Arabic is my native language and I am fluent in English, my wife is an English/Urdu bilingual but English is more native to her plus she can read Arabic letters without understanding it but she can’t read Urdu.

Our son is one year old now and we been using OPOL (One Person, One Language): So far my wife speaks only English and I only speak Arabic to him and we speak English among ourselves. Plus, we live in Arabic country so Arabic is the very dominating language for our son I guess.

My wife's idea is for our son to have a strong well established English and when he goes to nursery (it will be English/Arabic one) she will start speaking to him in Urdu mostly, but still English will be used when me and her speak to each other.

Basically Arabic and English are our first priority languages and we will be more than happy if our son can learn to speak Urdu.

If anyone can advise us if we going on the right path we will be grateful.


3 Answers 3


Use it or loose it. The key for kids to learn, and more importantly develop and retain, a language is immersion: a chance to interact with native speakers of that language on a daily basis.

I have three kids who are bi-lingual, tri-lingual and quadri-lingual respectively.

We are Germans living in the US and my wife went to high school in Italy, where a are large part of our family still lives. We speak mostly German at home but my wife sometimes speaks Italian to kid #2. The kids typically speak English amongst themselves and outside the house. Two of the kids attended a Spanish/English immersion program for 6 years in school where the class consist of 50% native English speakers and 50% native Spanish speakers. Instruction language alternates from year to year, i.e. one year they have Math in English, the next year they have Math in Spanish etc. Kid #2 spend a fair amount of time abroad in Germany and Italy.

They key to maintaining these languages is to create natural opportunities for the kids to speak them. Using a different language per parent is a good start. Unless there is a problem in school, there is no need to focus a lot on the local language since kids are highly motivated to interact with friends and their environment anyway. Over time you will see a tendency for the kid to ONLY speak the local language (because it's the cool thing to do), so it's helpful to create situations where they have no choice but use a different one. Visits with/from grandparents can be really useful that way.

A 3 year old will not have a lot of trouble picking up a third language. Vocabulary is still small and there is always a lot of direct context to help. He'll learn "Cookie" in any language real fast :-)


First of all, congratulations! It's every parent's dream to raise a kid to speak multiple languages when both parents speak different languages. I decided early that there was no other way for me but to have my child learn least 3 languages. That's because I know 4 languages myself.

Well answer to your question is

Whoever is to be the main caregiver of the child ought to take the primary role as the facilitator.

You can get some tips from this website Childhood Speech


Check out "The Bilingual Edge" - sorry I forget the authors' names but it is a fabulous resource for you with all kinds of information about common problems and how to overcome those problems when trying to raise kids with one or more languages that are not English in an environment that speaks a totally different primary language.

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