The OPOL Method - One Person One Language
Nowadays, more and more children come from multicultural families with parents of different origins. It is therefore important to think about the multilingualism of the children and to bring up the question of the introduction of languages when they are still young.
Among the few methods that can be used, the OPOL method: One Person, One Language has a proven track record and is one of the most popular language strategies.
Invented by Jules Ronjat, we talk about this very interesting technique that we use at PEEK A BOO's Nursery.
What is it?
OPOL means that each person speaks a language to your child. Most of the time, with OPOL, everyone will speak in their mother tongue. However, parents who speak several languages generally choose the one they feel most comfortable with, the language to which they are most emotionally attached.
The method was born from a questioning of the French linguist, Jules Ronjat. After having a son with his German wife, he wondered how a child would behave if two different languages were spoken to him distinctively from birth.
After many observations, the OPOL method was born. It is a question of speaking the two languages distinctly to the child, but each parent will have to be responsible for a language. For example, if the father is Russian and the mother French, the father will have to make sure to communicate with the child in Russian while the mother will communicate in French.
How to use it?
If both parents are bilingual or of different languages, it is possible that the child will be bilingual before the age of 4 thanks to the OPOL method. For this reason, the child must be able to differentiate each language learned and associate it with one of the parents in particular.
By adopting this method of stimulation of the brain, the child will be able to learn both languages more easily. For a child to learn easily, routines must be established because he is in a period of learning and just starting out. It is recommended to give the child 50% of time in the practice of each language, which is quite difficult in everyday life. So, in practice, the child should spend more than 50% of his time communicating in the first language and 30% in the second. In addition, it would take 5 hours of exposure per day for the second language to be well controlled.
Does it work?
This is a method that has been proven for many years, but there are some questions and limitations. Certainly with the OPOL method, the child will understand both languages, but one of the problems adressed is the speaking. Although the child understands the second language, he may tend to answer in the first because of his learning system that is being formed.
At first, children may also tend to mix the two languages by communicating, but if the process is sustained over a long period of time, it is likely that the child will become bilingual. Another way to optimize this method is to enroll the child in a bilingual school or in language courses adapted to his situation and also plan language holidays in different languages since childhood.
Finally, for the OPOL method to be successful, there must be consistency. Each person must stick to a language rule to talk to their child and never move to another. In general, children live in a mixed linguistic environment. For the language of the majority, it is not a problem, but the parent or the person who speaks the language of the minority will have to redouble their efforts to give more visibility to their language.
At Peek A Boo, we apply this method daily with children. Each person uses a language to speak to them and in general the children are very responsive and manage to assimilate English and Spanish parallelly.