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We are planning use the OPOL method at home. We live in Spain (Barcelona), my wife is Spanish and I’m from Holland.
I plan to talk Dutch to my child and my wife in catalan (and Spanish will be the language at school).

The problem is that my wife doesn’t understand Dutch.

We went to see a child psychologist and she said that my wife would learn Dutch (along with the child) without any problem. However we have our doubts…

Will this be that easy for her? Will we be able to have a fluent communication at home? Someone had a similar experience, how did this work out?


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Greetings. We live in America with one child. I (mother) speak only Latvian, her father only English to the child. She has attended Chinese immersion preschool for two years and will continue the Chinese in elementary school.  Obviously, English is the majority language in our environment. My partner had expected to learn Latvian right along with the child even though I did begin teaching him a little prior to our kid’s birth. By age 2-2.5 she had surpassed him in linguistic competence. She was not delayed in her speech, and as I was primary caregiver especially for the first few years, we rocked and sang folk songs and I jabbered at her really each day all day.  Her first sounds were Latvian, and yes, her father quickly realized that he was left behind in the language learning.  In my analysis, this is not uncommon.  Usually it is one parent or another that spends the majority of time with the child while the other parent works, and our focus with the child is often a conscious attempt to impart the language/culture; whereas with the spouse… there are is the necessity of communicating important information. When the child comes into the family, the concept of time changes often too, and so the good intentions we previously had are sometimes pushed to the side or challenged.  I think personal motivation plays a big part. My daughter’s father comes form a purely monolingual/ homogeneous cultural background, and so for him this ‘extra’, this ‘unnecessary’, this ‘different’ way of speaking isn’t integral. This is a divide. It is possible for your wife to learn Dutch too, and I think it would be wonderful if she did, but ultimately, in my opinion, it isn’t so necessary for the child to be bilingual that she does so and at the same rate. Good luck and congratulations!   

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Hi Daira
Our child is 2 years & 2 months old. I speak Hebrew to my child, my wife speaks Icelandic and we live in the UK. Up until now we could both understand when the other spoke to the child but now the child’s understanding of the minority languages is much better and when my wife talks to him in Icelandic I will pick only a word or two, so I still get the general idea of what they are talking about (and same for her when I talk to him). Our way of doing things is that if she or I say something important to the child in our minority languages, while the other parent is present, we then translate straight away to English so the other parent can understand as well. It works fine for us. Personally I feel content with this system as I do not have the time to learn Icelandic seriously (:

I’m just going to accept that sometimes I will not fully understand what my wife is telling my child (:

Best of luck,



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