Q&A: When using OPOL can parents read books in both languages

by | Aug 21, 2014 | Coaches, Q&A Being the parent in a multilingual family, Rita R | 0 comments


I come from Italy and my husband is German. We live in Germany. Our son is almost 1 year old and I only speak to him in Italian. The question I would like to ask is as I am likely the one who is reading to him, is it ok for me to read to him in German as well as Italian?

Thank you, M.B.


Thank you for your question. Since you live in Germany, German will soon become the dominant language for your son and your role as the person providing the Italian exposure to him will become even more vital, so that he continues to speak the language. It is important that he gets used to only talking Italian with you, so ideally you would read to him in your language and your husband in German, i.e. stick to the One parent, one language (OPOL) strategy. However, if your husband does not have much opportunity to read to your son, and you may have limited access to books in Italian, I can understand that you would also like to read German books to him. By all means, also read German books. What I would recommend that you do is to say (in Italian) that “mummy is going to read a German book to you”. Then you read the book in German and afterwards discuss the characters or what happened, but in Italian. This way your son gets used to Italian always being the language of interactive communication with you.

All the best,

Rita Rosenback

Rita Rosenback

Rita is an author, Family Language Coach, blogger and speaker, who was born into a bilingual family on the Swedish-speaking west coast of Finland. After studying languages in Finland and Germany she worked as a university teacher, translator, interpreter and manager of multinational teams. Rita is now a full-time writer and coach and has been living in the U.K. since 1998. Rita is the mother of two grown-up multilingual daughters, who are the inspiration for her book: “Bringing up a Bilingual Child”, an easy-to-read guide for parents, where she navigates the reader across the “Seven Cs of Multilingual Parenting: Communication, Confidence, Commitment, Consistency, Creativity, Culture and Celebration”. Currently English and Swedish are Rita’s main languages, but she instantly switches to Finnish or German or to her Finland-Swedish dialect when the opportunity presents itself (and when push comes to shove, she can communicate in a very basic Punjabi). Rita is the creator and driving force of this website, and she gives talks and holds workshops for parents and teachers on the topic of bilingual children. She also coaches families on how to make the most of their languages and raise their children to become confident speakers of the chosen languages.


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