My friends are… well, my friends. These are people I care about and they care about me.
Not because we come from the same country, speak the same language or have the same ideas about everything.
Sometimes we really don’t, quite the opposite.
But we’ve spent enough time together to feel that we somehow ‘click’, without necessarily having the same opinions and… that we kind of ‘speak the same language’ without actually speaking ‘the same language’ or speaking at all.
Uff, that was a kind of a statement and a half. I hope not too confusing.
My friends and I pretty much operate on the basis:
This is me, there is nothing to hide and if you like it great, if you don’t that’s fine too. It’s a very respectful ‘take it or leave it’ policy.
But looking at my friends and OPOL, let’s be a little bit more specific:
My friends in my home country understand why I am teaching my kids my native language and they do appreciate it.
My international friends scattered throughout the world and the UK who are not English native speakers get me too.
But what about my very British or English friends?
Amongst them are some very rare species that can speak another language (usually French or German, or both!) And they had to work bloody hard to be able to do so.
They get my strict consistency with OPOL too without a shadow of a doubt:
Who wants to work hard when you can learn a language for free???
And then, there are my lovely British/ English friends who can’t speak any other language, other than English.
They can’t speak ‘foreign’ (yep, that’s how one of my friends calls a command of another language), bless them. 😉 )
I’ve never actually asked anyone for their approval to stay consistent with OPOL methods, even in front of them.
So despite this, just sometimes having this very subtle feeling of their discomfort as my nephew described in his interview (in my previous blog post OPOL and My In-Laws) can be awkward:
…’it’s more the conception of ‘they’re around us, they should be speaking in English.’ But I think that’s most of the people’s perception in the UK. You’re in England, you should be speaking English in front of English people.’
But I was very curious as to what one of my very lovely ‘very British friends who can’t speak any foreign’ really thought of all the weird things called OPOL, nine long years down the road:
Did you think I’d lost the plot when you heard me speaking another language to my first newborn baby? It’s something called OPOL (One Parent One Language Strategy).
No, not really.
(You’d lost the plot ages ago, years before you had Bob, that’s what she’s really trying to say here…love the good old English sense of humour lol).
It was an easy, natural process. You spoke Czech and J spoke English, and your kids both responded to both of you. Is that what you call OPOL?
Did you ever feel like an outsider?
Yes, I did, if I am very honest. But you were teaching your children your native language which I knew would be very beneficial. But I am also hoping that they won’t talk in Czech in front of me when they grow up. I would hope that they would speak the language of the majority of people here in the UK.
Did you feel I was rude?
I would never say you were rude talking to them in Czech in front of me. You’d translate what you were saying anyway.
Ever since your kids were little they would know instinctively that they wouldn’t talk to me in Czech, they always spoke English.
But they’d then switch straight away into Czech talking to you. Even when they were really little, when we walked into the room without speaking they’d automatically speak English.
They somehow had the ability to feel with whom to speak Czech and with whom not.
We’ve never actually spoken about this, but did you understand why I was doing that? What do you think the benefits are for my kids being bilingual?
They’ve got a Czech family. If you didn’t speak to them in Czech, they wouldn’t be able to learn it.
The benefits are huge: They can communicate with your family, they are happy to stay in Czech. They could go and live there if they wanted to, they are fully competent to do so. They could work there no problem.
Any generic benefits for everyone learning another language, not just my kids?
I think once you’ve learnt one language, you must know you are able to pick up another one. I wish I’d learnt another language. But my French teacher, he would always send me out… so I’d miss a half of the lesson…
(Any chance you were naughty? We’re both laughing.)
How did you find it at first when my kids started speaking in both languages?
It was just amazing that they could switch, it was fascinating to watch. 99% of the time they were right.
If you lived with a foreign partner abroad, in a foreign country where they speak a different language to yours, would you still teach your kids your native language?
Of course, I would. I think it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t do it. Your kids will be asking you, when they get older why you didn’t do it. What will you say?
Would you resent me if I was your mum and I didn’t teach you my native language?
Yes, I would! It’s basically laziness if you don’t. You start educating your children the day they are born.
Do you think dads can do the same or does it apply to mums only?
Well, if mum’s at home and dad’s at work, it might be happening slower, but even an hour a day before kids go to bed is precious. Why wouldn’t you give it a try? The kids are still gonna have some inkling of it. It’s better than nothing.
Let’s talk about your kids in their late twenties. What about if they lived abroad with a foreign partner and didn’t teach your grandchildren English?
I’d be devastated because I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them. I think it’s disrespectful to your parents if you do this.
I can understand if foreign people don’t want to speak in their native language because of some trauma they had to go through, like if they come from a country where there is a war, you don’t want to remember your old life and bad things, but still.
The point is that it’s part of your heritage.
What are the negatives of being bilingual or teaching your kids your native language?
I can’t see any negatives. Just do it. It’s something to be envious of if you can speak more than one language.
Thank you, my friend, you’ve really surprised me.
Maybe we should bring up these so-called ‘taboos’ more often.
Maybe they are taboos in our head mainly… or only?
P.S. Any thoughts? Please let me know in the comments below.
Thank you! 🙂