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Subject: Best approach to teaching a child Russian in a monolingual English environment
Question: Hello,

I am Russian but I permanently live in the UK with English
husband and a baby boy. I'm really eager for my son to speak
boy Russian and English but I am concerned whether my
approach is the best.

I am a stay-at-home mum at the moment and I speak Russian
to my son as much as I can. Sadly, it is not always possible to
follow a strict ''One Parent One Language'' method. I'd love to
only speak Russian to my boy and for my husband to only
speak English, but living in the UK means we go to English-
speaking baby groups (including singing English songs at our
local library at a reading group), we meet English friends and
even at home my husband and I communicate in English
between us. Surely, he should be exposed to being with other
children and adults a lot in order to develop his social skills,
too. I try really hard to surround my boy with Russian as much
as I can (talking to him as much as possible, reading Russian
books and singing Russian songs, speaking to his
grandparents frequently and for long) but unfortunately I do
not speak Russian exclusively to him.

Is it going to be a major problem for his learning of Russian? I
worry at some point he might refuse to speak it to me since
he knows I also speak English on some occassions.

My husband does not speak Russian fluently, so we cannot
make it our family language at home.

Please, would you advise to me the best approach?

Thank you so much in advance.

Reply: The short answer to your first question, about problematic learning of Russian, is ‘no’. Your situation matches mine, where I was the only input for one of my languages while my children were growing up. This blog post of mine has some more on this issue:

‘Speaking like mummy, and speaking like daddy’:
<a href='http://beingmultilingual.blogspot.com/2012/02/speaking-like-mummy-and-speaking-like.html' target='_blank'>http://beingmultilingual.blogspot.com/2012/02/speaking-like-mummy-and-speaking-like.html</a>;

The answer to your second question is: just go on as you are doing now. Knowing that a person speaks more than one language does not mean that you will refuse to use one of the languages that you have in common. It is important for your boy (and for you!) that you speak Russian *to* him, and that he understands, through your *common* use of this language, the “place” of Russian in his overall linguistic repertoire. Each of the languages of a multilingual serves different purposes, that’s precisely why a multilingual needs several languages.

About worrying about the so-called OPOLicy - as I like to call it: please don’t. First, most self-labelled OPOL parents are not OPOL at all. Like you (and me) they use more than one language to their children, for the reasons I stated above: each language has its place. I used English, for example, which was not a home language in my family, to help with homework which was set in English, because it would make no sense to use any other language for this purpose. Second, OPOL is a *monolingual*-based myth. Why should multilingual parents like you (and me) use one single language with their children, when they want their children to become *multilingual*?? Have a look at this other blog post, for more:

‘One person, one ___.’
<a href='http://beingmultilingual.blogspot.com/2011/02/one-person-one.html' target='_blank'>http://beingmultilingual.blogspot.com/2011/02/one-person-one.html</a>;

Madalena

Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      click here to access email
 
Date: 16-Aug-2012
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Best approach to teaching a child Russian in a monolingual English environment    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (16-Aug-2012)
  2. Re: Best approach to teaching a child Russian in a monolingual English environment    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (18-Aug-2012)

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