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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 German Language Background

My introduction to the German language came when I was six years old. We had been living in Stockton, California, when my dad accepted a job in southern Germany. We thought we would only be there for a few months, but we ended up staying 5 1/2 years. Instead of just renting a regular apartment or house, my mother, being a romantic Sound of Music fan, found us a vacation rental in a dairy farm in the foothills of the Alps. It is common for some of the farmers to make a little extra money by turning a part of their large farm houses into vacation apartments. We surprised the sweet German dairy farmers by showing up in the middle of winter in our Californian wardrobes looking to rent their apartment--which is usually only rented out in the summers. Needless to say, we loved it and the wonderful family so much, that we stayed in the apartment the whole time we lived in Germany.  (our farm is the one in the back ground, directly to the left of the church's roofline)

I had just turned 6 and did not speak a word of German. That didn't stop my parents from enrolling me in Kindergarten within a few weeks. I still remember sitting in the corner of the classroom not understanding anything that was going on. I even wet my pants, because I didn't know how to ask where the bathroom was. It was very scary at first. Most of the kids were from the local dairy farms and had never seen an American before. They thought I dressed funny and made fun of me. I don't really remember learning the language. But I do remember that with time, I became more and more aware of what was going on around me, which meant that I was indeed learning. By 2nd grade, I could understand most of what people were saying and I also started making friends.

Our home language was always English. My mother would give us English homework after school. We worked on spelling and writing. She wanted to make sure that we would be able to seamlessly enter back into our grade level upon returning to the States. There was a US Army base nearby, and so we also had access to some American culture. I even joined a Girl Scout troop on base. We met a few American families through our church. Our congregation was mostly German and church was held in German, but there were a few American army families who lived off base who attended our congregation.

In southern Germany, or Bavaria, where we lived, the locals speak a very thick accent. I prided myself in being able to speak Bairisch (Bavarian) almost as well as any of the Bavarian farm girls. By 5th grade, I was fully immersed in the rich Bavarian culture and loved it with all my heart and my German was quite good. I got good grades in school and was almost as comfortable with German as I was with English. Our little rural school was small, less than 25 children to a grade, and I was friends with everyone in my class as well as the classes above and below mine.

When it came time for my family to return to the States, I was heart broken. I was 11 years old and did not want to leave the farm, my friends or the beautiful countryside. I felt much more connected to Bavaria than I did to the U.S. It was a hard move.

Once we moved back to the states, my German quickly declined because we almost never used it. I could still understand everything, but my productive language really suffered. My grammar was terrible. I had never really learned any grammar and didn't understand it.

Fast forward to college: I decided to major in German teaching. I skipped all the lower level German classes and thought I could jump right into the advanced language and grammar class, which I failed and had to retake. But with time, and a more solid understanding of grammar, my German slowly began to improve again. After a few years in the German program, I got a job teaching the lower level college German classes. Teaching German helped my German to improve tremendously. Of course, my German is far from perfect. I often make grammatical mistakes and often don't know the correct phrase to use in a given situations, but I can usually work around those problems.

Today, my German is relatively good, but only because I use it on a daily basis with my children. Speaking German to them has made a huge difference in my ability to retain the language. I haven't improved a ton, because I don't spend a lot of time talking to native adults. I basically spend all my time practicing what I already know. But even merely maintaining my language ability, beats the alternative, which is to slowly lose it altogether. So, I have been very grateful for our decision to speak German to our children.


Erwin N. said...

I visited this school last year in the evenings when I started to study in Berlin. I can only recommend this school.

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