The great bilingual language paradigm! The correct way to raise a bilingual child? How should we do this? These are all problems, fears and questions about raising a child in a bilingual environment. Here l want to have a look at one main approach.
One parent one language approach (OPOL): This has been the dominant approach for bilingual learning at home since the early 1900s. It was first mentioned by Maurice Grammont. It is simple in its application yet it requires a high level of consistency on behalf of the parents. This method requires that each parent selects a language and will only speak to their child in their chosen target language. This is probably the best choice for families where there is no clear common target language between the parents. Using my family as an example: we have chosen the OPOL approach, l am from the UK and my wife is Spanish. We live in Spain and my wife does not dominate English. Therefore the logical choice is the OPOL approach, l will speak only in English to my daughter and my wife will speak only in Spanish.
Annick De Houwer has suggested that OPOL can help with an early development of metalinguistic awareness. In this metalinguistic awareness the child develops the ability to note that language is much more than just symbols, an awareness that words are can be separable from their referents (for example l am “dad” but if someone calls me John, l will still be dad to my daughter, meaning resides in the mind not in the words themselves). The metalinguistic awareness that language is a living being, it can evolve, change and be manipulated by the user to fit their requirements and aid in communication.
So far all of the areas seem positive, however, it is not so. There are various disadvantages to OPOL. The intention of OPOL is to enable simultaneous bilingualism converting both languages into L1, however, if (as in my case) l am the only source of English there is a severe risk of language attrition. Also if (as it is in my case) one of the parents is monolingual then l have to communicate with my wife in her selected language, my daughter could understand this as a hierarchy of languages and she could downgrade English almost to the level of L2.