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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.

Method

There are many different methods to bilingual parenting in a non-native language. My husband and I are both native English speakers who reside in the United States. We are raising our children German speaking. We use the ML@H (Minority Language at Home) method. Here is our method in a nutshell:

  • My husband and I started speaking German to our children from birth.
  • We always addressed our children in German, yet my husband and I have always only spoken English to each other.
  • We made the home/family our German speaking boundary.
    • We tried to always speak and use only German at home
      • Most of our childrens' books and movies were in German
    • We tried to address the children in the community language (English) when we were in public.
      • Although, we usually used German in public for disciplining or mentoring (reminding the children to say thank you, or reminding them to include a child that looked left-out)
  • We switched to English when the children were older because we could not communicate as deeply or intimately in a foreign language (German). The ability to communicate effectively was more important than pushing the German.
  • By the time the children were teenagers, our home communication language had mostly become English, except for some entrenched German traditions.
    • All prayers continued to be said in German (morning, evening and before every meal)
    • We read scriptures as a family in German (daily).
    • We started most family meals in German (although we often ended them in English)
    • I continued to read German stories to the children at night well into their teen years.
    • All private communication (in public settings) was usually in German.
    • We had several favorite German movies that we enjoyed watching together.
  • When our younger 3 children were born (we have 9 year gap between the two groups of kids), the German in our home increased substantially, because the older children had decided that they would only speak German to the younger ones. 
    • The older children, my husband, and I continue to speak English to each other but we all speak only German to the younger children
      • Our home language became a mixture of German (to the little ones) and English (to each other).
    • We continue to read German books, watch mostly German TV shows, listen to German children's music and play German educational computer games during the day.

5 comments:

Ronald Judson said...

Good heavens! My wife and I took the easy route to teaching our kids Norwegian. We just moved to Norway. :-D Amazing job you guys are doing over there!

Nina Shurts said...

Thanks. It does take much more effort to raise bilingual kids when the target language is not the majority language. What a wonderful opportunity for your family to live in Norway! Norway is one of my favorite places in the world....simply beautiful.

RINCON de PENSAR said...

I am Laura. My native tongue is Spanish. My parent´s native tongue is Spanish. I married a man whose native tongue is Spanish as well (though from a different country than mine). I have always been interested in foreign languages, specially english. Now I have a 2 year old son and a baby girl. I speak english to them ALL THE TIME. I have never, ever talk to them in other language but english. But I speak with an accent. And I find this blog in a moment in which I am beginning to doubt whether I am doing the right thing or not. I am so glad that it has worked out well for you. But, you know, my English is not perfect. And my son, though he understands everything is not speaking much.
I don´t know what to do.

Nina Shurts said...

Laura, keep up the good work. Each child is different in how they accept languages. Have you tried to find any other English speaking children? How old is your son? Does he usually respond to you in Spanish or English? Good luck with all your efforts. Even if he doesn't end up speaking native-like English, you will still have blessed his life by giving him another language. Great job!

Angela Fletcher said...

It is really heartening to find this blog! I am a native English speaker in an English-speaking country married to another native English speaker trying to raise our son bilingual (or at least proficient!) in French. It's great to see how people have managed this and that it is worth persisting. Thanks for sharing :)

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