Are there milestones that, once reached, might mean that we no longer have to do one-parent-one-language (OPOL) — that is, what's the point at which both parents can speak both languages to the child, without losing the benefits of OPOL?

2 Answers 2


Source: I am an OPOL parent, speaking the minority language, since we live in my SO's country of origin.

Generally speaking, one of the two languages will be the "minority language", i.e. it is not spoken in the country/location where you live. If that is the case, then the parent who speaks the minority language has an increased incentive to stick to that minority language, because otherwise it opens the door to that language falling into disuse.

There's no harm in using the "common" language once in a while. Your child is not going to be impacted by seeing you speak the other language e.g. when you're in a group with people from outside the family (who do not speak your language).

It also depends on the child. Some will stick to that OPOL themselves when talking to you, others might rebel against the very idea of speaking a "foreign" language (based on their friends only speaking the other language they know). There's no way for one piece of advice to cover the range of possibilities here.

There isn't a hard line here, it's just a matter of maintaining enough of a baseline in the minority language that it stays an active skill and doesn't erode over time.

Edit maybe a more direct answer to your question:

without losing the benefits of OPOL?

The benefits of OPOL are related to learning both languages. When both parents mix which language is being used, the child struggles to differentiate them and doesn't really learn/understand that they're learning two distinct languages. It takes them longer to figure that out.

But the main thing here is that OPOL focuses on learning the language. If your child can confidently speak both languages and has no problem sticking to one language without unintentionally bleeding into the other language, then OPOL has served its purpose and you don't need to particularly keep it up anymore.

  • I feel that your edit answered the question better, so I've awarded the accept.
    – jogloran
    Commented Jan 16 at 5:23

Alternative answer: as soon as the kid starts interacting with other kids, friends, school, TV etc, you really don't need to do anything any more to support the local language and I suggest switching BOTH parents to the non-local language (if you both speak it natively).

If you want to maintain the non-local language(s) you need to create as many situations as possible, where speaking the non-local language is "normal" or "the only choice". Use it it lose it !

Source: we have raised three kids, one bi-lingual, two tri-lingual. The challenge was always to not have the local language (which they speak more and more) swamp out the other(s).

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