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Hi, I just found this site and it looks great. I’m looking for suggestions on keeping my kids bilingual. DH and I are both American, English our native language, but we also speak German. We just spent the past two years in Germany, and moved back to the States in August (so,we’ve been here about two months). The older kids, now 6, 8, and 10, went to a regular German school and we attended church in German, so my now-3-year-old also got her immersion. (Also have a baby born just before we left this summer, but he doesn’t speak anything. Our rule there was English at home, German outside, only as time went on, the kids brought home more and more German. The 3-year-old understand English but um…she actually just speaks German. (Is beginning to drop English lexical items in German grammar, but she’s clearly still thinking in German.)

We lived in Germany before when the oldest was a toddler. He came home bilingual that time, too, only he lost the German in a record amount of time (and we were trying to keep it up at home.) After all the blood, sweat, and tears to get everyone bilingual this time around, I really don’t want them to lose it!! But the kids now go to school in English (which occupies most of their waking hours), and my third child is actually getting a bit of ESL at school because they think she needs it. She missed American kindergarten last year, which means she didn’t get all the English reading (actually, she didn’t get any reading, since German kindergarten isn’t part of school). So she does need more focus in English, at least at the moment.

If it were Spanish, it would be easier, because there are always Spanish speakers around, books in the library, the Spanish channel on DVDs and TV, etc. But German contact doesn’t really exist here, except for boring old mom and dad. And we aren’t native speakers. Has anyone else been in this situation, trying to teach a second language to their kids that isn’t their own and is the minority language? Ideas?


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I am not really in your situation. I am bi-lingual German/English and my German mother lives near us, so my daughter is being brought up
German/English bi-lingual and we have succeeded as she speaks both languages fluently at fives years of age. 

For your situation you could bring in a German au-pair (costly) and or enroll the kids in a Saturday school.  I guess it depends where you live.  We live in the North-East and there are a lot of Saturday German schools, and many great opportunities in New York for kids to stay in contact with German langauge and culture. If you live in a more remote part of the country, you could advertise on the internet for German speaking contacts in your area. 
I also think that speaking German at home, even if you and your husband are not native, should be the highest priority.  The kids will want to bring English home in the same way they did in Germany want to bring German home, but if you are strict with your rules then I think it could work.  Right now the kids really would prefer to speak in their native langauge which is German and it would be nice if you could keep it up for the entire family.  Since your kids are reading age, except for the littlest, you could have each child read a German story to the entire family every evening (instead of watching t.v.). 
Hope all works out well.   

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Thanks for the ideas, Karen! We live in Arkansas, so um…no Saturday school or anything like that available. But we do need to get more aggressive about just speaking. I think it’s time for an Christmas… And maybe we should make our kids talk whenever we call Germany as well…

Thanks again, and Frohe Weihnachten! (One thing the kids have definitely NOT forgotten is Adventskalendar….)


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Sounds like it is time for you and your husband to stop speaking English with the kids and start speaking German, if that isn’t too much of a burden on you.  If you’re not totally fluent, even speaking some German and some English will be better than nothing.

Here’s a mail-order place for German language materials for kids that is really good:

Viel Glück!


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Hi Rose,

I live in Arkansas and also wish that there were some more options for early foreign language exposure.  Are you in central AR?  Maybe we could work together to create a local network of language playgroups/resources.  I am starting small with a Spanish playgroup because I have studied Spanish and there are lots of local Spanish resources.  However,  I bet we could find parents interested in German and other languages as well. 
If you are interested, let me know via a response and we can figure out how to contact each other directly.   


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