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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 useful.

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 families.

  • 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 "different".
  • 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.


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