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Hello, to begin, we live in the US and want to do a mix between OPOL and ML@H where I speak French and my wife speaks Spanish and we speak English to one another. My wife is fluent in Spanish, as is her family so there will be no lack of support there. I grew up monolingual but am now conversational in French and Spanish, but my family speaks neither. We have only been parents for a few weeks and I am very excited about raising our daughter to speak French and Spanish, but there are some things I am nervous about.

First, I have recently realized that my fluency in French does not include talking to kids or babies and I often feel like I don’t know what to say so I end up talking about what I heard on the radio. It seems weird, but I feel like I need a French baby language booster. Any suggestions?

My second fear is one that my brain understands won’t be an issue, but my heart has trouble internalizing it. I’m afraid since French is my second language that my personality will be lost in translation or I will have difficulty teaching important but complex ideas, like self-worth for example.

My third is a question rather than an anxiety. If we raise our child in the manner described above, would it be beneficial to send her to an immersion school in one of those languages as well, or would and English speaking school be a better choice? I like the idea of her learning one or the other formally, but I’m afraid she will struggle with English in that case. 

Finally, reading for pleasure is very important to my wife and I, and one of the things that I am the most excited about sharing with our daughter is the canon of stories that have shaped who I am as an adult. I know this is still a few years off, but should I share the stories in English or French? Any thoughts?

I know that is a lot and that no one can tell me exactly what will happen, or should happen, but it would be great to hear from people who have done this before or are doing it now. Thanks a lot for your help.


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One other French-specific question, when addressing your child do you use “tu” or “vous?” I assume it’s tu, but I so rarely hear the tu form used and when I was taught, the tu form was talked about almost as a vestigial organ or like vosotros in American (north, south, central) Spanish. So I’m not sure what is more appropriate. Thanks.

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Hi Justin,

Congratulations on your new baby! We are a French-Finnish OPOL family living in Finland and my husband and I have always spoken in our native languages to our two kids. We also speak French to each other as I have done my studies in French and also teach it at a local high school. Despite being fluent in French and having spoken it on a daily basis for 18 years, it doesn’t feel right to me to use it with my children even if I know it would increase the amount of French in their lives. I personally felt it was important that they learn Finnish with all its nuances from me, rather than just from the community, as with my language comes my cultural heritage and family history. To me this is especially important as I nolonger have my parents who could do that with my children.

Having said that, this is a very personal matter to consider and there are many parents who do speak their non-native language to their children with success. However, many of those whose language skills in that non-native language are limited seem to find after a while that they miss speaking their own language and wish they could express themselves more freely and not feel restricted by their language skills. Of course, the more you study and practise the language (preferably with natives) the less this is probably going to be a problem. Looking for a French speaking playgroup might be a way to get into the “babytalk” in French (by the way, it’s definitely “tu” to children, even when they’re not your own at a playgroup for instance).

What is good to know is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing should you decide to speak English to your baby. I don’t mean that you should randomly mix the two languages, that would be confusing to your child. However, you could link the usage of French to specific places, specific times or specific games. This would set some boundaries to its use that the child could understand. This could then be supported by French materials, like dvds, tapes etc. as well as other French speakers (nanny, playgroups etc.).

I have tons of ideas for supporting French, let me know if I can help!

all the best,


[email protected]

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Hello!! I’m 6-month pregnant with my first child and I’m very interested that he is raised bilingual in Spanish and English. My mother tongue is Spanish and my second language is English. The father only speaks Spanish. I have looked for a bilingual daycare where I can choose the English language education but my concern is that my son will spend 6-7 hours there (due to my job schedule) and I’m afraid he will fall behind in Spanish and have problems to communicate with family or friends.
Another option is a monolingual daycare and that I use English at home, with the support of books, DVDs, music, etc. But I think it will be difficult for me to speak in English all the time and I will miss speaking to my child in Spanish.
What is the best option?

2. Father speaks Spanish, mother speaks Spanish (first) and English (2nd)
3. New born (in April 2012)
4. Language system (none)


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Hi Justin,

I’m in a similar boat to you. I’m no expert but to give you some tips regarding ‘what to say to your baby’ my advice is to go back to basics and talk to her about the activity you’re involved in or describe things within her environment. This is the method I’ve been using with my daughter since she was born and so far at 9 months she is recognising a few words and their meaning.

eg. when you are getting her ready for a bath, talk to her in French about what you are doing ‘I’m going to take your nappy off now’ ‘I’m going to dip you in some warm water’ ‘I’m washing your hair with shampoo’ etc…
or if you take her for a walk in the park, stop to describe things to her ‘this  is a tall tee, look at the leaves blowing in the wind’ etc. 

If you relate what you’re saying with what you’re doing or what you’re seeing it will sink in and she will relate to it more than if you talk about random topics if you know what I mean.

Basically give her a verbal commentary about day to day activities so that certain words become meaningful eg when your wife feeds her (if she’s breastfeeding) you can use the term ‘mummy’s milk in French to refer to it, otherwise the word ‘bottle’ (if she’s taking bottles) then show her the bottle before you give it to her. 

As for your other questions, I need some time to think about them, so I’ll come back to you if I have any more to add!

* by the way, our 3 languages at home are Spanish (me), Turkish (husband), and English which we speak to one another. We live in Ireland but plan to raise our kids in Australia (where I grew up). I gets very confusing explaining this to people!


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Hi Angela,

I am in a similar situation with you. My native language is Chinese, my husband’s is Slovak, and we speak in English to each other. I wonder how it will work if we both talked to our child in our native languages. My biggest concern would be that one of us will be left out. So as for the child when parents speak together in the third language (in this case English).

How do you handle it or do you understand each other’s native languages?



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Hi Winnie,

My husband is away from home a lot due to his job, so our daughter ends up spending more time listening to me speak Spanish than she does to him speak Turkish. I chatted to a friend of mine who studied linguistics and she said our daughter will definitely pick up the Spanish (from me, because she hears it a lot) and English (from school) but it is very unlikely she will pick up much Turkish because she is not exposed to it as much.

We speak our own language directly to her, but when we are out and about we use English. More so when we are with other people I may add. English is the community language so I feel it is appropriate to use it in a social setting. She will learn to associate Spanish with me, Turkish with her dad and English as the community language (or so my linguistics friend says!).

We don’t understand each other’s language. I only know basic Turkish. So far we have been managing ok and neither of us feels left out. Our daughter will also not feel left out when we speak English because she will already be exposed to some of it.


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