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Reply with quote  #1 

Hi everybody! I am so glad I've found this site. I am a native speaker of German but raise my two children (5 and 7 yrs.) in English. In Germany bilingualism is rather an exception than the rule and non-native bilingualism is unheard of. Thus I am the target of vivid discussions, not to mention hostile critisism. I've been told that I am abusing my children, that I am jeopardizing their emotional well-being or that I am selfish, because I was doing this only for myself and not for the children. I could go on forever. Of course, I am trying to give my children a jump-start in English, but so what? My husband and I am are very fond of the English language, I studied English at university and worked in an English-speaking work environment all my professional life. We travel to the US about twice a year and yes, we are proud to find that our children are able to cope in an English-speaking environment. My oldest speaks English, though slowly and with some mistakes. My little one has so far refused to speak English, yet understands everything. We are proud of what we have accomplished so far and I would encourage any parent considering non-native bilingualism to give it a try. Though I must admit that it is not easy, even when think you are fluent, you will sooner or later find out that you aren't. 


Katrin (German / English, OPOL)

Reply with quote  #2 

Hallo Katrin,

I am glad that I have found someone like you. We are considering raising our child bilingually although we are both Czechs, so I search for any good advice. Can you tell me what system do you use? Do you speak only English to your kids or do you switch between English and German? Thank you.

Reply with quote  #3 
Hi Katrin,

Good for you — and whatever you do, don’t stop! I know your situation exactly, but is seems that you’ve managed to stay clear from unsolicited advice stemming from opinions rather than from actual knowledge. So, keep up the good job, and feel free to take on some of these tips in order to get your children exposed a bit more to English.

Good Luck!
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Christina Bosemark
Founder & List Moderator
Multilingual Children’s Association

Reply with quote  #4 

Hi Karolina, we use OPOL (one parent - one language). I have been speaking English with the children since their birth. I don't switch between English and German, at least not when I am alone with my children. However, when German children are around, I sometimes speak German with my children, too. But generally I am pretty strict about using English only. After so many years it has become a completely natural thing to do. Actually, I think I would find it pretty weird to speak German with my children. English is our means of communication and it is a very special bond between me and the kids.


I wish you good luck. Please feel free to ask more questions. Raising your kid in a non-native language is a very far-reaching decision.



Mark Rogers
Reply with quote  #5 


I found your post very interesting, since I am essentially doing the opposite. I am a native English speaker, but became fluent in German after studying the language and spending summers in Germany. I have been speaking only German to my son since he was born nearly three years ago (his mother speaks English to him), and he's equally proficient in both languages. What I find interesting is that the environment in San Francisco is much more supportive. My son just started a German language pre-school 3 weeks ago, and I heard about this forum through one of our two German language playgroups. Bilingualism seems to be fairly common in SF, and most people seem to be very supportive.

What I am most interested in is how your children reacted when they realized that English was not your native language. My son is not old enough to understand that my first language is English. He knows I speak English, since that's the community language, but finds it completely natural that I speak German to him. What happens when at some point he realizes that German is not my native language?


(English/ German / OPOL)
Reply with quote  #6 

I would like to ask Mark whether there are no gaps in his German vocabulary to suffice in every situation (I understand you learnt it a few years ago)?

If yes, how does he feel about those?


Mark Rogers
Reply with quote  #7 

Actually, I started learning German about 19 years ago (when I entered high school), and after spending several summers in total immersion in Germany, as well as many trips back, I became nearly as comfortable in German as in English. I decided to try speaking German to my son, and although I wasn't sure what to expect, especially with English as the community language and all other family members speaking English, I've been amazed at how successful it's been so far (son is 2.10 years old). I'm very interested in this forum and especially the experiences of other parents speaking non-native languages as the children get older.

To answer the last question, I have certainly learned more vocabulary by speaking to my son all the time and through his never ending questions about what everything is called (e.g. "dragonfly/Libelle" or "aardvark/Erdferkel"). My vocabulary is sufficient to talk with a small child, however, and to explain something if I don't know the word ("a dragonfly is a small insect with wings, like a butterfly"). I'll then look up the word and tell him later.

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