A.k.a. Daddy has spoken. Let’s find out what does the Chief of Mischief at our bilingual house think of the whole ‘bilingual parenting thing’ or rather how he sees the One Parent One Language Strategy working for us:
How did you feel about it when your wife told you she wanted your children to learn speak her native language?
It seemed logical that she’d wanted that because they are half Czech. And the fact that I married a linguist. You know the mentality of your partner. I knew she’d wanted that, it was a given. She is stubborn…
Did you know what was involved in raising a bilingual child or doing so called One Parent One Language Strategy?
Not fully, but you learn as you go. Like all parents do. It was a part of bringing up children which was completely new anyway.
What was it like to start with when your wife started talking to your first bilingual-to-be baby in a language you didn’t understand? Did it feel weird?
No, not really. Because we’d been married for a quite long time (almost 7 years) back then, I was used to being around Czech people when we went to Czech.
Was it not annoying for you that you didn’t understand what was going on?
Not really. If I was ever unsure of what was going on my wife would tell me. She would explain if I asked. There was no sense of having secrets or a lack of communication.
So to sum up, you felt comfortable with the process when your wife spoke her language you didn’t understand?
Yes, I was fine.
How quickly did you see results of what she was doing or rather both of you were doing (One Parent One Language Strategy) and that it was working? What was the confirmation for you that OPOL was working for your family?
I can’t remember that far back… It was perhaps when our older son was around two or two and a half. When he was talking properly.
Did you ever think this is not working, I’m not sure about this… Did you worry about your children’s speech or language skills?
Not even about your 2nd child who was what would be classed as a late talker because he started talking properly much later (probably when he was around 3 and a half)?
No, not really.
What’s in your eyes the greatest benefit that your children are bilingual?
They can be comfortable when they are in Czech and that they can communicate with their Czech family.
What do you think would be different if they didn’t speak their mum’s native language?
Visiting Czech wouldn’t be as much fun for them or for the family, especially for their great grandmother it would be frustrating, realistically…
In your opinion, what was the key for the One Parent One Language Strategy to be a success?
Determination and perseverance of both of us as parents. And consistency.
What would your message be to monolingual parents like you who don’t speak their partners native language and are still on the fence over whether the One Parent One Language Strategy will work for their family?
It all starts with trusting your partner and not having insecurities. The most common thing I hear from mixed marriage couples with a monolingual partner like me that they are worried that their partner and kids will ‘talk about me in the other language behind my back or to my face. And they will make fun of me.’
Firstly, you should trust your partner and if they want to talk about you they can and will talk about you when you are not there anyway regardless of the language.
And secondly, when you are in a foreign country listening to your own children speaking another language you can see for yourself that the benefits far outweigh any negatives or difficulties.
(A little bit of prod and tease which is part of our bilingual family culture:)
My very last question:
(I can see his eyebrows raised in a sigh of relief.)
Has your command of Czech improved since you’ve been exposed to it for over the last nine years on a daily basis?
A little. (The Chief of Mischief is shaking his hand in doubt.)
Yes, passively I have improved… slightly, but without making a real effort… as I have a zero natural talent for languages…
(You can see the typical British flawed premise coming through here! Arrrr….)
Now my kids are 7 and 9 they can translate for me.
(I can see his cheeky smile indicating Daddy’s happy as he finally out-smarted his interviewer. His payback time. LOL )