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i live in germany with my six year old daughter and her german dad. he speaks only german to her, i speak only english accept when addressing her and her friends – then i speak german. initially her first language was english but since being here it has swopped to german, which is an obvious development. when we first lived here i spoke no german and my daughter who was three at the time was mixing up her languages in each sentence which i thought was normal. as time went on the german content of every sentence increased, with less and less use of english until i finally noticed that my daughter wasn’t really speaking much english to me anymore. which i found really disturbing as it felt like she wasn’t my kid anymore. sounds silly but that was how it was. i also had problems understanding her. so i started to insist she speak english with me. whenever she said something in german i would say ‘sorry?’ until she said it in english. when i guessed what she wanted to say but could see she couldn’t formulate it i would say it in english. the problem is that now she knows i speak german and often i have to say ‘sorry?’ so often – sometimes she says every sentence in german unless i remind her every five minutes to speak english – it is driving me mad. i would never stop speaking english to my daughter. that’s not the topic. but i want her to have more than a passive knowledge of the language – my parents don’t speak german but we don’t have so much phone contact. i’m beginning to think i should just let her speak german to me. part of me feels this is better for us – we are having a lot of fights about english – but part of me knows that if given the choice she will stop speaking english and will then really struggle when we’re in ireland. i know everyone says pressure is bad but all my friends bringing up bilingual kids who don’t use pressure say the same – their kid talks to them in german. help! playgroups here don’t work – the kids speak german to each other even when they’re english or irish.

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