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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.

German Language Boundaries at the County Fair

Jonathan and Simon help with grooming
I have written quite a few posts on this topic, but I am continually amazed at how ingrained our unwritten language rules/boundaries are. This past week, we put those boundaries to the test a few times and it was interesting to see the kids' response.

Watching the steer show with friends
Each year, we spend a week at the county fair. Our older kids are in 4-H and I'm a leader of a 4-H club. In the past we've had market lambs, market pigs, market goats and market steers, as well as chickens and dairy goats at the fair. The kids also enter many static exhibits, such as artwork, photography, baking, creative writing, etc.

Kandra shows her market lamb
They love their big brother
Dallin with his market steer
Because we're at the fair all day, every day, we are, of course, surrounded by English. One of our unspoken rules is that it's OK to speak English when we're in the company of English speakers. So, needless to say, we spoke a lot of English with the kids this past week. We still often speak German when around other English speakers, but, the kids know that it's acceptable to speak English as well.

One of the days, Karl (husband) and I were walking through the fairgrounds with just our family members. We had the three young ones and one or two of the older kids with us. Usually, this would be a time when we would only speak German, because there were no one else with us. As we headed over to the ice cream booth, I asked the kids in English if they wanted ice cream. Right away, Simon objected, and said "Du sollst nur Deutsch sprechen" (You should only speak German). I was amazed, that with all the English that we had been speaking, at how aware he was that we had broken our unwritten language rule. He was very aware that we were not in the company of other English speakers. Yes, they were all around us; but he could tell that this conversation was a private family conversation. My question was not intended to include anyone outside the family. Even though he's only 5 years old, he very well understood that a language boundary had been breached and he called me on it.

Now with my older kids, I started breaching that rule way too often (addressing the kids in English when we were in a family setting), and because of that, our family language switched to mostly English much earlier than it has with our younger kids. In fact, with the younger set, our German has remained so strong because we have made such a concerted effort to really stick to our rules. We're trying very hard to keep the boundaries in tact, so that the childrens' German will continue to develop to a higher level than the older kids achieved. I guess, we'll just have to wait and see what our linguistic future holds, but for now, we'll just stay on our present course. It seems to be working.


Srishthi B said...

That was a very interesting write up. Fita provides German classes in Chennai. Anyone interested can join us.

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