Pregnant and keen to raise bilingual baby
Hi Cardigan -
I am a mother raising my children bilingually in Spanish & English, however, neither my husband nor I speak Spanish. We are fortunate to have a Spanish Immersion program available in our local schools. Immersion is one of the best ways for anyone to pick up a second language! Another popular option in our area is to get an au pair. I am a consultant with Cultural Care Au Pair and I have several families in my area that utilize the au pair program for their childcare needs and they receive the bonus of language immersion for their kids. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in learning more about the au pair program at email@example.com or visit my website at http://crobinson.aupairnews.com
1) Encourage your husband to speak German all the time to the baby from the minute he or she is born. This may be very hard, especially at first, because the baby cannot answer back.
2) When he speaks to the baby, do not ask him to translate what he said (this was a mistake I made).
3) Do not be discouraged that your baby's German will be weaker than his or her English
4) Try and visit Germany for a long visit (over a week) at least once a year. If you can't get away, have your husvabd take the kids himself. If you go, try and use German all the time yourself (as much as you can)
5) Consider trying to improve your German so German can be a sort of household language
6) When your child is about 12 or older - consider sending them to summer camp in Germany
7) Have your child study German in high school (if it is offered)
Get committed to it, and don't get discouraged! Even if your German sucks, you can help out- get German-language books, music, etc. It makes it easier when the baby is little and doesn't say anything- it will help you think of him/her as a German speaker already. You're lucky, German is a pretty common language and you should be able to find playgroups and materials in the language you're looking for. I am a non-native Russian speaker in Hawaii and I have been able to make sure my 2.5 year old is completely bilingual. IT just takes some extra work, but totally worth it. And I agree that getting your husband on board is key. Don't make him translate for you, you'll pick it up too along with the baby.
Our situation is almost identical. I'm American (and Armenian) and my DH is German, and he wasn't so sure that he could manage to speak to our now 2 year old exclusively in German since he lived in the UK for so long and is now in the US. However, from day 1 of our son's birth, he spoke ONLY in German, which is amazing! I'm very proud of him (especially because my DH is not at all a verbal person!)
I agree with the other posters, who've offered excellent and do-able advice. My IL's have been wonderful about providing us with age-appropriate and beautiful music and books in German. For the first year and a half, I played German music 3 times daily, and only recently introduced him to English radio (though I'd sing to him in English). When my son wasn't yet talking, I read some of his German books, though now that he's a little parrot, he knows that I prefer that Daddy read to him from those books. Of course his English is much stronger than his German at the moment, but there are some things he only says in German. Also, I'm confident that he will be speaking even more German after our visit to the IL's in June as he will be immersed in the language (and I will try to talk less to minimize the English!)
He will soon have a little cousin in Germany so I think exposure to other children who don't speak English will be a plus.
Since we are in NYC, I've found German schools, camps, and classes, and send him to one short class once a week. He can now sing (ahem, in the way that a 2 year old can) the classic German songs that I played from the start because he's now hearing them in a new context. (If you want a starter list, feel free to send me a message and I'll send you some titles).
We are a tv-free family, though we purchased a few classic children's cartoons from Germany (Die Maus and Sandman). Not sure when I'll introduce them to him as I would love for him to be enthusiastic about his minority language, though don't want him to be dependent on media just yet. You could also find music or cartoon clips on YouTube.
DH would be delighted and motivated by your enthusiasm, especially if you get your IL's to encourage him further!
Ps. German toys are amazing, so make sure to get as many Haba toys that you can find if you go on any visits, though they are heavy to carry back!
And have a WONDERFUL pregnancy!!!