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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 decided to start a bilingual family

Back when I was in college and working towards my masters in Language Acquisition and expecting our first child, I came across a book by George Saunders (see reference below). I was intrigued by the fact that Mr. Saunders raised his children German-speaking even though he was a native English-speaking American. The more I read, the more excited I got. I had never really considered raising my children German-speaking. It was a novel idea! And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, "I can do this." If George could pull it off as a dad who worked outside the home, then certainly I could do it as a stay-at-home mom. My German was far from perfect, but my pronunciation was pretty good. And speaking German to a baby wouldn't require super complex language structures. This was definitely something I could do.

The more I mulled the idea around in my head, the more obsessed I became with the whole idea. I started researching non-native bilingual parenting. It was 1990 and there just wasn't that much info available. Most of the research I came across discouraged what I was hoping to attempt. Most of the reasoning was that if you speak only your imperfect, non-native language to your child, that your child will not learn ANY language well. This was probably the biggest obstacle in my decision making process. I sure didn't want to harm my child's language ability and take away or hamper his future ability to express himself.

But the idea continued to grow despite the doubts. I did find some positive research that supported my intentions. I read about the many hearing parents raising children in (their non-native) ASL and vise versa: Deaf parents who "spoke" ASL to their hearing children. These children usually grew up to speak English just fine. My husband and I discussed my findings and decided that we would give it a try despite all the nay-sayers, mostly because of our gut feeling that we could pull this off.

Saunders, George. Bilingual Parenting: Guidance for the Family. Multilingual Matters, Ltd.: Clevedon, 1982.


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