18 June 2015

Introducing Maria...The Joys of Having a Native German Speaker in Our Home

I haven't blogged for a while. Sometimes, life is just so full of experiences that you just have to live them and enjoy them and there just isn't time to sit down at your computer and write a blog post. End of May and beginning of June are busy, event-filled weeks around our home. We've been busy with track meets, high school graduation, open-house, yard work, many fun family outings, mission calls, and so much more. And all this activity just hasn't left much time for blogging.
But all that said, I've been itching to blog about our special visitor from Germany. Her name is Maria. Her mother is a friend of mine, who contacted me a while back asking me if her daughter could stay with us for a month. So, after working out all the logistics, Maria arrived on May 22nd. We have been absolutely delighted to have her in our home. She hit it off with the kids right away! It was amazing to see how quickly the three little ones just fell in love with her. The very first day she was in our home, she developed a special bond with the three little kids...like she was their long, lost sister. She constantly reads them books, plays games (tag, board games, tickle games, etc) with them, and just hangs out with them. She also immediately bonded with the older kids. It's been fun to hear Maria and the girls giggling and laughing up in their room. They get along great and have had so much fun together. It's been amazing to see how seamlessly Maria has integrated into our family. She's probably been one of the easiest house guests we've ever had. She's sweet, gracious, obliging, considerate and helpful and a delight to have in our home.
Because Maria would like to improve her English while she's here in the states, I am trying to always speak English to her. I do slip sometimes and we fall back into German. But most of the time we communicate in English. However, she and the little ones always speak German to each other. So, basically, Maria is following our family's language habits: English among big people and German to little people. And the little people continue to speak German among themselves.
Language Help:
Maria has been a great help when it comes to correcting several of our ingrained German errors. Over the years we have come up with a few expressions and words which are not quite correct...and I am very aware of this. Because we are isolated from native German speakers and because none of us are actually "native born" German speakers, we have developed some incorrect language habits over the years. For example, if someone is silly, we might refer to them as "komisch". However, Maria pointed out that "komisch" has a much more negative connotation and suggested we use "lustig". She also (very sweetly) points out little errors that the kids are making. For example, they often get "wissen" (to know) and "kennen" (to be acquainted with) mixed up. They often say "Weisst du diese Frau?" (do you know (as in know about) this lady) instead of "Kennst du diese Frau?" (are you acquainted with this lady). These are mistakes that I am aware of and could easily correct, but sometimes I just don't make the effort. Also, I've noticed that when Maria corrects their German, they are much more enthusiastic about learning correct German, because "Maria weiss Alles!" (Maria knows everything).
We're sad that we only have a few days left before Maria leaves. It certainly has been a fun experience having her in our home. She has helped us all speak better German and, hopefully, we've been able to help her improve her English. But most of all, we're grateful to have forged a wonderful and lasting friendship. We will miss our Maria when she leaves.

Maria has her first piece of pie.

Maria experiences Dallin's high school graduation.

Maria and the twins hang out in the hammock. Clarissa loves to just sit and talk with Maria.

Maria is a great book reader. 

We take Maria on all our family excursions (including the beach).

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Bilingual Baby Dream Team

Going on 20+ years of raising our bilingual babies...
I'm so grateful for a sweet husband who was willing to give this whole experiment a try and and that he was willing to speak German to our kids, even though his German exposure had been limited to a few semesters of college German. It's been one of the most fun and rewarding things we've done. The fact that our family speaks German has given us our own identity and helps the kids feel like they are a part of something special. And anything that helps your family feel special and connected is a good thing.