do not mix them while speaking. At home they speak Tamil, mother tongue, at school they speak English, with their friends, Hindi. I think children easily learn the languages.

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