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teaching your 2nd language to your child?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi parents,

 

I'm amazed that so many of you are living bilingual lives with your kids!  That's exactly what I want to do once we have children.  The problem is, we both speak English as our 1st language.  I also speak German, and I've been researching different strategies, so I'll know what to do as soon as we're ready to start.  I do know that language matters right from the beginning -even in the womb, the baby can tell a lot about language.  Does anyone have any tips for me?

 

Thanks!

Laurel

post #2 of 13

My advice would be to stick with the language you feel most comfortable speaking for the language you speak to your children. If that is English, you can still introduce German via books, TV/radio, songs, etc. The earlier the better! It's great that you want to do this, and even if your kids don't become fluent in their childhood, it will be so much easier for them to learn German later.

post #3 of 13

I've been raising my daughter in Lebanese Arabic even though it is my second language (most of which I acquired after she was born). My husband is a native speaker.

 

There are many people raising kids with non-native languages. I would really recommend you check out the Multilingual Living website. It is an amazing resource and can help clarify different options for you.

 

Good luck! And, my best advice is to have fun with your language adventures! It's not a life or death matter.

post #4 of 13

Hello!

My 'native' language is English, but I also speak German. If you feel "comfortable" enough in German to where you get along fine in a German speaking country, I would say GO FOR IT! The benefits definitely outweigh the negatives. Firstly, it will help you maintain and improve you German. It will also expose your child to a second language and culture and all the benefits that come with that.

There are quite a few blogs out there by women who are raising their children in their non-native tongues, so it's not that uncommon.

The main challenges I find is keeping up with my children's desire for more vocabulary and recognizing when he uses words that I myself have only looked up in the dictionary a few times and don't know very well :P

 

Edit to add: If you plan on speaking with your child in German, make sure you let everyone else know before he/she is born so that they are on board and will understand your reasons to do so, even if they don't agree. I recommend the One Parent One Language strategy. so you would speak German to your child and your spouse would speak another language with no or little overlap. I do German, my husband does Finnish and then English is the community language (and the language my husband and I speak together and what my son addresses both of us in).

Also, it really helps if you can arrange regular trips to a country that speaks German just to keep your German fresh and give your child added input.

 

Multilingual Living is a GREAT website and I highly recommend it!

post #5 of 13

Tips: if you decide to do it, start right away.  This will help you think of your kid as a german-speaker, stop procrastination, and allow you to speak rather than teach the language.

 

Secondly, think about your goals.  There are many reasons to teach a kid another language besides trying to achieve native-like fluency.  Also be open to re-evaluating along the way.

 

I was a spanish interpreter before kids.  My main goal is to teach my children that learning another language is fun and achievable, lay down a framework to facilitate future language learning, and show them how speaking another language opens doors to a larger world. My goal is communication and ease with language.

 

At about 3.5 yrs, my older child is "topping out" my abilities - there are times when I just can't communicate the nuance in Spanish. So I speak more English, but Spanish is still a big part of our lives and now he can learn on his own.

 

We didn't do OPAL in favor of maximizing exposure to spanish.

post #6 of 13

Another important consideration is what kind of community support can you get for German? Are you near any German schools? Even weekend schools? 

 

Now, with lots of time, you might want to research this. The point would be if there is a move in your future, keep in mind locating yourselves close to where you could reasonably take advantage. Most young families move at least once before their children hit school age. 

 

Speaking a non-native language, one that is not spoken in the community takes commitment but there are plenty who do just that. It's very trendy right now to do that with English in Asia. There are complaints that totally local children are entering school not knowing the community language! So you know it's working!! 

 

Get your families on board with this project. Even if they're far away. Some of us get grief for using our native languages with our children from our in-laws, even parents. "Oh you're confusing him!" "I can't talk to my own grandchild!" and any other bilingual myth they can haul out... Head this off by speaking to them first and keeping them in the loop. Assure them that a child growing up in America, with at least one parent using English with them WILL speak English! Sounds like a no-brainer but it has cropped up as a serious problem with some families.

 

Does your dh know any German? No, he doesn't have to take a crash course but he will learn listening to you. My dh can now understand English quite well. But if he has at least some German, he can reinforce it with picture books, games and "testing" ("What does mommy call...?")

 

You will hear from nay-sayers. They will claim that using a non-native language will impede communication with your child. They do have a point but in your case, your child will learn your native language, English so that if you need to do a heart-to-heart in certain subjects, years in the future,  you can revert to English if necessary. The pitfall is when a non-native parent uses the community language, cutting off the opportunity for the child to learn the parent's native language and the ability for them to communicate in it for good. That is definitely not your case so you're at least warned that you might hear this argument.  

 

Meanwhile, before the baby arrives, try to get into "German mode". Slap some German decorations up around your digs. Watch some videos. Read some books (or at least magazines!) to get going on the German. You also might want to look on the internet for baby vocabulary, which I doubt you have unless you worked with German children in the past. Learn some children's songs, etc. 

 

Good luck with both the birth and the language project! 

post #7 of 13

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post

Another important consideration is what kind of community support can you get for German? Are you near any German schools? Even weekend schools? 

 

Now, with lots of time, you might want to research this. The point would be if there is a move in your future, keep in mind locating yourselves close to where you could reasonably take advantage. Most young families move at least once before their children hit school age. 

 

Speaking a non-native language, one that is not spoken in the community takes commitment but there are plenty who do just that. It's very trendy right now to do that with English in Asia. There are complaints that totally local children are entering school not knowing the community language! So you know it's working!! 

 

Get your families on board with this project. Even if they're far away. Some of us get grief for using our native languages with our children from our in-laws, even parents. "Oh you're confusing him!" "I can't talk to my own grandchild!" and any other bilingual myth they can haul out... Head this off by speaking to them first and keeping them in the loop. Assure them that a child growing up in America, with at least one parent using English with them WILL speak English! Sounds like a no-brainer but it has cropped up as a serious problem with some families.

 

Does your dh know any German? No, he doesn't have to take a crash course but he will learn listening to you. My dh can now understand English quite well. But if he has at least some German, he can reinforce it with picture books, games and "testing" ("What does mommy call...?")

 

You will hear from nay-sayers. They will claim that using a non-native language will impede communication with your child. They do have a point but in your case, your child will learn your native language, English so that if you need to do a heart-to-heart in certain subjects, years in the future,  you can revert to English if necessary. The pitfall is when a non-native parent uses the community language, cutting off the opportunity for the child to learn the parent's native language and the ability for them to communicate in it for good. That is definitely not your case so you're at least warned that you might hear this argument.  

 

Meanwhile, before the baby arrives, try to get into "German mode". Slap some German decorations up around your digs. Watch some videos. Read some books (or at least magazines!) to get going on the German. You also might want to look on the internet for baby vocabulary, which I doubt you have unless you worked with German children in the past. Learn some children's songs, etc. 

 

Good luck with both the birth and the language project! 

 

THIS!

Order books from amazon.de--I got this cheapo little German Kinderlieder Buch (http://www.amazon.de/Kinderlieder-Texte-und-Melodien/dp/3150184894/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1335042228&sr=8-3) that only costs 3 Euros but has all the classics. If I don't know the melody, I type the song name into Youtube and can usually learn it from there. I also order a lot of books from there, otherwise.

post #8 of 13

Yes! I speak Russian pretty fluently but it's a second language- I have a Russian-speaking nanny and a bunch of language aids like books, music and videos to help me out and my 20 month old already recognizes as much Russian as English in regular conversation.

post #9 of 13

I just posted about this in response to a similar question on another thread, so I won't go into too much detail, but my parents always opted for nannies and babysitters that spoke other languages so that we'd be exposed to them regularly at home (even though my parents only spoke English). So me and my younger siblings grew up with exposure to German, Spanish, and even Czech! Later our parents focused more on German so that's my "second" language.

 

Unfortunately, I am more "conversational" than fluent these days, and my DH only speaks English. But we both feel that language exposure is soooo important. So we opted to hire a professional au pair (international nanny), since we both work full-time and needed the childcare help anyway. Our au pair speaks only German with my DDs, and it's been amazing watching them outdo my own abilities with the language! We will definitely continue the au pair route as long as possible, and I highly recommend it to other families who are looking to raise their kids speaking one or more languages. Here's a list of all the au pair agencies in case you're interested. Our au pair came through the first agency on the list (A.P.EX. American Professional Exchange).

post #10 of 13

Hi, I speak mostly English with my DD with some Marathi (my DH's mother tongue).  There are definitely some challenges to speaking a foreign language with your kid, especially if you aren't fluent.  (I'm not.)  German is pretty common so you might want to find a German-language cultural group and start a playgroup, find some books and tapes in German, etc.

 

One thing I'd recommend, if you think your kid will be using some German words, is to make a phonetic dictionary for other relatives/caregivers as you go along.  My parents really appreciate this as DD sometimes speaks in English, sometimes Marathi, and is too young to differentiate between people understanding only one language or the other.  It's also really helpful to teach sign language, if your kid is amenable--it can be really confusing when everything sounds like "ma" or "ba" and you have two languages to choose from, especially for the non-native speakers.  My mom can't tell if my DD saying "az, az" means "more" or "grampa," so having her sign "more" at the same time is really useful.

 

Good luck!

post #11 of 13

Just a quick word on caregivers. Often they aren't good about speaking their native language with the child, even when they don't speak the community language. When they're alone with the child, they want to communicate and if the child isn't entirely comfortable in the "target" language, it's too easy to revert to whatever is spoken around them. This is a problem that has cropped up with many who have hired caregivers. Even getting someone who can't speak the child's other language wont work. The caregiver has the child teach them the other language. Not what you hired them for and not what you want! 

 

Make this very, very clear to the caregiver. It seems obvious but it's not. This is especially important if you can't find a native German speaker and end up with someone who is very fluent, but not necessarily native. 

 

Try to not have the child hear the caregiver using the community language (English, right, in your case?) At least in the beginning. I met a young lady whose English was excellent. She had been an au pair in the U.S. I offered that she babysit and what we did was pretend that she only spoke English. I didn't lie to the kids but we just didn't mention that she was actually local. By the time they found out (her cell rang lol!) they were already used to using English with her. Pretty funny since they were all French, all in France but it worked! 

 

You do want someone who is functional in the community language, in case of an emergency. Au pairs are a good idea because they come directly from the country. 

 

I don't want it to sound harsh but better to be clear about things to begin with, rather than come home to a child not making progress in German and overhearing them in English... Then it would be hard to get them to change.

post #12 of 13

I agree, it pays to be vigilant in communicating your need for them to *always* speak the native language to your kids. I just interviewed a bunch of nannies to replace my beloved one who's moving away, and some of them spoke Russian, but could barely string together a sentence without throwing in English words. I was spoiled, because my previous nanny had a master's in Russian Literature from her university in Kazakhstan and spoke beautiful, rich Russian, and now I'm interviewing people who speak 'kitchen Russian' who moved to the US in their teens... I also interviewed a woman who had a 7 year old who spoke NO Russian. I was like, "I'm supposed to believe you think it's important but you didn't do it with your own child?"  It's not that I think my two year old needs a master's degree-level language but I want him exposed to a wide vocabulary, consistently expressed.

post #13 of 13

if you do it right it wont even feel like u are teaching and the child is being taught

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