Q&A: How to reintroduce a minority language to a school-aged child?

by | Nov 12, 2015 | Coaches, Q&A How to motivate a bilingual / multilingual child to speak a family language, School-aged children | 0 comments


I have a unique situation as many bilingual families tend to have and could use some advice.

Here is my background: I grew up in Latin America with a Spanish/English bilingual mother and a Spanish-speaking father. Spanish was my first language but all my schooling was in English beginning at age 4. What I consider to be my native language (and what I dream in!) is English. I am still mostly fluent in Spanish having spoken it with my family all my life but I have lost some of it after moving to the U.S. twenty years ago. My husband speaks English only and understands some Spanish having learned it as a second language in elementary school.

We began as an OPOL family until my daughter started preschool. Then, she began coming home speaking in English more and more and naturally, I would default to English. She is now mid-elementary school age and speaks the (stunted) Spanish of a pre-schooler. Attempting to return to OPOL at this point has been frustrating for both of us.

Should I just try mL@H and supplement with classes, books, workbooks, etc. or should I continue to try rekindling OPOL? I almost feel like it’s a lost cause at this point. 🙁



Hi Vanessa

Returning to OPOL at this point is definitely going to be a large challenge. I think it’s probably a worthy endeavor, but it will really depend on how it affects your family as to how much I would recommend pushing it. The best way to do it is start small and be realistic about progress. I would start with maybe a story time every night in the target language and follow it with some Q & A or fun activities. I would steadily increase time spent in the minority language from there to maybe an hour a day, then two, then three, etc. Eventually, I’d work up to one day a week where you only speak in the target language, and then two, etc.

Your daughter is also old enough where she needs to start being part of the decision making process. I would get her involved as to why learning the language is so important. Have her try to connect with family or community members that don’t speak English. Take her to cultural events that make her proud and/or interested in the language. Let her really see and understand the value to her personally of learning the language.

Let us know how it goes, and please do ask any follow-up questions below.


Nick Jaworski

Nick Jaworski



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