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Time and Place Bilingualism Method

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Time and place bilingualism is a popular bilingual parenting method in which families intentionally divide the use of two more more languages at home by specifying a consistent length of time or a specific place or location where each language will be spoken.

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What is Time and Place Bilingualism?

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The Time and Place bilingual parenting method (also known as Tine and Place or T & P) happens when families determine which language will be spoken by indicating when and/or where the language will be spoken.

This type of bilingualism is not generally as popular as other home language systems such as Minority Language at Home or One Parent One Language. This is because it requires a lot of intentionality on the part of the family members to remember when and where they are to speak each language. 

However, time and place bilingualism is popular with trilingual families, families working to learn a new language all together, and can also be useful for families who are struggling with language rebellion (LINK). 

How It Works

In Homes

Generally Time and Place bilingualism works where a family will determine a specific amount of time they are going to speak each language.

This can be as simple as every night from 6pm on the family speaks Spanish. Or some families say each week they change languages without fail. Some families designate specific language time each day for lessons. 

Another way to do T&P bilingualism is to determine specific locations where each language is always spoken. So maybe the bedroom is an English zone and the kitchen table is a Spanish zone. 

Or some families travel a lot and so one country is English and the other Spanish. This method can work well for kids who live with a different parent on different days- the language spoken can be directly related to the place the child is staying. It is also a great method for families who hire monolingual Spanish caregivers or those who send their young children to daycare in a second language.

In Schools

Time and Place bilingualism is a very popular method in bilingual schools- specific subjects can be in different languages, or maybe one teacher will speak one language while another will speak the opposite. 

For an overview of bilingual parenting, methods refer to this article: 4 Language Learning Methods For Bilingual Families

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Pros

Time and Place bilingualism is very flexible for many families because it allows caregivers to determine when each language makes sense to use with their child.

T&P also is a great way to start language learning with older children and can be more resistant to producing the second language.It is also useful when one or more parents is not completely fluent in the language but want to pass it along to their children.

It’s a controlled amount of language time that everyone can expect to use and then go back to another language.

For example, my girls have lately been resistant to tell me about their day at school in Spanish because they have the vocabulary in English more readily available when I pick them up from school. So we have started to have Spanish time after we get settled at home after school- we use Feppy Box or play Spanish board games in Spanish as a way to bridge the transition from school in English to home in Spanish.

Some parents have reading time in Spanish or bath time in Spanish. It just depends on when you want to speak a specific language to the child. Just find what works and do it consistently. 

Another pro to this method is when both parents are bilingual but have each other’s language as a second language. It can be nice to use one language for a while and then the other, giving each parent a break from parenting in their non-native language, while maintaining a bit more continuity with language exposure on a family level.

Additional Bilingual Parenting Articles from Pura Vida Moms:

Cons

Some parents who are exploring this method worry that their children will find their languages develop quickly enough. It’s definitely true that with other methods like Minority Language at Home (LINK) children show a strong dominant language at a very early age. However, as long as your children are developing language and progressing, you don’t really need to worry about which language comes first, or which is the child’ “native language.”

You do need to make sure to really balance the scales when planning for Time and Place bilingualism. It can be easy to default to one language or the other and forget to switch, giving the children unequal exposure to both languages. 

If your children at going to school in the majority language, you may need to make up some time in the minority language at home, or adjust your standards for language production. 

Some parents who use this method mention that the transition time between languages can be difficult for their children, or that they forget to transition from one language to another. This is normal- it just takes some extra planning and patience during the switch. 

Related article: 5 Tips For When Bilingual Children Don’t Want To Speak The Home Language

man and child playing blocks on the floor

Tips

If you are deciding between language learning methods, there are a few considerations:

  1. Determine and clearly articulate to your family when and where each language will be spoken. Then- stick to the plan no matter what.  
  2. What are your language goals for your child? Articulate those and then work backwards to find which daily methods you would need to meet your goal.
  3. Build a village- you will need support from other bilingual parents. You can join our BilingualWe Facebook group here.  (LINK:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/BilingualWe 
  4. Be kind to yourself. Make sure to be encouraging to your children when they make mistakes, and even kinder to yourself when you fall short of your goals. Consistency over perfection is the name of the long game of bilingual parenting. 

Resources for Parents

This video from my BilingualWe series talks more in depth about the T&P method. 

Make sure to join our bilingual parenting Facebook group- BilingualWe!

FAQ

What’s the best bilingual parenting method? –All of them! The most important thing to remember about how to raise a bilingual child is that it isn’t easy, it’s always evolving, and it’s important to stick with it. However you find success for your own kids and in your own family is the best method!  

What if I start with Time and Place and I’m not successful? – Then dust yourself off and try another method. Bilingual parenting is a process- and it’s messy and imperfect and also rewarding and gratifying. You’ve got this!

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About the Author

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Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

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Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, language and travel. I’m a Latina mom, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here.

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