Fluent Active Bilingual - number 35.7% written in red pen on graph paper

35.7% is not enough  

pastel_de_nata76 Bilingualism, Blog Leave a Comment


Reading this figure stopped me in my tracks. My partner speaks the majority language at home (English) and I speak both English and Portuguese. If I’m painfully honest, I probably end up speaking more English than Portuguese most of the time. Judging by this figure, that means that if we carry on as it is, our children will have 35.7% chance of becoming active bilinguals. That is far from what we had wished for them.

Fluent Active Bilingual - Extract of Adam Beck's book

Extract of Adam Beck’s book


Upon reading this section of Adam Beck’s book*, I rushed to my husband. He was equally stunned. This shockwave forced us to re-evaluate our approach. We discussed what we could do and came up with a battle plan

The plan

  1. I would
    • speak more Portuguese with the girls
    • seek more opportunites for interactive exposure (for example, Portuguese playdates)
    • slowly start creating a routine whereby we would sit and learn Portuguese as if they were in Portuguese Saturday class
  2. He would
    • learn to speak Portuguese
    • start practicing with us
    • when back from work, enter the home already speaking Portuguese to motivate me and the girls
  1. To explain our endeavour to the British grandparents so they would understand the change when visiting, as we did not want them to feel alienated

Being confronted with this 35.7% figure and agreeing to the plan above, was a turning point. It helped us take our mission more seriously. Now every time we slip in our efforts we remember this number and try to pick us back up!

To OPOL or not to OPOL

You might reasonably ask “well, why don’t you just follow the One Parent – One Language (OPOL) method”? I touched on this briefly in the past and will do so again, but it suffices to say for now, that that is not an immediate option.

We are aiming to work our way up the point where we are a household that speaks the minority language at home most of the time. That will take some time to work towards. I just hope we haven’t lost the opportunity as the greatest impact in language development is in the first 6 – 12months and even up to 2 years of a children life.

37.5% is not enough for us. Our children are 2 and 4 years old and we hope we can make up for time lost.


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