The Foreign Service Journal - December 2017

66 DECEMBER 2017 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT of these children were enrolled in a Department of State-assisted school. While English is the primary language of instruction at these schools, there are usu- ally one or more additional languages offered as a part of the curriculum. Foreign Service parents have unique opportunities to expose their children to multiple languages. Yet many struggle to find the best way to help their children acquire and maintain these languages as they move from post to post, each with differing levels of support and resources. Approaches: What’s the Best Way? Parents who choose to bring up their children withmore than one language do so for various reasons. Some want their children to become global-minded citizens who canmove between cultures. Some have a parent or other relative who is a native speaker of a language other than English, and want to pass on that language as a way of preserving their culture and heritage. Other parents see their children approaching fluency in the language spo- ken in the host country and want them to hold onto that skill. There are three primary approaches recommended by linguists and parent experts: One Person, One Language: Known as OPOL, this method involves assigning clear language roles to each person in the home. For example, one parent (or care- taker) may only speak Italian with a child, while another parent solely speaks English. Advocates attribute this method’s success to the clear separation of languages and to ensuring enough exposure, although supplementary resources and speakers may be necessary. Minority Language at Home: In this approach, known as ML@H, the entire family speaks a minority language at home (i.e., a language that is not spoken by the dominant community outside of the home), even if neither parent nor caregiver is a native speaker. For example, a family living in the United States speaks Spanish at home, while English is the majority language of the community and is spoken with every- one else. Sometimes referred to as “For- eign Home pattern,” this approach has many advocates. However, some children raised this way take longer to acquire the community language than children who grow up speaking solely the dominant language outside of the home. Blended Approaches: OPOL and ML@H can be modified based on family context, composition and preference. For instance, some families choose to vary the context in which languages are used by speaking English in the home, but then sending children to a local school or an immersion school where classes are taught in another language. Others vary language by day of the week or when they travel. These types of blended approaches are frequently used by Foreign Service families, since access to resources and languages greatly depends on where the family is posted. Real Life Challenges & Frustrations Despite the wide availability of online resources for parents wishing to raise children inmore than one language, it is not an easy process, and Foreign Service parents often run into the same problems across the globe. A big commitment. It takes hard work and parental dedication to stay focused on that second language when other languages are being used. Johanna Vannett, the mother of two young girls, confesses that she often finds herself mixing three languages into one sentence: “During breakfast I will ask her ‘encore oder all done?,’ mixing German, English and French.” MomHeike Terrell, the mother of a now-adult and bilingual son, recalls the difficulty: “Since I’mbilingual myself, I naturally respond in the language that is used to address me. Whether English or German, it’s all the same tome. I found it difficult to switch back to German when my son responded in English.” The effort it takes to keep up the chatter in a second language can be “exhausting,” says Ting Ting Wu, who wants to convey her native Chinese to her 3-year-old son. “The community language is usually English for us expats. I find myself trans- lating into Chinese what my husband says to [my son] in English, just so he can hear it, and pointing at things so I can talk about them in Chinese to him, when sometimes I would just like to sit.” Sometimes children refuse to speak the minority language. Portuguese speaker Carla Reinisch Trunk says it’s a challenge to enforce the language with her 4-year-old daughter when every- one outside the house speaks English: “What’s her incentive?” she asks. “One weekend with her American grandpar- ents, and she has defaulted to English.” Lack of support. Some parents Foreign Service parents have unique opportunities to expose their children to multiple languages.