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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.

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.

Teaching Grammar! Starting with the basics: Der, Die, Das!

The one thing I've struggled with as I've raised my children in my non-native German is teaching them correct grammar. My own grammar is faulty and I often see them making the same mistakes that I make. One of the most difficult obstacles for us is learning the correct gender of nouns. Even I struggle with this on a regular basis. It's one of those things for which you develop a "feel." And when you don't live in a German speaking country, surrounded by German speaking people, it can be much more difficult to develop that "feel" for the language.
German has three genders: Masculine, feminine and neuter. And unless you know the correct gender for any given noun, you will never pull off a grammatically correct sentence in which that noun is used! So, before we learn much else, we need to work on genders!
I came up with a gender game for the kids. I have a bunch of small flash cards with pictures one side and the noun (along with the gender) on the other. For example: On one side of the card is a drawing of a cow and written on the opposite side is "Die Kuh." (the cow).

I laid all the cards on the floor with the picture side up. If one of the kids picked the picture of the cow and (without turning the card over and checking) guessed that it was "die" (feminine), then they got to sort the card with all the other feminine nouns. If they got it wrong, they put it back in the pile. I really enjoyed this game, because it really gave me a feel for what words they know and which they don't. I was glad to see that they got more right answers than wrong answers. I'm anxious to play this game with them on a regular basis. I think I'll change it up. Instead of putting the wrong answers back in the pile, I'll have them each keep their own pile of wrong answers. At the end of the game, we can review the cards that they got wrong.


Finding Friends that speak the Target Language!

We stumbled across the sweetest family a few months ago. Both the mom and dad are from Germany and they have two darling kids. We invited them over at Christmas time for our annual Adventsingen and it was so fun to see my little Clarissa hit it off so well with their daughter, Zoey. Clarissa is always thrilled to have a girl to play with...since she is constantly surrounded by her two brothers.  And, the fact that this little girl speaks German, makes it even more special.

Just last week, we had our new German friends over again for a little Easter Egg hunt. All the kids were very eager for the hunt to start. Although my boys were a lot older than little Jon, they still helped him find some eggs. The kids loved hunting for their eggs and also seeing all of the animals.

Once again, the girls played so well together...and spoke only German! They boys spoke German to Zoey, too.  My kids have had very few interactions with other German speaking children. In fact, we only know of two families in our area where where the kids actually speak German. But this is the only family where both parents are actually German and where German is the primary language spoken in the home. It was fun to watch my kids interact with Zoey and little Jon and see them use their German language with someone besides each other.

In the video below, Clarissa and Zoey are sitting at the counter eating their Easter eggs and talking about the fun day they've had.

It's important for the kids to see that other children also speak German. I think that they sometimes get the feeling that they are the only German speaking kids around. Also, when they interact with other kids in the target language, they pick up more natural "kid language." But the best part of all of this, is just finding a new friend!


Almost Home!!!

This post isn't so much about language...but then again, maybe it is. I just wanted to share a letter I received from my daughter, Michaela, who has been serving an 18 month mission in Germany for our church. She has less than two weeks left before she returns home. We haven't seen her since she left in August 2014. And we've only been able to talk to her on the phone 3 times since she's been gone. (what do LDS missionaries do) But we receive weekly emails and letters and we know she is in good hands and that she is learning and growing and serving. She has shared with us my many, many times just how grateful she is that we decided to raise her (and the rest of our kids) in our non-native German (Bilingualism Blessing my Grown Babies). Because she was already fluent in German (because of our decision to raise our children German-speaking), she was able to hit the ground running (so to speak) and she has been able to truly connect with the people on her mission.

In her most recent letter--written only days before she comes home, she shared some beautiful insights about connections. She has been spending lots of time connecting with refugees. Some of this connecting has come because of her language abilities, however, the most meaningful connections have come from her ability to love, to be transparent and honest and accepting. Her bilingualism has opened many doors, but it is by opening her heart and bearing her soul that she has been able to truly touch and change lives.

Here is the link to her beautiful letter:
We All Connect on our Broken Edges

This mama is getting pretty excited to have her bilingual baby home in her arms!