Bilingual Toddler on a Minority Language Holiday

by Corey · 3 comments

Bilingual Family - Multilingual Child - Ask Multilingual LivingThis week we share a question from Lin who is about to embark on a holiday visit with her family. She is wondering whether or not it would be ok for her to switch to her child’s minority language during the visit in order to give her child a complete “minority-language-bath.”

Should she go for it or might this be too confusing for her child? What do you think?


Dear Multilingual Living,

We are raising our little one to be bilingual following the OPOL method. I need some advice on how to tackle a family holiday. We plan to visit the country of the minority language in a few months time for 3 weeks.

My husband and I speak the minority language at home to each other, he speaks the minority language with our little one and I speak the majority language to her. Would it be best for me (the majority language speaker) to switch to the minority language when talking to my little one whilst we’re on holiday? She understands both perfectly but has slightly more words in the majority language at present.

I like the idea of taking a ‘minority language holiday’ to boost this language but I’m not sure if it will confuse her too much. She will be 2 and a bit when we plan to go.

All the people that she will come into contact with will speak the minority language with her whilst we’re there. My husband and I are both bilingual. I speak both the minority and majority language fluently and without a ‘foreign’ accent so it is not an issue for me to switch.

Thanks in advance,

(Please post your responses to Lin in the comments section below…)

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ivana Rocca November 25, 2013 at 2:39 am

Hi Lin,

I would say to keep going on speaking the language you always do with your daughter. You said yourself that you are using OPOL approach – One Person One Language. This means your daughter is used to you speaking in a certain way to her and the place or country should not change that. It’s good that you know the minority language which will allow you to communicate with other people, your husband’s family etc., but I think that towards your daughter you should still use the majority language as always. I myself live in a multilingual family and we use OPOL. I speak always Czech to my sons, my husband always uses Italian. Together we speak English. Now we have moved from Italy to Ireland but nothing is changing about the languages we use with our boys. The same applies where ever we go – Italy or Czech, his or mine family 🙂 I am rather fluent in Italian by now but I would never use it with my sons. It jus would not feel natural 🙂 Good luck and enjoy your holidays!


2 Megan November 25, 2013 at 2:44 am

If you don’t speak the minority language with your daughter while in the majority language environment, what do you see as the benefits of speaking the minority language in the minority language environment? It seems she’ll be getting plenty of input in the minority language there. I don’t think it will *confuse* her if you speak the minority language – I’m sure she knows that you speak both languages – but I don’t see any good reason to abandon what sounds like a well-functioning OPOL situation. Unless there is more to the story – do you anticipate negative reactions to the majority language in the country of the minority language?


3 Fred November 25, 2013 at 10:53 am

Hi Lin,

I must say that I agree with the other two answers you’ve had so far from Megan and Ivana. I would keep on using the usual language with my children (which is what my husband and I are doing in all situations, whether in his country where we live or in mine where we go on holiday). My children know I can speak their Dad’s language (German) since I use it with all my friends and my in-laws, but whenever I use German with them, my daughter (28months old) always looks like she finds it funny and weird. It is ok with her if I use German but not with her (unless I sing songs with her).
Your final decision might also depend on your child’s age 🙂 How old is your daughter?


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