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About This Blog

This blog is for anyone interested in raising their children in a foreign language--meaning a language which neither of the parents speak natively.
We have used the approach where both parents speak the target foreign language (in our case, German) to the children. Neither of us is a native German speaker, yet we have spoken German in our home for the past 20 years and have 8 German speaking children. In this blog, we hope to share our successes, our lessons learned and a few of the insights that we've gained along the way.

Working on Grammar! Still Loving our Part-time German Home School Experiment

We have an AMAZING local elementary school. We are so blessed that the principal and teachers have been so understanding and cooperative and willing to work with us as we try to raise biliterate kids.
The kids are now in in 3rd and 2nd grades. Ever since they started school, I have been "part-time" home schooling them, meaning that I pull them out of school at least once a week so that we can have German school at home. It has been such a perfect arrangement. Without our day at home, we would never find the time to really work on our German schoolwork.
In addition to our German schoolwork, we also do a lot of reading, both in German and English, The rest of our day at home is taken up with French lessons, practicing violin, chores and playtime. I ordered our German curriculum from Germany. I love that the kids are now a little more advanced and are working on grammar...which is something they really need.

In the video below, the kids are supposed to read a paragraph, find the verbs and then conjugate the verbs. It's fun to see them thinking about language, grammar and its usage. I'm hoping that as we continue to do German schoolwork, that the kids' language won't plateau. I realize that as they start communicating more in English with each other, that some plateauing is inevitable. However, as we read more and more advanced texts and are exposed to more unfamiliar words, hopefully, they will continue to improve their German.


Disneyland Surprise!

I just watched this video from earlier this year. We had just arrived at a vacation condo in Anaheim, California and the three little kids still didn't know where we were or why we were there. They had no idea that they would get to go to Disneyland the next morning. We had kept the whole trip a complete surprise for them, only telling them that they might get to see their grandparents. The beginning of the video shows us telling them that we have a surprise and asking them if they can guess what it is.

It's an interesting video because it shows that we really do sometimes just mix up our languages quite blatantly. In the video you can see that even though we know the German word for surprise, we just simply use the English word. Not sure why, we just did. I've talked a lot about language boundaries in the blog. We still do mostly stay within our boundaries. Inserting English words in into our German conversation still counts as German for us (as long as we're using German sentence structure and syntax). Sometimes, it's just necessary to insert an English word here and there: See Post on Mixing Languages.  Most of the video is in German, but we do switch to English. At the end of this video, I'm speaking mostly English because I planned on sharing this video with family members who don't speak German. I usually wouldn't use that much English with the kids.

I also think it's cute to hear the older kids interacting with their younger siblings in German. This is just how our family rolls.


And, by the way, Disneyland was SUPER fun and magical!!


What a magical time for our whole family.
(We brought along a cutout of our son who is on a mission in Brazil
so that he could be a part of the fun.)

Bilingual Success? Yes, but imperfect and still a work in progress!

Now, let me just say that I never had a bilingual goal of raising children who speak perfect German. That would be quite unrealistic, since neither my husband nor I speak perfect German. The most we could hope for would be children who could speak our own level of German. But, even that would be asking a lot, since I actually lived in Germany for some time and studied it in college...and they never have. So, what were/are our goals and did we meet them?

Our goals were to give them the German language and culture. Personally, I wanted my children to be able to identify with my idyllic childhood in which I spent 5 years living on a German Bauernhof (farm) in Bavaria. I wanted them to love the German Christmas traditions. I wanted them to grow up knowing that the world was bigger than their backyard and to understand that there are different ways of doing things, different ways of thinking and different ways of speaking and that they are all good. I knew that their German would be imperfect. I knew that they would make grammar mistakes (many of which they would learn from me), but I also knew that I'd rather give them my imperfect German and everything that goes with that, than not give them any German at all.
Now, having already done the "bilingual parenting thing" once, I actually have set my sites just slightly higher for this second batch of kids. I am hoping to help the younger children reach a higher level of German literacy than we reached with the older children. I would like to actually teach them formal grammar and help them learn how to read and write in German.

So, have we been successful? According to my own definition: YES. Our older children, who have already been raised can actually speak German. They can understand almost anything. They can express ideas and make themselves understood. They each have different levels of German. Some of them are naturally more gifted in language than others. Their pronunciation ranges from decent to quite good. Their German is far from perfect. They make grammatical mistakes all the time. If they were to take German in college, they would struggle with the grammar, but they would be able to out-speak and out-comprehend many of their classmates. And I feel certain, that they would be able to learn the grammar quickly, given the opportunity. They will probably have to "unlearn" some incorrect things that they learned in our home, but that's OK.

So, if success is defined by having perfectly bilingual children who speak both languages equally well and native-like, then, no, we haven't been successful. But if success is defined as setting and reaching goals and giving your children a wonderful gift of culture and language that will forever be a part of them, then, YES, we have been successful. In fact, the first time around was so amazing and successful, that we decided to do the whole thing again. And if that's not a sign of success, then I don't know what is.

My Little German Babies are starting to become more American...

It happened this summer! I always knew it would happen. I didn't even expect it to last this long. In fact, I've been quite amazed that it has lasted as long as it has. What has happened? Well, my kids are starting to talk to each other in English! Yes, my babies are slowly switching from German to English. They still can and do speak German very often. The biggest change, and this is the same change I saw in my older kids, is that they are starting to use much more English with each other. They still speak to me in German and I still speak to them in German, but among themselves, they are speaking more English. To me, that is a very telling sign that their primary language is slowly switching from German to English.

I knew that their primary language would switch to English. Eventually, it just has to. These kids live in an English speaking society and all attend an English speaking school together. They also have siblings and parents whose native language is English and who speak English to each other. The fact, that the three little ones have been speaking only German to each other for this long is actually quite amazing.

My plan is to continue speaking to them in German.I will also continue to encourage them to use German with each other, although I won't get too bent out of shape when they use English. We will continue to watch German movies and read German books. We'll also continue with our part-time German homeschooling. We have many German routines which will not change, even as their primary language changes. I know this because when my older children switched from German to English, the German routines remained, such as bedtime stories in German, family prayers in German, etc.