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Reply with quote  #1 
I just found this board today and I haven't read my way through here yet, so please forgive me, if this post seems to be ignorant with my question!

I am German and have raised my DD bi-lingual (me speaking German, my husband, who's American, English) up until she was 2.5 yrs. old.
From the time she was born up until 2.5 yrs. we lived in Portugal (my husband is in the US Navy) where my parents also lived, so it was fairly easy for me to stay with my mother tongue. That all changed once we came to the US and from there it went downhill!.. I stopped talking in German to her due to many reasons; mainly because a) I feared her English would be incorrect (at that time she did speak a bit 'mix matched'..), b) my husband doesn't speak German and I felt it 'unfair' to speak with her in a language he doesn't understand.., c) since I am so used speaking (thinking, dreaming, reading etc.) English and had no contact to other German-speaking people, it became more difficult for me to keep it up and d) last not least, we kind of figured that it wouldn't be sooo bad if she would grow up only speaking English as we focused on it being her primary language. (My husband didn't really support the idea of continuing with German..)
I didn't want to be an 'outsider' either, living in a foreign (to me) country...

Long story short, my 2nd child, my son, grew up with me only talking in English to him.
A while back I tried, getting back to speaking in German to both of my kids, but gave up fairly quickly again as it as exhausting (I had to translate everything I said) and discouraging...

Now I'm at the point where I think I really should teach them my own native tongue and while my DD certainly seems to remember a lot of words, my son doesn't even seem to like it! As a matter of fact, he flat out told me today (he just turned 4 2 weeks ago) that he wants me to speak 'normal' (i.e. English) to him!..
I tried to explain to him that this is my language and that we could have fun with it, having our own 'secret' language nobody but us understands here, etc. He doesn't seem to care for that...
I try not to overdo it and often automatically fall back into English myself (especially when they're misbehaving and I have to correct them!..) and can feel myself struggle!..

We have a few DVDs in German that I bought when DD was younger (Biene Maya for ex.) and try to encourage both kids to sit and watch a bit of tv in German.. but especially my DS seems to lose interest very quickly.
When he has a moment where he's ok with me speaking in German, he answers in a funny way, still in English but in a completely different tone and half choppy (kind of 'Me Tarzan, you Jane' style..) and it seems to me he tries to find a way to react to my German but since he doesn't know any German words, he talks his own way...

So, in order to be successful, what can I do to make it fun for them? For DD I've got tons of my children's books in German that I can read to her (again, I have to repeat everything), but other than that and a few DVDs and trying to talk normal, daily routine stuff, with them, I'm clueless!..

I should also mention that we're currently stationed in Sicily, Italy, with no other Germans around, so there's no option for any group/play dates etc. where the kids could hear German!..
Unfortunately I'm also no longer having contact with my parents, so that's out of the question as well...

I would greatly appreciate if you could give me some pointers as I feel, it's not too late yet with their young age, but I might not have the right approach!?.. I definitely don't want to 'push' it too much on them to where either one is refusing it...

Would it be ok to start out with only bits and pieces of German here and there during the day? Like a certain playtime where I do play with them with Memory cards for ex. and name the items etc. in German and have them repeat them? Or is it better to kind of 'throw them into the cold water' and strictly talk German and only help out by translating when I realize that they/one of them doesn't understand???

Please help me do this!!!
Thank you for your time! I look forward to reading the response(s) -hopefully! *lol*

Val from Italy
Erik K
Reply with quote  #2 
I believe that you can still make both kids bilingual.

The first step is to ask your husband to look at the FAQs and other parts of this website. Maybe you could even show him the replies you will receive to this message you posted. Even if he lacks enthusiasm for your effort to teach German, hopefully he will at least understand and support you.

It is normal for bilingual kids and adults to mix up languages. Don't worry, they do it for convenience. Kids might also do it temporarily because they are confused, but that problem will disappear soon enough.

Don't worry about being "unfair" by speaking a language your husband cannot understand. Tell him that you will repeat in English when it is important for him to understand.

If you speak German only when your family is alone together, then you and your kids will not worry about seeming different and strange to the people in your town. In fact, you should promise your kids that you will never speak German when their friends or any strangers can hear it. It's very important to not embarrass them. Children do not want to be different than the kids around them; they want to conform.

For a while, I think you must say each sentence first in German, then either use gestures or say it again in English. I know this will be slow and tiring. I hope you do it anyway, out of love for your kids.

Accept the fact that your kids will not reply in German for many months or years. There is no problem with that. They still will learn German.

Your children might be too young to understand why they should be bilingual. I think you will have to be stubborn. Don't worry about whether they accept your reasons. As soon as you've explained this to your husband, immediately start speaking German and don't quit.

At some point, they will be old enough that you can explain why you want them to learn German. You can find some good reasons on this website. Also, I posted a message in the "Your Questions -- General" part of this forum, titled "Selling kids on benefits of language (includes list)" with a long list of reasons.

There are no German speakers in your part of Sicily? You should post messages on many German-language website forums, explaining your exact location in Sicily and that you want to start a play group with other German-speaking kids. Maybe include your email address or telephone number.

Eventually you should get a response. A German/Austrian/Swiss family might come to the area for a long holiday or actually move there. They will want some activities for their kids. You will be offering them something valuable.

Most importantly, don't give up!

Reply with quote  #3 
dear erik, i have read through the lines and still want to share my experience with me. i am czech man living in the czech rep. with my japanese wife and our son who is going to be two years old. we as parents communicate in english on basic level with each other. our poor english knowledge does not allow talking to son in english. but we want him to speak english. do u think that it is a good idea to teach him english through the television or by reading him a book, showing tale stories on dvd etc.?? neither my wife nor i were enough confident to talk straight in english to our son. could you please write me back on my email?? thank you!
Erik K
Reply with quote  #4 
Hello andrew,

I am not an expert, but I will give my personal opinion. This opinion is partly based on the information I read on this website.

If you speak English with both your wife and your son, it will be good practice for you and for him. The fact that you speak English very imperfectly does not matter. He will still learn some words.

Do things to expose your son to correct English from other sources.

I think it's good if you read him English children's stories. Television and DVDs are OK, but I think they don't work as well, because your son won't be listening to a caring person with whom he can talk.

A really good solution is to find children in your country who speak English natively. You can search for English language websites that talk about people moving to the Czech Republic; maybe you can post a message there. See:

Or search for websites about play-dates and play-groups; you might find one near you, or you can tell everyone that you want to create a play-group. For example, see:

I hope your wife will speak Japanese to your son, and teach him that language. That could be very useful! Many companies do business with the Japanese, so he could get a good job. And he could spend time living in Japan, if he wants.

Reply with quote  #5 

Dont give up. If both you and your kids are alive, you can teach and they can learn.

Start your kids back to learning by making a list of 15 common phrases you use with your kids. For the first week, each time you say one of these phrases in German, translate it for them and at night have them review by saying the phrase in German and let them tell you what it means in English. After the first week, stop saying those phrases in English, period.

The Third week, sit down to play board games, like Candy Land, bake or do crafts with your kids, a few times every week so you have an excuse to discuss colors, textures, shapes, and give orders in German. Every month, replace another 15 phrases in English with their German counterpart. Dont force the kids to speak German if they really resist, but you might try a biweekly reward chart for participating, since German is something they will have to work at.

Dont promise to never speak German in front of their friends. Thats crazy. Why not? German is a language and its your langauge. Teach your kids pride and respect for themselves and for you and you'll shared heritage. Buy a few books on German or watch Videos, order Muzzy and get them to watch it once or twice a week and go through the booklets and stuff. They are too old/self concious to pick it up effortlessly but they are more than capable of learning it like a lesson.

Get Hubby to back you up on this, or just remain respectfully out of the way.
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