Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Adventure Begins

The decision to embark upon the journey to bring our daughter (who we lovingly refer to as Poppette) up to be bilingual was probably one of  the hardest decisions I have ever made and, for now at least, I continue to revisit the decision with every day that passes.

My mother tongue is English. I am also lucky enough to speak French having lived in France and having had a passion for the language since I first began to learn it at the age of ten. My partner is also English and currently learning French. When we pondered the long and sometimes arduous road to the acquisition of a second language later in life, both my partner and I were immediately agreed that it could be nothing but a good thing if our child were to be lucky enough to learn both English and French from birth. We considered the options available to us and decided to use the OPOL (one parent one language) method.

Despite our overwhelming conviction that multilingualism is a good thing, I will admit to having certain fears and insecurities as to its application in our lives given that I am to create an emotional link with my daughter in a tongue that is not my own.

I have (and continue to) research the topic well. There are many arguments for and against the idea of what is often referred to as ‘artificial bilingualism’ i.e. the use of a non-native language. On balance though there seems to be more support than criticism.

The main criticism for me, I realise, comes from the devil on my own shoulder. The little devil that undermines me and causes me to question my own ability and to worry that I could be, at best, harming my daughter’s psyche and, at worst, ruining her life! Although these ideas may seem a little melodramatic, I know that I am not the only one to have struggled with them.

For a while I worried that there could be gaps in communication. Then I decided that the sensible option was to stop worrying that there might be things I could want to say in the future but wouldn’t know how and to concentrate on whether I could say the things I want to say from moment to moment and day to day… so far I am pleased to say that the words keep coming and I am pleased with progress.

I have taken a lot of inspiration from great blogs maintained by others who have taken the non-native plunge - particularly Papa et Piaf, Bringing Up Baby Bilingual and Speaking Spanish To My Daughter. The more I look, the more I find that us non-natives dreaming of a bilingual future for our little treasures are not in as much of a minority as we might each have feared at one point or another. As and when I find other inspiring and useful blogs or websites I will add links here. Hopefully, this way this blog can become a useful resource and support for others out there considering whether to embark on a bilingual journey (particularly where a non-native language is to be involved).

As our daughter is currently only 4 months old, it will be a while before I am able to blog about her language acquisition and reaction to living in an OPOL household. In the meantime, I intend for this blog to be a place where I note my observations and fears (hopefully there won’t be too many of those!) and general musings. I hope readers of the blog will be inspired to leave comments, thoughts and suggestions.


  1. Thanks for mentioning my blog! I'm glad it can help allay your fears.

    For me as a non-native speaker, what it comes down to is that I'd rather have a child who speaks fluent English and imperfect French and who is interested in and aware of other countries and cultures than a monolingual child. Period. If we have the knowledge and desire and means to share our second languages with our children, then we should! What a gift. Bravo to you and your partner for setting this goal. (And bravo to your partner for learning French too--my husband is still monolingual!)

  2. I DEFINITELY echo Sarah's thoughts...her blog has also been a big inspiration for me, esp. as I was starting this journey, and I completely agree that I would rather have a passively bilingual child, or even one who has roots and neural connections that are primed for language acquisition, than have a completely monolingual child.
    I also applaud you for taking the non-native plunge. It is certainly a roller coaster of ups and downs, as I have experienced it...I wanted to write a long post about my fears once again--but life got busy and I was suddenly inspired, once again, but something cute that Kaya did or said.
    When I read your comment this morning on my blog, however, I got chills all over my body. I really appreciate your thoughts, and love that you said you found my blog by serendipity. I feel so connected to you and I don't even know you...(would love to know your name!)--I think that's amazing, and you help remind me as to one of the MAJOR reasons I started my blog in the first place.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
    Portland, OR

  3. Thanks for commenting on my blog, and I am glad to have found yours.

    I look forward to reading more about your bilingual adventure. There are so many successful non-native parents raising there children to be bilingual. And, I am sure you will be one of them.

  4. Sarah, Tamara and Tongue Tales - thank you all so much for your comments. They gave me the boost I needed this weekend!

  5. I found you via Tamara's blog - I'm also a non-native who has been raising my 19 month old daughter bilingual since birth. I'm definitely subbing to your blog! :)

  6. Enjoy the journey and I am glad that you have such nice travelling companions.

  7. I know it's kind of too late to leave a comment here now but I can't help leaving mine on this great blog post. I am a Japanese, living in Japan, who is raising my daughter (born in Jan 2011) in English which is not my native language at all. I think I can clearly see what you meant by 'fear' and I think I am on the same boat! Really glad to see something who is on the same challenge! Looking forward to reading more stories about you and Poppette here in this blog. I am blogging too but unfortunately I am doing it in Japanese:-)

    1. Hey Rintaro...Great to hear from you thanks for taking the time to let me know you've visited my blog - it really makes my day to hear to hear that you have found it helpful / inspiring and i'm glad to have you along for the ride.

      I'm not sure whether you have come accross Perogies & Gyoza yet? This is a blog written by a canadian woman bringing up her children bilingually in Japan - so the opposite to what you doing. You can read all about it here at I personally have found chatting to French people who speak non-native English to their children to be super helpful for me... it's almost like together you can help each other complete the picture :D

      Good luck with your adventure and do stay in touch.