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Hello all, 

Our situation is quite complex, although I see from some of the posts that we’re not alone in that regard!  

We’re an expat couple living in Brussels, Belgium, where the local languages are Flemish/Dutch and French but where English is also quite widely spoken.  My husband is a native English speaker and speaks a little bit of French but no other languages.  My mother tongue is Afrikaans (a close relative of Dutch), but years of growing up and being educated in English means that English is actually my best language.  It is the language I think in and the language I feel by far the most comfortable in.  It is also, of course, the language my husband and I speak to each other.   

We have a 3-week old baby girl who I watch full-time, for now, while my husband works. I’m having great difficulty deciding what language to use with her.  Her first outside day-care, due to start around a year from now, will be Flemish/Dutch, and if we stay in Belgium for a few more years we’re likely to also enroll her in a lot of French activities so that she can learn French.  I also don’t know how long we will be in Belgium – we may be in another country entirely by the time she really starts to communicate.

We could use OPOL, with me speaking Afrikaans to her and my husband English, but this leaves my husband unable to understand what’s going on between the two of us, and me speaking a language I’m less than comfortable in.  Afrikaans is not very useful on its own, and although it’s very similar to Dutch/Flemish, it is not the same and I worry that its similarity will hamper rather than help her early attempts to learn Dutch at day-care.  I also currently speak only English outside the house with friends, at playgroups, etc, as most of our friends are also expatriates.

What comes most naturally to me is to speak a mixture of Afrikaans and English to her.  I could also speak English to her when all three of us are at home but Afrikaans when it’s just the two of us.  Would either of these work, or are they likely to be too inconsistent?

Thanks to anyone who has had the patience to read this far and follow this convoluted story!

– Elle


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