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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.

Starting Early is Key!

We always tend drift towards the language that comes more naturally and feels most comfortable. Because of this, it’s crucial establish your target language as early as possible.
It’s hard to imagine that speaking your foreign language will ever feel comfortable, but it definitely can. Be patient.
The concept of starting early actually benefits the parent more than the child. It’s all about establishing habits. By speaking to your newborn in the target language, you are training yourself and familiarizing yourself with the language. It can feel strange to speak to a 3 month old baby in a foreign language, especially, since that baby does not understand what you are saying and is not able to respond. But, by using the target language, you are establishing a relationship in that particular language. The more you use the language when talking and interacting with your baby, the more comfortable you will start to feel in the target language. And by the time your baby reaches the age where he or she can understand and even respond to your words, your new language will feel quite natural. In fact, it will soon feel so comfortable, that the thought of speaking your native language to your child will feel awkward and uncomfortable.

I remember being astounded by this concept with own children. How could speaking my own native language to my children feel uncomfortable? And how did my non-native language become the more natural and familiar mode of communication? It was at this point, that I realized that we had succeeded in truly implementing our target language. Speaking the target language was no longer something on our long list of things we were trying to accomplish. It was just the way we did things. Once we got the ball rolling, we didn’t really even think about it.  Speaking German was how we rolled. It was and is our normal way of communicating. 
The sooner you establish your target language as the “natural” mode of communication, the better. The longer you wait, the harder it will get. This is because relationships are partly defined by language. The language you use in a particular relationship become a powerful habit. To change that language habit takes extra work. For instance, if you’ve been speaking your native language with your daughter until age 5 and then you try to get her to switch to a different language, she will probably resist. Even if she wants to learn the target language, it will require so much effort and feel so strange that she will likely give up and resort to the easier language. That’s why it’s so important to start early. Establishing your target language as the “normal” mode of communication from the get-go is way easier than trying to switch languages later on. Kids (and adults) don’t want to think about language. It’s a tool used to communicate. We don’t want to think about our tools, we just want to use the one that gets the job done with the least amount of effort. This is the reason we tend to always revert to the language that feels more natural. To do anything else requires extra work and effort. 


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