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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.

Thank Goodness for Technology (when you're parenting in your non-native language)


The boys play a German computer game. Love how the stuffed kitty
is hanging by its tail and watching. 
Having had the experience of raising bilingual kids in the 1990's as well as in the 2010's, I must say that I've been very grateful for the help of technology in both eras. In the 1990's I was very grateful for anything German that I could get my hands on. It was a LOT harder to get the things that I wanted than it is today. For example, in order to be able to watch German children's videos. First, I had to find someone who was going to Germany who could buy a video cassette for me. Of course, that video (being in PAL format, used in Europe) wouldn't play on my American (NTSC) video player. So, I would have to find someone who owned a (very expensive) PAL/NTSC conversion video player. Thankfully, the university I was attending owned such a player, so I was able to convert a few videos. And, boy, was I grateful for each and every one of my German videos. The first movie we had was Dumbo. My little Ben watched his German Dumbo every afternoon before he took a nap. Later, I found friends who had NTSC/PAL video players/converters and our small German video library slowly grew. Eventually, the price came down enough that we got our own machine. Our little library become much bigger. We acquired  a whole slew of Disney videos. We also picked up traditional German children's shows along the way, like Loewenzahn, Petzi, and Sendung mit der Maus.

With our younger batch of kids we've had so, so much more technology available to us. With the internet, it's so much easier to order videos.  And the PAL video players are very cheap now. I have found that Abe Books carries lots of German materials and their shipping to the US is very reasonable. But, lately, I have almost stopped buying videos altogether, because we can find so many shows on YouTube. We can also watch a whole bunch of children's shows, including our all time favorite, Sendung mit dem Elefanten, on Kika. (KiKA Link). KiKA is a German children's TV network.

We have found lots of fun computer sites that help the kids to develop their German. Many of these resources are pinned on my Pinterest board (see right column). One of our favorites is Toggolino. You pay a yearly subscription, but that gets you access to tons of different educational software games. My kids absolutely love it. They never get tired of it because there are so many different games and new ones are constantly being added. I love all the educational software available to help the kids learn to read and write in German. 

Another source of German, which technology has made much easier to acquire, is music and audio books. I used to order cassette tapes through catalogs. Now, I can download just about anything I want. We love our German children's music. We have it playing all the time. Our favorite artist is Rolf Zukowski. The kids love to sing along to his songs. We also love to listen to audio books in the car. I was so pleased to find that I could open a German Audible account and order just about any audio book I wanted. I don't know if you younger moms appreciate all this as much as us older moms. But, just imagine trying to get your hands on material in your target language without the internet. Having access to so much information is just so helpful when you're parenting in your non-native language!!

So, how has access to all this technology helped us to raise children in our non-native language? Well, most of all, it has exposed our kids to lots and lots of (natively) spoken German, which is something they desperately need since our German is far from perfect. Through the many forms of media, they are exposed to complex sentence structures, syntax, different dialects, fixed expressions, and many other linguistic nuances that they can’t pick up from us, their parents, because we are not native speakers. On numerous occasions, I’ve heard my kids use phrases that they picked up from a German TV show or a German song…phrases that neither Karl nor I have ever used. And whenever that happens, I am reminded of just how much technology has helped my children understand and speak better German.

Not only does all this exposure help their language, it also makes them feel like they are part of a bigger group. My kids have very few friends who speak German. We just don’t come in contact with many Germans on a day to day basis. For this reason, it really helps them to see other kids speaking German on TV. When they watch a German show and see all the characters speaking German, it helps them to realize that they are not the only ones speaking this funny language. It also helps with the “cool factor” of the language. If your favorite cartoon character speaks German, then maybe German is a cool language!

And on top of helping their language AND helping them to love the language, the other benefit that I’ve seen from exposing our kids to lots of German videos, is that they are learning about German culture. This culture learning comes especially from shows with “real” actors (rather than cartoons). One culturally educational series that our young kids enjoy are the “Sachgeschichten” on Sendung mit der Maus. These are excerpts that can be compared to the How It’s Made series, except it’s geared towards little kids. My older girls adore the Sissi movie about Empress of Austria. It’s packed with history and culture. And what girl doesn’t love the beautiful flouncy dresses and elaborate hairstyles of the Georgian era?

When you're raising your kids in a language that is foreign to you, you are going to make mistakes--lots of them! You will sound awkward at times and you'll be just plain wrong at other times. It just makes sense to make sure that you are not the only source of the target language. You're going to want to surround your children with as many native speakers as possible. When you're facing a huge project (and I think raising your kids in a foreign language counts as a huge project), you want as much help as you can get. Thank goodness for the many foreign language resources that technology has put at our fingertips!

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