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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.

Why we chose the ML@H method

After researching the different ways to raise bilingual children, we decided that both of us would speak the target (minority) language to the children, which in our case was German. This is also known as the ML@H (Minority Language at Home) method. It seemed like it would be the most effective method for our family. Now, we didn't come to this decision easily. Yes, I spoke German pretty well, but Karl didn't speak it quite as fluently. He had taken several college German classes, but had never been to Germany. He actually minored in French. He had spent 2 years in France (on an LDS mission) and spoke much better French than German. We played with the idea of having Karl speak French to the children, while I spoke German, but after giving it some thought, we decided that we might be more successful if we both spoke the same language.

Having us both speak the minority language at home made sense to me. I figured that neither of us should speak English, because the children would get enough English from living in an English-speaking community. I assumed that they would learn English just fine from their surroundings, just like I had learned German while living in Germany as a child. I wasn't 100% sure that my children would acquire English perfectly, but we decided to take the risk.

Another reason we felt like we should both speak German, was that with both of us speaking the minority language (German), we thought it would be easier for us to counteract the huge influence of the majority language (English). If English were spoken by one parent in the home (especially if it's both parents' native language and the community language), we felt that it would be very hard to keep it from becoming the main household language. I assumed that if one of us spoke English and the other German, that the children would feel like they had a choice of which language to speak and, given such a choice, I assumed that they would almost certainly choose English.

I knew that we had to push German 100% during the toddler and preschool years. I wasn't sure what would happen when we sent our children to school, but I knew that once they started school that they would be hearing more English than German and that English would start to become the dominant language. We decided to start speaking German right from the start and not to wait a few years until they learned English. Once again, its all about taking away the children's choices...lol. If you start them in the minority language and it's the only language they know, then they really don't have a choice as to what language they will speak. But given a choice, I knew from other families' experiences, that the children often chose to speak the dominant, or community language rather than the target, or minority, language..

Of course, these were all assumptions at the time. We didn't really know what would happen since we didn't know anyone else in our situation. We knew other bilingual families, but none where both parents were speaking a non-native language. In the end, we made our decisions based on a gut feeling that this whole bilingual experiment would be a good experience and that we wouldn't ruin or harm any of our children in the process. And now, 8 bilingual children and 20+ years later, I am happy to report that our assumptions and methods actually worked with hardly any children ruined in the process. We have thoroughly enjoyed our bilingual adventure and, given the choice, would do it all over again.

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