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Stephanie Walsh

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BACKGROUND: We live in Chicago. I am a native Spanish Speaker brought up bilingual in the US, have lived and worked in Spain and Germany, where I met my husband.
When we lived in Germany, we used to speak German, but after over a decade in the US the gap between my German and my husband’s English has widened and we shifted to speaking to each other in English. But when our baby was born we decided to speak in German to each other in the presence of our baby. When we are alone, we revert to English.
We have one 20 month old boy.
We use OPOL.
When I’m alone with the baby, it’s simple, I only speak Spanish.
When the three of us are together, I speak Spanish to the baby and my husband speaks German to him.
The baby understands most of what we each speak with him.
QUESTION: While I have decided to support my husband’s language by speaking to him in German in front of our baby, I continue to address my baby in Spanish and to address my husband in German in his presence. I wonder if I should switch from only speaking to my baby in Spanish to speaking to him in German when my husband is present.
I had a similar situation yesterday when I met a German mom with her child for a playdate at the pool. Should I continue addressing my boy in Spanish or is this a time when I should be speaking to my child in my average German?


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Hi Stephanie, 

Stumbled on your post, so replying below: 

I used to live in Wheeling! Chicago is a great city!

I would assume at only 20 months, the linguistic outcome has yet to be seen. However, you would know as I do as a multilingual individual that much of language is associating feeling or context with meaning. It’s not until much later that we settle into the idea that there are verbal differences and the limitations of each verbal method (English, German, Spanish…) to convey a feeling or meaning common in another. So to cut to the point, I would imagine that whatever you can maintain most consistently should be what your boy is exposed to, because the best learning is found in frequency of exposure. 

What are your thoughts? 

Los Angeles, CA

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Dear Hayato,
My post/question is over a year old but I’ve only seen your reply today! I apologize but am still happy to get  your feedback. Yes, I see  your point about consistency and frequency taking priority. I had doubts last year but today I’m pretty sure that I really shouldn’t be speaking to my child in German. Now at almost 33 months old, he is thriving linguistically in both languages. Thanks! Stephanie

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