Bilingual Practical Help
From the Bilingual
Family Web Site Cindy, the
author, did such a great job! Respecting her copy write, we have
copied the information below since it is hosted in Norway. Very
These pages are and can only hope to be a
brief overview, to give those who are interested in bilingualism
in the family a place to start. If you want to know more, turn to
the Books and Newsletters
page to find good sources. The Bilingual Families mailing list,
biling-fam, is a great place for parents and future parents of
bilingual families to ask for help and advice on the matter, or
just to share your troubles and joys with people in a similar
situation. If you'd like to know more, there's more information
back on the main page. You can
also read about my
family's story, or the stories of
other families on the members' pages.
Many parents find that having a fixed
pattern for language use in the home makes things easier, both
for the children learning the languages and for the adults in
their day-to-day life with two (or more) languages. Here are a
few of the more common patterns.
- One Parent, One Language (OPOL):
The parents speak different native languages and each
speak their own native language to the child(ren).
- Minority Language at Home (mL@H,
MLaH, ML@H, etc.): Also known as the Foreign
Home pattern. Everyone speaks the minority
(non-community) language at home, and the community
language outside. The minority language may be but does
not have to be the native language of both parents.
- Less Common Patterns: Any
pattern that works for your family is a good pattern, of
course. This is just a brief selection of all the
possible patterns: the first person to speak chooses the
language; one language is spoken every day, the other on
extended vacations to another country; one language is
spoken every day, the other on special occasions; the
children attend school immersion programs.
Adapted from the Harding and Riley book
listed on the Resources page. None of these are unbreakable, but
they are good guidelines for making bilingualism work for most
- Consistency: Whatever pattern
you choose, stick to it. Although children can learn two
languages in what seems like chaos, a reasonable amount
of consistency will make their job, and yours, simpler.
Once children learn the pattern they are often disturbed
when a parent breaks it.
- Rich Environment: This
doesn't mean the children need expensive toys or special
tools, but they need songs, bedtime stories, and other
linguistic stimulation just as monolingual children do -
except that bilingual children need it in both their
languages. This will mean an extra demand on your time,
both to give them this stimulation and to find the books,
recorded music and other objects you want - but it is by
no means impossible.
- Children's Needs First:
Children should not be forced into bilingualism if it
really does make them unhappy; above all they should not
be asked to "show off", which embarrasses
children and makes them all too aware of being
- Playing It Down: The more you
can make bilingualism seem like a natural and
unremarkable part of family life, the more likely it is
that the children will grow up to enjoy being bilingual,
and the more likely it is that you will succeed in
keeping both languages active in your home.
Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997
and 1998 by Cindy Kandolf.
The copyrights of individual contributions are held by
the respective authors of those contributions. Use and
copying of this information are permitted, as long as (1)
no fees or compensation are charged for use, copies or
access to this information, and (2) this copyright notice
is included intact.