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  Reply with quote  #1 
I am a Japanese and my husband is a Polish. We live in the US. Our common language is English. We are going to have first baby in this summer. We would love our baby to learn our native languages, too. So I guess the best way is we speak our native languages to our kid. But we don’t understand each other’s languages, so we are concern that we will not be able to have a family conversation. Always it is going to be me and our kid, my husband and our kid and me and my husband….
How will it be possible to solve this problem?
  Reply with quote  #2 
Congratulations, and good for you that you are so well prepared!

The normal solution to this dilemma is that the parents “learn with the child” and allow for not understanding all that is said. Both parent’s do well taking a beginners course in each other’s language, just to get some basic words down. Also, the level of conversation with baby isn’t very advanced for the first years, so there is time for both of you to learn together with baby. However, as your child gets more sophisticated, you’ll have to accept that you are not going to understand everything the other parent says to your child. Most parents in that situation agree that it is a sacrifice worth making for the gift of multilingualism, but it definitely is one of the drawbacks… At times, when it is important that everyone understands you can allow yourself the occasional English, but mostly you’ll use simultaneous translation. You’ll get extremely good at it — trust me! Also, as the child gets older, and speaks both languages well, you can allow more and more English into the conversation. You are not going to have any advanced “family conversations” until your age of four or five anyhow.

Still, if you really don’t like the strict OPOL idea, you can also decide to always speak English when you are all together. But, in that situation, my prediction is that your child will understand some Polish and Japanese, but never learn to speak it. Children are very savvy in that they don’t do things unless they absolutely have to… So once he/she figures out that English is OK with you that will become the default (the coin drops for them on that around 18 months). But, you’ll have go for what you feel comfortable with…

This article should be useful for you:

Best of luck, and let us know how it works out!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Christina Bosemark
Founder & List Moderator
Multilingual Children’s Association
  Reply with quote  #3 
Thank you for your reply!
It was very helpful. I looked up many websites, but people don’t talk about this issue. I wonder if it is not a big concern for others…. My husband worries about it a lot. He says that he doesn’t want to have any stress in time with his family. I agree with him, too. But right now I am leaning towards OPOL. Because I think our both cultures are wonderful. Also our parents don’t speak English, so I want our kid to communicate with them when we will visit them. If they live closer, they are going to be great teacher, though…..
I asked my husband to read your advice. We will talk about it more and decide!!

Anna Niewodniczanska
  Reply with quote  #4 


I’m Polish and so is my husband and we live in New Jersey. We have 3 kids:6,4,2 and so far we are lucky and their Polish is perfect. I don’t know where you live but there are many Saturday Schools – often by Polish churches – where they teach Polish language and some history and geography. Not all of them are very good but some are.

Good luck


  Reply with quote  #5 

Hi Chuha


I can fully understand the concerns you are having at the moment as I myself have been struggling with very similar issues for two years now.Im Polish , my husband is Australian and we live in Australia with our son who is nearly 2 now.Since my son was born the plan had always been to use OPOL approach/my husband can speak only English/.The biggest difficulty for me so far has been the lack of friends or relatives who can speak Polish.However ,even though my son does not talk yet he can definitely understand both languages.And yes it has been hard work and very frustrating at times i must say the whole exercise feels very worthwhile.My little boy responds to my requests in Polish and to his father’s in English.Personally I think it would be fantastic for your baby to speak Japanese!what an amazing assest to have.Good luck,I will keep my fingers crossed for you.



  Reply with quote  #6 

Hi all,


First I’d like to say I am very happy to have found this website. I was born in Uruguay (Spanish speaking) but have been raised in Australia since I was nine. I married an Australian who only speaks English (with knowledge of some basic Spanish). We now have a three month old son and both out of necessity (my parents speak little English and will have a lot to do with him) and out of wanting him to know my heritage, we have decided to start him off on the OPOL system.

I am very interested in this thread since I also feel that when our son is older I want to be able to have significant family conversations without either parent feeling isolated from the conversation (in our case my husband as I speak English). I guess I’ll stay strong on OPOL as you say and when he is older slip into English when necessary. The question is at what age will it no longer be confusing for my son for me to talk to him in two languages?


The other question is in regards to reading. My English is  good and eventually I want to introduce my son to reading (mainly in English since Australia is where he’ll live). I also want to be able to help him with his English homework in English. At the moment I have bought bilingual Spanish/English baby books (thank goodness for California!) and am doing only the Spanish; but eventually I would like to read to him in English as well. How do I structure this?

In addition…is it bad for me to sing to him in English? After all I grew up in Australia and know more English songs!


And… can I speak to my son in English in the community in certain situations, e.g. with someone who doesn’t speak Spanish, if it is consistent?


P.S My mother will be looking after my son and talking to him in Spanish when I go bak to work.


  Reply with quote  #7 
Hola amiga! I’m originally from Spain, and live in Australia for the past 5 years, I live on the Gold Coast, where do you live?. IT would be great if you live close .  My husband is Australian and we have a 16 month girl, Sara. 

Since the moment she was born we have been using the OPOL system. So far she does not say proper words in either language, well in Spanish she says ” esto, ese, eso” when she is asking about an object she is interested in. Apart from that, she doesn’t say any other words.

Sara understands pretty much everything I say in Spanish, however  my husband thinks she understands better Spanish than English, as according to him she cannot understand when he speaks English to her. She goes to the childcare centre 2  days per week, so she is 2 full days in an English speaking environment. Her cares told she understands well everything they say to her, so it seems my husband is the only one that says she does not understand that much English, compared to Spanish. I think he compares Sara with the children of his mates ( all English speaking) sho obviously understand more words in English and even speak some.

I tell my husband that Sara is different from the others, as she is learning 2 languages at the same time, that is why she may seem she does not learn that much compared to the Australian children her same age. I think Sara is doing really well but how can I make my husband think the same and stop compare her to the other kids?

Thanks a lot for reading, and hope to hear from you soon! Hasta pronto amiga y saludos para tu nene!

  Reply with quote  #8 

This is exactly my concern. I am Spanish, my fiance is Iranian (Farsi speaker) and our common language is English. We live in Indonesia. We plan to have our first child very soon so we are starting to discuss the issue of language at home.

Given that we both want our children to speak our mother tongues and that we do not understand each other’s language, we decided to go for OPOL and use English for common family/couple life. I have been reading in the website about this, and I find very difficult not to have a common family language. Although we are both committed to learn each other’s mother tongue, I am concern that the use of English would impoverish our child’s learning of Farsi and Spanish. Almost anywhere in the world you could find Spanish play groups but I don’t think it is so easy to practice Farsi. The advantage that we particularly have is that we are very attached to our respective families, so we have regular vacations in Iran & Spain, which would help a lot… but they don’t live with us.

I see the moderator’s opinion is that the use of the common language will prevent the child to speak the second languages… but I wonder if it is not very pessimistic view…

Your experiences are priceless!! And I am happy to have found this website.

Best regards
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