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My husband and I both speak Spanish fairly fluently though we are not native speakers and our families don’t speak Spanish. We are deciding which system to use. Currently I speak Spanish with my son, but find myself speaking English to him in front of my family or at play groups. I also speak English to everyone that is around me when they speak to me in English (because they don’t understand Spanish). If I am the OPOL in Spanish, do I need to speak it all the time, even when my husband speaks to me in English? Or if we decide to speak Spanish at home, what do we do when people come over to the house who don’t speak Spanish? I really want my son to understand and speak Spanish (we will probably go to South America some day again ,possibly to live), but I am  uncertain if I am up for the consistency that seems to be required from the commitment. After reading all the posts it seems that it’s all or nothing.
Any thoughts?

10 1/2 month old boy
both parents speak Spanish (non-native)
family speaks English

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Hello Leilani,

I am Hungarian but also speak English to my daughter when other people are around who wouldn’t understand us otherwise. She understands well both languages, but only 14 month old now, so she is just starting to speak and actually she is mixing the languages. I think it would be a good idea speaking to him in Spanish as many times as you can, even outside the house if you go for OPOL, but I would change to English when it is absolute necessary because non-Spanish speakers are around. And one more important thing: take it easy!

Good luck!


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Thanks Anna,

I’ve been so torn, so I stopped speaking in Spanish. I am going to start again and just give it my best shot. I will try to speak to him in Spanish at home and when we are out and it is just me and him. Around his little English-speaking playmates I will speak to him in English.  I figure he gets enough of that anyway. Maybe my system is a mix of OPOL and ML@HI.You don’t think 11 1/2 months is too late to start do you? I tried for about 1 1/2 months and stopped.

Thanks again for your response.

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No I don’t think it is late to restart, he is not able to speak yet, he is very-very young, he will be just fine don’t worry. I tell you a secret When my daughter was born I was unable to speak to her my mother tongue. (Hungarian) We live in Greece, my husband is Greek-English, and our home language is English, because I have just started to learn Greek. Anyway, when my baby was born I was soooo tired, my family is far away, his mother wasn’t any help, and I basically got used to speak English all the time. It took me 4 month to start speaking to her Hungarian after my mother visited us and encouraged me. There are always ups and downs in parenting. Don’t be too hard to yourself, but since you have tried to speak Spanish to him already, and you know you can be consistent, I think it’s worth to try again. I agree with your plan, although I am not a professional. Keep me posted how are you getting on!

All the best,
Anna & baby Athina

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Hi Leilani,
I agree with Anna…I would encourage you to keep speaking Spanish to your son…it’s never too late, really. I am really new to this site, and so have been reading some of the tips and suggestions they make outside the forum, and one thing that has stuck with me is a mistake I’ve been making: don’t be shy–speak the language around others even if they don’t understand you. As they say, we can’t please everyone, and your son will benefit greatly (so I understand) if you can remain consistent. They say that he’ll be more likely to speak to you in Spanish that much longer if you can be consistent with him.
Perhaps you’ve read that, too, but I thought I would comment, as your concerns resonated with mine, for sure. I have been speaking 99% German to my 4 month old daughter since she was born, and the biggest challenges for me have been feeling awkward around others when speaking with her, and trying to find the right word for things I’ve never had to or wanted to speak about before. I have been inspired by what I read here to keep going, and to be less shy about speaking German to her in front of others. I still find myself switching, but I’m getting better about being aware of it, and I’ve got lots of time to work on it. Anna made a great point…being a parent is hard, and it’s important to give ourselves the praises we deserve, especially when adding the challenge of speaking a non native language to our children. IT’s scary and awkward at times, but it sounds like it will be worth it in the end…AND in the process, right?
I hope it’s been going well…it’s been a year since you posted. I’m curious, would love to hear from you to see how it’s going!
Buena suerte! Y que te diviertes!


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