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Justine Giovinazzo

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I am American and my husband is Italian and we live in the US. We have a 2 1/2 month old daughter. We just started to use OPOL, I speak English and he speaks Italian to our daughter and we mostly speak Italian between us with a bit of English.

Is it possible for me to read a book or sing a story in Italian or should I just stick to English? I am concerned this will confuse our daughter more but would also like to be a part of her learning Italian (I am at a intermediate level of Italian).

Has anyone had any experience with using more than one language? Any input would be great.




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I am a non-native speaker of Spanish and have been speaking to my daughter only in Spanish since she was about a year old.  Before that I switched between both English and Spanish and decided at one year that I needed to be more consistent with the Spanish.  My husband and the rest of our families and community speak English as we live in the U.S.  Although I only converse with her in Spanish, I still read her the occasional book in English.  I also sing some English songs with her. 

Although my daughter starting speaking later than most children (1 1/2 years old), she knows by now that Mommy speaks Spanish and everyone else speaks English.  In fact, if anyone else in the family tries to speak Spanish, she corrects them.  As for me, she knows I speak both languages so she doesn’t correct me.  But, occasionally she’ll brag to family members that she speaks Spanish, because she likes to translate for them. 

So, I guess my point is that despite all the English she heard from me early on and still hears today, she’s doing really well.  So in my opinion, don’t worry about singing or reading the occasional book in Italian.  I would just make sure you’re consistent about using only English on a conversational level so the majority of what she’s hearing from you is in English.

I hope this helps. 

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I think it varies greatly by child. 

Wife:  native Japanese, okay English
Me:  native English, okay Japanese

My wife has been rather strict about using only Japanese, but I’ve been horrible — I mix all over the place (though generally not within a sentence unless it’s mostly Japanese, which is actually kind of an accepted way to speak Japanese anyway).  We had been going for teaching Japanese first, and then switching over to English later.

My oldest, at 8, is native-level with both languages (actually, ahead of grade level in both).

My middle son is 5 and in kindergarten, and is currently in ESL.  He’ll probably have the toughest time making the adjustment.  However, I don’t think this is particularly related to the way we taught him — he isn’t as quick as my older son on quite a few academic/intellectual tasks (he is, however, utterly brilliant at making friends regardless of language, and is one of the more popular kids in his class despite rather broken English).

My youngest, at 2 and a half (years), I’m not really worried about.  He picks up languages effortlessly.  He’d even begun picking up Korean because we took him to a playground with a lot of Korean kids (neither of us speaks Korean).

So, I don’t think you need to worry about the odd story incidentally.  She’ll likely pick up English just fine if you’re in the US unless you push Italian extremely heavily.  The odd story in Italian from you won’t likely damage her Italian ability.

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I am British and my husband is Japanese. We live in the UK and are expecting our first child at the end of April.

Justine – I was pleased to find your message as I have been thinking a similar thing myself. My husband is planning to speak only Japanese to our child, and I understand Japanese pretty much so don’t worry about feeling ‘left out’. I would like to adopt the Ml@h strategy to create more opportunity for our little one to experience Japanese instead of relying on my husband as the only Japanese input. But my spoken Japanese is not up to it…

I’m also not really keen on OPOL as it would mean I don’t speak Japanese anymore – and I don’t think that’s helpful. Especially for when we travel back to see relatives in Japan – I need to keep practising speaking Japanese! Not speak less!

I am happy to speak Japanese as much as possible when we’re all together as my husband could help me out when I’m stuck. And I would like to be able to use bits of Japanese (including reading books, singing, day to day stuff) but worry that would be confusing if I then revert to English when I can’t explain myself in Japanese. It’s a tricky one isn’t it! What’s the best thing to do?? Would a consistent input from my husband be enough if I’m less consistent? Am I over-thinking the situation?!

Any advice welcome! Thanks Justine for bringing this up – I’ve struggled to find any advice in books about this.


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Hi Gail,

Thanks for your reply. It seems we are in the same situation. I have decided to speak English to our 4 month your old DD and occasionally I will read a book or sing a song in Italian. As much as I would like to speak Italian to her, I figure this will be the best way since I am not fluent enough in speaking Italian (understand much more than I can speak).

Although I feel like I am starting to forget my Italian, I make an effort to speak only Italian with my husband which has helped.

I have looked for some more advise on this subject but have not found anything. If I do I will let you know.


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Hi, I’m in a similar situation as Gail and Justine.
My husband is French, I’m American, and we live in Scotland; our daughter is 2 months old.  We are doing OPOL at the moment (more or less, I’ll slip in a bit of French here and there) and after I got back to work in 4 months, I want to do ml@h, but at the moment my French isn’t up to it if I try for anything more complicated than baby talk.  I know I get by with my in-laws (their English varies from broken to non-existant) with broken phrases and the like, and if it’s not too stressful for me I’ll try and do that with my DD… no idea if it’ll work but at least she’ll have her father’s influence for speaking French properly 🙂
Good luck!


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HI Steph,

We have switched from OPOL to ml@h and only speak to our daughter in Italian. I have been studying my Italian in hopes to be at a more advanced level by the time my DD really starts speaking. She is 7 months now. While at times it is difficult I am getting by.

The hardest part is the reaction of family and friends. They have a hard time understanding our decision and worry she will not learn English. We are not concerned as she will be surrounded by English and have ample time to learn. We feel she will have limited exposure to Italian so with both of us speaking Italian to her and each other she will have a better chance of really learning italian.


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Never really stuck 100% to OPOL becauseI speak five languages a day and couldn’t be bothered to “hide” the other languages from my girls (well, theys peak 3 out of 5 perfectly anyway). They say,”mommy speaks all the languages,” and know/accept that most people only speak one or two. Never been an issue.

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