Question

I would like to hear what your thoughts are about this:

Languages: minority language (ml) – Spanish, majority language (ML) English
Strategy: One parent, one language (OPOL)
Country: USA
Child: 1 year old

Let’s say we found someone who could babysit our kid 4 times a week (28 hrs). She is a ml passive speaker, who was fluent in the ml in early childhood but became a passive speaker overtime. She still understands ml but naturally responds in ML. She can say short expressions in ml and read some ml books but cannot hold a long conversation.

Definitely ML will be the main language for our son and her to communicate, but I was wondering if the fact that she could read to him and use some words and expressions in the ml would help with the exposure to the ml he needs.

Thanks!
Dani

Answer

Thanks for your question – an interesting one!

If I understand correctly, you are raising your young child in English and Spanish using the OPOL strategy. I would be curious to know which parent does which language and the amount and nature of time each parent is able to dedicate to this purpose. However, regardless of the answer, since the minority language is Spanish, I believe it is wise to reinforce it in the home. Most children have a natural tendency to adopt the majority language once they enter a community setting (school, for example).

So, my answer to your ultimate question is yes, I believe that even though the babysitter is a passive speaker of the minority language, reading to him and teaching him words and expressions in the minority language will be of great benefit. If the babysitter clearly understands and is comfortable with what you are asking of her, she will be able to introduce Spanish in a simple, playful manner that will certainly appeal to your child and arouse his curiosity and interest. Also, as she was fluent in Spanish in her early childhood years, her accent should still be native, which will be an added plus for your child. I believe you have many benefits to gain by recruiting the help (and bilingual talents) of your child’s babysitter in raising a bilingual child.

I would love to hear from you again to know how it works out for you.

Sincerely,
Maria

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