So I'm American, DH is German and we live in Germany. DS (now 6 months) is growing up bilingual German / English.
Anyway we've been searching for very part-time childcare here in our home -like 2 days a week for 3-4 hours each day. We finally found a wonderful, heartful woman we like very much. We already know her and she is very good with our son and he seems to really like her. Starting in January she's going to come two mornings a week as a mother's helper.
Thing is, she's Russian and speaks no English and her German is quite poor. I was wondering if we should ask her to speak only German with DS...or just let her use Russian with him, which would clearly be much more natural and easy for her. Here are my concerns:
If she spoke Russian with DS, it could confuse him. I do know kids can have many languages and manage just fine...we have multicultural friends whose kids know four languages, it does work. But this would only be a few hours a week, and ultimately will end. We were already thinking when DS is a bit older and walking and more social it may be good for him to go to a childminder who has 2 or 3 kids. So this current situation could go on for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years (he'll start part-time preschool / daycare at age 2). Of course there's always the chance it works out so well we just keep her on as chldcare well into DS's childhood. But I don't see why he should learn Russian necessarily.
BUT, her German is so incomplete. Not only would she be modelling poor German for him (even though he does get correct German from every other direction), but it is not natural for her and I wonder if she could actually be more present and involved with him if she were just using her native language.
So, WWYD? Ask her to use German with him, or just let her use her more natural first language, Russian?
This is tricky. If she were providing full time childcare, I would say go for the Russian. He could easily learn it with that amount of exposure. But you're only talking a few hours a week, it might not be enough. Especially if she would be the only source of the language.
I wouldn't worry about your child being confused, as long as she sticks to one OR the other language. Be aware that children's ears are very sensitive and your child will have to adapt to her speech in either language.
At the same time, toddlers are easy creatures and as long as she understands, they'll communicate. It could also be a good exercise for him, learning other words for things...
Don't worry that her German will "corrupt" his German because, as you mentioned, he's hearing the correct version all around him. I'm from California and had "Spanglish" worries with mine but it wont happen if the children hear the "right" version.
Also, my own children speak standard German, even with a dialect and heavy accent spoken all around them. They have neither the local accent in French, nor the local accent in German, born and raised here (Alsatian/Elaessisch is similar to Schwaebisch), though my son has a slight French accent in German lol!
Find out what she wants to do but make it clear that you want one or the other, not both or mixed.
RUSSIAN hands down!!! not because of poor language but because of the special speaking and listening skills your ds will develop. just hearing the language is an amazing skill he is going to pick up.
i come from a very people oriented multilingualar culture where there were perfect and not so perfect language spoken. i have yet to meet a person for whom even the wrong language proved to be a hindrance.
my dd grew up hearing many, many languages till she was 3 due to our neighbours. today when my vietnamese friend pronounces one word in different ways - my 8 year old dd can detect the difference. I cannot. i even have a hard time differentiating between the two 'b's in spanish. growing up with different 'language families' like basque/euskera and german or spanish is a HUUUUUGE boon to our children.
Honestly, I wouldn't stress about it. Either way--Russian or broken German--your baby will be just fine and likely there will be very little in terms of long terms effects on his language development. He's very young, it's only a few hours a week, and is likely only temporary. It will make almost no difference in the long term. He will not be confused if she speaks Russian (he will pick up it--at least passively--very quickly), and he will not develop "bad habits" if she speaks Germans with an accent and/or mistakes (because the majority of the time he will be exposed to "correct" German).
Now, if this were a long term or more frequent thing, I would totally go with Russian. But if it's temporary and only a few hours a week, it really doesn't make much difference, imo.