Planning OPOL - worries

(12 Posts)
LillianAndAHalf Wed 12-Oct-16 09:36:05

DH and I live in London with extended family abroad. DH is quite keen for LO (due in 1.5 weeks) to learn Chinese growing up. He can speak Cantonese and does so with his family. I don't speak any Chinese so the idea is to try the OPOL method with him speaking Chinese to her and me speaking in English.

How does this work in a family context as DH and I speak only English to each other? e.g. At the dinner table, in the park or in the car?

What's everyone's experience with OPOL when you're the one not speaking the other language. Do you feel left out not understanding the conversation between DH and your child? Obviously I want her to learn it as part of her heritage and so she can speak it with DH's family.

corythatwas Wed 12-Oct-16 11:54:43

Two things spring to mind:

is there any way you could learn a bit of Cantonese? If your lo is going to grow up in touch with this part of his/her inheritance (which sounds a great idea) then you will all have a lot more fun if you can share in at least some of it

a method is not a cult: your dh won't be struck by lightning from above if he occasionally takes the time to explain what he is saying in English

LillianAndAHalf Thu 13-Oct-16 11:55:04

Learning some Cantonese would probably be ok when they are younger as the conversations would be simpler but I suspect unless I sit down and learn it properly my knowledge and contribution would be very limited.

Has anyone tried this - to learn a language at the same time their child does? I always thought children absorb and learn so much quicker and I would soon be left behind. Immersion would be ideal but then that would involve me trying to speak Cantonese instead of English (no longer OPOL)

My worry is that I wouldn't want to be in the position where I am too mediocre in a language to a point where I can't have anything beyond a basic conversation with my own child. We are also considering sending her to a Chinese/English nursery so she will be learning more there as well.

I know I'm being negative and expecting the worst scenarios. DH thinks I'm being silly as I've told him I'm worried I'm going to be lonely and not be able to connect in the way I want to.

Disclaimer: I'm 38+4 pregnant at the moment, emotional and crying for no reason the last couple of days. I may well feel differently about it all after LO is born!

Lico Thu 13-Oct-16 22:14:22

Hello Lillian,
I would stick to OPOL if you can.
The child will identify with you and communicate in English and will do the same with your DH in Cantonese. Then try to enlarge the one parent to a group so that the child can identify with two different groups (English and Cantonese). This is to prevent one parent from being identified as the only channel for a particular language. The child will then realise that other people speak Mummy's or Daddy's language.
We practice OPOL (French and English)-no issue there. My English DH never felt the need to learn French but then he sits like a lemon when in a non English environment...wink

LillianAndAHalf Fri 14-Oct-16 09:35:47

Lico that will be me! I'll be the lemon!

I suppose if I try to learn some it would be for my own benefit just to understand some of the Cantonese conversation in the home. I wouldn't necessarily need to be proficient or be able to engage to the same level as I would still be conversing with my daughter in English.

I will aim to only be partly a lemon!

Lico Sun 16-Oct-16 22:20:07

What also worked for us was to ensure that DD could read, write and count in both languages simultaneously .
We did not leave too much to the school. We preferred to do it ourselves with traditional methods for both languages. This resulted in DD performing very well in both educational systems.

Mumchatting Sun 16-Oct-16 22:49:31

We have 3 languages at home. We are using OPOL method and so far our son (2.4 years old) speaks very well my language as he spends majority of time with me (I'm a Sahm). He can't say much in DH's language though (only single words at the momemt while he can build full sentences in my language).
Hubby feels left out sometimes as he doesn't understand what we are talking about. However we have decided we are sticking to OPOL even though sometimes one of the parent may feel a bit left out.

I think it's great when people put an effort to teach their kids their mother tongue.

Lico Mon 17-Oct-16 20:33:05

It is a lot of work though wink

allegretto Mon 17-Oct-16 20:38:40

It's really worth doing as Cantonese tones are much more difficult to pick up as an adult. Honestly? Baby conversations are not that interesting! I bet you will both be saying the same things. And I would take this opportunity to learn the language anyway - even if your dc eventually overtakes you, you'll have a head start!

Fink Mon 17-Oct-16 20:40:04

As regards to how you two speak to each other, the ideal is to stick to OPOL, so your partner would speak to you in Cantonese and you would reply in English. But that's only an ideal and clearly wouldn't work if you'd have no idea what he's saying. OPOL is the gold standard, but any form of bilingualism is better than none, if you did OPOL but spoke to each other in English then that would still give your child(ren) a really good start in both languages. Basically, use both languages as naturally as you can and as works for your family. You'll do a great job.

Haffdonga Mon 17-Oct-16 20:50:13

We tried OPOL. It was impossible for dh to maintain his own language with ds and then turn round and speak English to me, (in an English speaking environment, in an English speaking country). Especially difficult because I was the one at home full time with baby ds while dh was working.

By the time ds was about 2 he actively resisted dh's language and would put his hands over his ears if dh tried to use it. DH gave up sad. it is really difficult to maintain.

What about learning Cantonese with your baby at the same time as she is learning it in the same way? e.g. your dh says Look a doggy! Woof woof! (but in Cantonese). You and dd both learn to say Doggy! Woof Woof! (still in Cantonese) etc

corythatwas Tue 18-Oct-16 15:18:38

Don't forget that any worries you may have about your child having language skills/connection to a culture which you do not have is pretty well a description of what your dh is already facing. (the difference being that he is just expected to get on with it)

However good his English, I assume he is not a native speaker and has not grown up in a culturally English family. If your dd does not get access to his language and culture, what will happen is that he never gets to communicate with his child in the way that (I am assuming) comes most naturally to him, just to spare you the embarrassment of sometimes feeling you are only mediocre. If he is a native speaker of Cantonese and not English, I imagine he has felt that way a good many times.

As the foreign parent, I sometimes find myself reacting to people who point out how hard it must be for my dh to learn my language. I point out (mildly) that the only reason we could communicate at all while he was learning was because I had already put that work in, and if people don't give me credit for that it just shows how hard I did work.

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