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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.

English Gibberish

Our youngest three children speak more (and more exclusively) German than the older ones did at similar ages. I think this is kind of interesting because they hear just as much (or even more) English in the home. My husband and I and all the teenagers speak primarily English to each other in front of the little ones. So they hear plenty of English. I think the key is that we hardly ever speak English to them. They are surrounded by English, yet they hardly ever have been expected to actually communicate in English. All of the "big people" in the family (parents and teenage siblings) only address the little ones in German. So, they always have responded to us in German. If fact, up until recently, if I spoke English to them when we're out in public, they would almost always ignore me until I repeated myself in German. They have always spoken exclusively German to each other. Up until the past year (when Jonathan entered Kindergarten), they really couldn't speak much English at all.

Code-switching is when a bilingual or multilingual person to switches between languages. In our case, a major code-switching trigger is imaginative play. I noticed early on that when the kids leave the real world behind and start make believing, they very often switch into English (this happened with my first batch of kids, too).

I love this video, because it shows the three little ones "pretending" to speak English. At the time, they could speak German quite fine (for their age), but really couldn't speak much English at all. Jonathan was 4 and the twins were 2 1/2. They had decided to do some English speeches up on the laundry basket. They are speaking mostly gibberish, but they are clearly trying to imitate English sounds. Some of the English words I can hear are: "amen, bye bye, no no, sit down" and some numbers. My favorite part is when my little warrior, Simon, gets up on the basket. The only thing he likes to talk about is shooting guns, at least that's what I assume he's talking about in his funny English gibberish.


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