And why you should too. ‘Is she for real?’ you must be asking.
Oh yes, she is.
Well, that’s if you’re a foreign bilingual parent trying to raise a bilingual child (a.k.a. bilingual Brit) in the UK.
On the other hand, if you’re a bilingual parent who is an English native speaker* living abroad where they speak ‘foreign’ as one of my monolingual very English friends like to say, please keep talking English no matter what.
And NEVER stop!
What makes me say that?
Don’t get me wrong, the UK is my ‘adopted’ country, it has been my home for at least 15 years and it is the home country of my bilingual little Brits (or rather half Brits, should I say?).
By now my husband calls me ‘the honorary Brit’ as a joke. And rightly so!
Except for being a British passport holder, I am a passionate tea lover and coffee and walnut cake addict.
I am proud to say that I can make a world class cottage pie and have mastered Sunday roast including Yorkshire puddings made from scratch.
My hubby also regularly teases me that I fancy Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran, which is obviously not true. But I am a great fan.
As you can see, I have some pretty strong emotional ties with the UK, but no matter how many years I’ve spent here, I doubt I will ever lose my ‘cute’ accent (yeh, yeh, yeh), no matter how hard I try.
Some parts of me will always remain very ‘continental’ and at least half of my heart will always belong to a small country in the heart of Europe.
Until the day I die.
But all these sentiments are really not enough to fuel my commitment to raising bilingual Brits.
What is it then?
What’s wrong with speaking English (or any other majority language) to your bilingual-to-be offsprings?
Essentially, nothing’s wrong with it.
I even correct my bilingual Brits’ English at times by pointing out their errors (‘Daddy, we buyed pokemon cards.’ Ouch! That was my ears and my wallet.) by saying:
‘We don’t say (still talking to them in my native language) ‘buyed’.
We say (now switching to English to demonstrate): ‘We bought’ (now back to my native language).
So why no English from me? Not to my bilingual kids anyway.
First of all, because my bilingual Brits wouldn’t get enough chance to hear and practice my native language.
Think about it: I am the only person around them speaking the OTHER language during the day.
Everyone else (my husband, their school friends, the school, at the Scouts,….) always speak English to them.
How much chance a.k.a. airtime does my native language get?
You see. I rest my case.
Secondly, if I only spoke my native language randomly or maybe during a pre-arranged time or thought-out situations like eg. only at home while there are no other people who don’t understand my language around, I doubt we would get into the habit of actually speaking it.
There are far too many variables.
With our busy schedule it would become confusing when we’re doing what we’re doing, we’d forget, something would change…
Realistically, I don’t think it would ever happen properly.
Besides, kids respond well to clear boundaries, rules, and routines. Bilingual or not, they like to know what’s going on.
Which brings me to my reason no. 3:
Even when we are out and about, in public, with in-laws/ out-laws, relatives, friends or strangers, my bilingual Brits know that:
‘Our mum speaks Czech to us and we speak Czech to her.’
Simple as that. No doubts, no hesitation.
Clear rules and routines.
Trust me, one parent one language strategy (OPOL) really works and brings great results.
You just have to train yourself to stick with the routine and stop worrying about others.
And don’t worry, your well trained bilingual Brits will take care of sticking to ‘their’ routine, whatever that is.
P.S. I know, I know, you’ve heard it before, but seriously. OPOL really works.
P.S.S. How is your OPOL working out for you? Please let me know. 🙂
*You are a very very rare species!