If you decided to raise your children bilingual or multilingual then the next decision for you is what system should you choose. Olena Centeno of BilingualKidsRock.com argues that to succeed you must have a system, a structure, in place that will guide you (parents, grandparents, extended family, etc.) and your children through the years. Having a system is an integral part of family language planning (FLP).
In her post, Centeno writes that a system has the following three elements:
- Who speaks which languages
- When specific languages are spoken, and
- Which languages the child is expected to use
Centeno then elaborates on four system types: one parent one language (1P1L) – Mom speaks English & Dad speaks French; minority language at home (MLH) – Spanish at home and English at school; time and place systems – mornings in English, evenings in Ukrainian; and, mixed language policy – two languages are used equally and interchangeably in daily life.
It is of course possible to combine these systems, creating a framework that best suits you. In our family we use both one parent one language as well as a time and place system. Our daughters know that their father will speak to them in Ukrainian and their mother will use English. They also know that in the morning and at school they will hear and use English and read English books; in the afternoon and during Ukrainian lessons they will only use Ukrainian and read Ukrainian books; in the evening they will hear and use both languages and read books in both languages.
If you haven’t yet noticed a trend, it is that we use books extensively in our house to support raising our daughters bilingual. But there will be more on the power of books and language learning in a forthcoming post.
Regardless of which system you choose, having an established framework in place for how you approach raising your children bilingual will help keep you focused and guide you toward your goal.