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Sep 042014
 

Question

I have found your articles of real interest and embrace the messages you are trying to deliver upon raising a bilingual child. I just wanted to pick you brains on something. My wife is from Sweden, we live in England and have two children aged five and three. My wife has spoken Swedish to the kids since birth. She never changes this rule and we have always believed that this the correct thing to do. They certainly understand Swedish, but answer back to her in English. I always speak English to them. We speak English together as a family, as my Swedish is limited.

If we moved to Sweden in near future, would we simply carry on with the same routine? And would the children then just automatically start to speak Swedish? We are worried that if we did move to Sweden it would confuse the language learning curve of the children. Please advise.

Kind regards,
P.D.

Answer

Dear P.D.

Thank you for your message and for the kind feedback.

With both of you speaking your native language to your children, you are following what is called a ‘One parent, one language’ (OPOL) strategy with English as your common language. If you were to move to Sweden, I would recommend that you stick to the same strategy. It will not take long until your children start to speak Swedish when they are immersed in the language in Sweden. Also, a move is a big change for all of you, so keeping the same language pattern in the family is to be recommended.

Children are very adaptable and their language development will not be hampered by your move. Since they are continuing to speak English with you and hear you and your wife speak it together, their English skills will be maintained and they will keep learning new words. Remember that they will also be hearing English for example on the TV as programs are not dubbed but subtitled in Sweden. There are also a lot of English high quality children’s programs available on-line which you can watch together with your sons to increase the exposure.

All the best with your move and good luck on your multilingual family journey!

Kind regards,
Rita

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