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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.

After-School Show and Tell

Jonathan was so excited about a book that his Kindergarten teacher gave him for Christmas. As soon as he got home from school, he pulled it out of his back pack and showed it to his twin siblings. I loved that he told them the story in German, even though the book was in English. It's a story about a man (or maybe it's a lady) who eats all the parts of a snowman (hat, coal, snow, pipe, etc.) and then sneezes to create a snowman. Well, after this video was taken, we sat down and read the story in English. They all thought that the story was very funny and enjoyed telling it again and again the rest of the day...in German, of course.

With my first batch of kids, I tried to only read German books. However, we owned many English books (gifts, hand-me-downs, etc.) and the kids wanted to read them, so I would "read" them in German (I'd do a rough translation from English into German). But after a while, I realized that I prefer to read the book in its original language--translating wears me out. The books I missed the most were the Dr.  Suess books. You just can't translate a Suess book! And I LOVE the Dr. Suess books. So I decided to start reading English books to the kids.

When you are trying to teach a minority language in a majority language environment, it helps to have solid language boundaries in order to keep the the majority language influence from overpowering the minority (target) language. I have found that books are a great "boundary". Even though I speak German to my children at home, I am still able to open an English book and read it to them, without it affecting our conversational language. I read the book in English and within the boundary of the book, we can speak English. When the book is done, we automatically switch back into German. Of course, I make sure that we have plenty of German books to read, as well. Our German books have been a big help in keeping up with our minority language.

Sloaterboat, motorboat

I came across a fun video from last summer. At the time of this video, Jonathan was 5 (almost 6) and the twins, Simon and Clarissa, were 4 1/2. We had just been at swimming lessons where the instructor had said the following rhyme while twirling them around in the water:
Motorboat, motorboat, go so slow.
Motorboat, motorboat, go so fast.
Motorboat, motorboat, step on the gas.
The kids loved it, because when she "stepped on the gas", she spun them super fast in the water. On the way home from swim lessons, they all were practicing the motorboat poem. I could tell they didn't really understand the words. I don't think Simon knew what a motorboat was and I don't think any of them understood, even remotely, what "step on the gas" meant. But they LOVED their swimming instructor and they loved the motorboat activity, so they really wanted to learn the poem. It was fun to observe how they each wanted to say the English motorboat poem. Jonathan, who is the oldest, was the "English speaking authority", so he was able to correct his little siblings. It was cute that he corrected them, even though he also didn't really know how to say the words. It was interesting that he put in the German word "Step on auf gas." They are all anxious to learn more English, but are much more comfortable using German.



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