Bilingual is Better

I love the work that you do and I read your blog daily. I have a 2.5 year old daughter who we are trying to raise speaking 3 languages, English, Spanish and Hebrew. We have been using the OPOL method. I speak Spanish, my husband speaks English and my husband has started introducing Hebrew words. I have two questions. I have been reading my daughter English books in Spanish and I just wondered if this will hurt her regarding how she will learn to read in English and Spanish. Since we have been using OPOL, if I read these books to her in English will it affect the OPOL method at all? I do have Spanish books that I read to her but some of her favorite ones are in English. Gracias,

~Lucila

Hi Lucila,

I would suggest that you do not worry about your child’s English reading and that you remain faithful, for the time being, to the OPOL method by reading books in Spanish. You say that your husband is the ‘English speaker’ for your child, so he can focus on reading in English and you can focus on reading in Spanish. If your child has a favorite book, you can read it in Spanish (translating as you go if the book is in English) and your husband can read it in English.

The ideal is that your child hears as much Spanish and English as possible as well as being engaged in as many activities in Spanish as in English, so focusing too much on English when reading might give the child the wrong message that reading is an ‘English activity’ or that English is more important than Spanish. Therefore, providing a balance of reading in both languages is best.

Of course, once your child is older and proficient in both languages, then you can start moving a bit away from the OPOL method and perhaps read sometimes in English if you prefer so. The goal right now, since your child is so young, is to be as consistent as possible in your language use to her and provide as much Spanish input as possible (the minority language). Once she can comfortably speak Spanish, I don’t see any harm being done if you read to her in English from time to time.

When she is older you can also introduce literacy in Spanish to her while your husband (and the school system) will introduce English literacy. Do not make the mistake of always speaking Spanish to her while at the same time teaching her to read in English only. Children can perfectly pick up two- even three- reading systems as long as they get practice in each of them and see reading in each language a worthy effort. So keep up your work in Spanish and do not worry about English! English literacy will naturally come as a result of living in the US.

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