I currently live and work in China. I am from Australia and English is my mother tongue. My wife is Chinese. We have a 19-month-old son, Daniel. When it came to deciding which approach to choose in order to raise Daniel as bilingual, OPOL seemed to be the best choice.

However, as both my wife and I work, Daniel lives with my parents-in-law in their small hometown, which is the normal practice in China. Luckily, their hometown is not too far away and I’ve been able to arrange my work hours so I spend about three days with Daniel every week. There have been times in the past, there are now and there will be in the future times when Daniel stays with his mum and me.

During the recent long summer break I returned to Australia for long period and was unable to take Daniel with me. After I returned to China, I quickly saw how far his Chinese had progressed. I’m starting to think that perhaps our situation is more like mL@H, so do you suggest I change our family language strategy¬†to mL@H, stick with OPOL or go with something in between? I should note that I teach English as a Foreign Language, but not to children.

Stephen Jobson


Hi Stephen,

I would say three days a week is probably enough English for him to continue to grow in fluency in the language, so I wouldn’t worry too much. Either choice is probably fine. If, when you are with him, he still speaks a mix of English and then Chinese with mom or others in the house, I might look at switching to mL@H. He is definitely going to be fluent in Chinese since he lives in China, so you really want to have a plan for the English. I would say the more consistent exposure to English you can give him the better.

The other thing to look at is schooling. Will he be going to a local Chinese school or an international one where the majority language is English? If he goes to an English speaking school, much of the work on developing English fluency will occur there.

Best of Luck!