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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.

Home Language Boundaries: How our family uses German and English side-by-side

I came across the following video and thought that it did a great job of portraying the typical language use in our bilingual family. It really shows how both English and German are usually used in our family. In the video, the big and little kids are decorating our Easter egg tree together.

video

It's very apparent in the video that the little kids speak almost only German to us and to each other. The little kids hardly ever use English in a family setting. They are much more comfortable with German. It's their "family language". The big kids (including me) speak English to each other and German to the little ones. The little kids are not phased at all that we speak English to each other. Surprisingly, our English usage has not, in the least, affected their choice to speak only German. I've often wondered about this. I've always been amazed that they have heard English spoken their whole lives, yet, until last year (when Jonathan started Kindergarten), the three little ones could hardly speak any English. They hear English in the community, when we're shopping, at church, when friends come over, etc....yet, they still speak only German to each other and to us. This amazes me. I think that this attests to the importance of having boundaries and really sticking to them. When the boundaries are well defined and when you rarely break the "rules", it is so much easier to foster bilingualism. I know this, because with my first batch of kids, I broke the rules much more often. I had been told by a "professional" that because I was not native German, that if I spoke only German to my children that they would have problems learning either language well. This "professional" told me that they would not have "any" native language. That made me nervous, so I started speaking more English to my older children when they were still young. I still continued with the German, but I often switched to English. Because of that, they started speaking mostly English years ahead of my second batch of kids. With our second batch of kids, I came into this whole bilingual parenting adventure with much more experience and confidence. I knew that the kids would learn English just fine on their own. Their English would not suffer (in the long run). Knowing this has helped me to stick with our rules and has given me the confidence to plow ahead with our non-native bilingual parenting adventure.


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