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The one-parent-one-language method (OPOL) is a popular method for teaching young children to speak multiple languages. With this method each parent speaks only one language with the child. The language used by the parent is usually the language that is native to that parent.

Although the OPOL method is very popular and very effective, there can be problems.

One common issue is the lack of exposure to the language that is spoken by only one parent (minority language), when this language is not the one that children are learning at school. It is then very helpful to find other sources of exposure and other ways of creating a sense of need, so the children have more than one reason for using the minority language. Especially effective is the type of exposure that involves interaction with other people.

Another problem is exclusion: when one of the parents doesn’t speak the other’s language, the bilingual child will feel uneasy about excluding one parent from the conversation, when both parents are present.

That is why, when both parents can speak the minority language, their best strategy is to speak only the minority language to their children, and let them learn the language of the community only when they are outside the home.

If you have used or are using the OPOL method, what is your experience? Is it working for you and your children?

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