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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: As you will see from my FAQ on this topic, I feel that the 'One Parent One Language' slogan has been promoted as if it is the best and/or the only way to promote bilingual children. It isn't. There are many ways. I've never understood how OPOL works in the real world and I don't know how its proponents have made it so popular a recommendation when it is so unusual in the real world.

Of course you have to live normally in the place you are and of course he has to socialise with other children and adults. Of course you have to have a social life and have to converse with your husband. Just go on doing it and don't feel guilty.

Generally, where it is the mother who speaks the language that is not supported in the community, the child is more likely to keep using the language than if it is the father. So it seems to me that (as long as you continue to spend more time with your son than his father) it is highly likely that your son will learn Russian well and will retain it.

It is possible that at some point (aged 3 or 4) he may reject Russian -- if he does, you will just have to cope with it then. But he might never reject it.

And keep going with the grandparents, Skype, visits, media....

Anthea

Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
 
Date: 18-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    Madalena Cruz-Ferreira     (16-Aug-2012)

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