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This is a great site.  I have read dozens of situations without finding the exact one as ours (albeit similar, but something is always minimally different), and would be grateful to hear from anyone who is/has gone through our situation…I lived in Germany for nearly 5 years as an adult, and speak the language at an advanced-medium level (not native, definitely fluent), while my wife doesn’t speak the language at all (she wants to learn, however).  My wife will be home with the baby for the first 4 months, and then financial restraints will have us bringing the child to a non-language specific daycare rather than bringing over an au pair (I would love to hear stories on people’s financial experiences with au pairs too!).  I am very motivated to raise our child with both languages, and am ready to speak as close to 100% of the time in German as possible.  I do fear some that the bond to child may be lessened, worry some about mom feeling left out, and lastly wonder how effective this will be in the end anyway (although I’m opimistic).  So, I would love to hear random thoughts on this (and especially if there are parents raising bilingual German speaking children in the US who come across this!).

Thanks, and greetings from Minnesota,

1. Country you live in
           United States (Minnesota)
2. Languages the family speaks
            English (native), father (me) German (fluent, non-native)
3. Ages of the children
           0-due date is in July
4. Language system (OPOL, ML@H or any other method)
          The only chance will be OPOL
Angela Schade

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Hi Eric,

My husband and I have a 16 month old daughter who we are trying to raise bilingual, English/German. My husband, born here in California, was raised with German as his first language (both parents are German natives) and learned English in school. I have been exposed to German for the past 17 years but have only recently started taking German courses at a local community college. I would say my comprehension level is about 65%, conversing is another matter, but I’m improving every day.

It’s fairly easy for me to speak German to my daughter at this stage because of her age. I’m not attempting in depth, lengthy conversations in German or English for that matter! -Was is das? Was sagt der Hund? Wo ist Omi? Wir mussen Bett gehen. Vorsicht dich!- that sort of thing. My husband tries to speak 75-100% German to her and it’s usually closer to 75%….

We have also purchased some great books from a local chain bookstore. One is a picture book with the corresponding German word. I can’t remember the exact name at the moment but if you’re interested I will find it for you. There are picture also flash cards that go with it.

We’re not in you exact situation but pretty close. Is your wife willing to learn some German? (I think you said she was) I will also say, in that regard, that I have learned quite a bit of German along with my daughter

It will be more difficult in my opinion if both parents don’t speak German but certainly possible! I would also suggest trying to find some type of preschool that caters to German/English or even weekend courses for parent and child. Anything that will give you and your child time together learning the language.

As for an Au Pair, I was recently presented with a situation (through my German professor) where a young woman was looking for room & board in exchange for child care and brushing up on her English. Unfortunately we didn’t have an extra room to accomodate her, but if you had accomodations for someone you may be able to swing something like that, especially since you lived in Germany and are bound to have some contacts, just a thought.

Wow, this has turned into a pretty long winded post, sorry.

Good luck with your endeavors, I’m sure you will be successful


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The best advice that I have is for you to look around for German playgroups that you and your child can join (try or YahooGroups).  This will help you expand your baby/child related vocabulary as well as keep your German “fresh”.  Realize that even native speakers have holes in their vocabulary and that it is completely natural.  Your bond with your child will not be lessened in the least by you speaking your non-native language with her/him.  You are doing your child a huge service by raiding him/her bilingually.  Just be consistent with speaking German with your child and you are planting the seed.
My husband (German) and I (American fluent in German) (living in Denver)are raising our 3yr old daughter with OPOL.  She, like most bi-lingual children, was a late talker but started to communicate thoughts at 12 mo. (?) with her hands using the baby sign language.  Her speech has really taken off over the last 6 months- but mostly English.  We can prompt her to say things in German or get her to repeat in German.  She seldom says things spontaneously in German but she gets tons of praise when she does.  We have found a play group in the area, this has given her an extra reason to use German (or daddy words as we call it).  I have explained to her that mommy’s family ONLY speaks mommy words and that daddy’s family ONLY speaks daddy words.  My mother-in-law will come for an extended visit in Feb08- the first time that our daughter will have seen her since she started talking, so we have our fingers crossed that this will make a big difference in her German speech. 
Best of luck to you!

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Hi I replied to this thread yesterday and just stumbled across a site that might also be helpful to you.  Although they sell products there is a whole explanation section about how to teach your children a language that isn’t your own native language.  The owner of the website taught her own children French this way.  Hope it might be helpful to someone.
Mark Rogers

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Hi Eric,

We have a situation pretty close to yours – I am a non-native German speaker living in San Francisco and have spent a lot of time in Germany, but have never lived there for more than a month or two at a time. My fluency is such that I generally pass for German in Germany, but English is my native and stronger language. My wife took a year of German in college and was supportive of raising our son in German/English.

Our son is now nearly 4 and speaks both languages well. He speaks almost exclusively German with me (sometimes he’ll start in English if he’s telling me about something that happened with our English speaking friends/family, or if he doesn’t know the word in German, but he quickly switches back to German). It helps greatly that we have two German play-groups in San Francisco, and that he’s going to a German language immersion pre-school.

My wife has also greatly improved her German, simply because we’re always speaking German around her. It’s also helped my vocabulary, since a 2 or 3 year old is constantly asking what things are called. It has helped to be very consistent about speaking German with him, and he has often refused to speak German with my wife when she’s trying to talk to him “Mama, I need you to speak English with me”.

So I would definitely encorage you to stick with your approach – it’s worked very well for us. I don’t feel like the bond to my son is lessened at all. In fact, it would seem strange to me now to speak English with him, even though my wife and I still speak English at home and she speaks English with him. I even have trouble not speaking German with other small children we meet in San Francisco, who have no connection to the language!

Good luck!


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Hello Mark, Clara, and Angela!

Sorry for the long, long delay in getting back to this thread. I received a mail at one time with a message, and just finally tonight, months afterwards I was getting back to respond, and wow, there were two additional posts! I greatly appreciated hearing your experiences, and the encouraging words.

Our daughter is now 6 1/2 months old, and doing great. Who knows about her progress in the language obviously, but I have been able to maintain a 100% record of speaking German with her (as well as our German Shepherd Kaiser! Mom on the other hand has picked up some through children’s songs (Schni Schna Schnappi is the family favorite!). Somedays are definitely more difficult than others, but overall I have found the experience less taxing than I expected, and where I expected to catch resistance from extended family/friends, etc., there has been very little (an occasional irritating comment, but that is fine! ha). I am constantly reading to her in German, and I try to have the ProsiebenSat1Welt or a Kinderhorspiel playing in the background to acquaint her with the native pronunciation and rhythm. The next step will be finding a playgroup, although I think it will be another 6 months or so before I need to worry about that! Unfortunately the opportunities are probably lesser in Minnesota than California (wow does it ever seem that a lot of transplanted Germans are out there!!), but there is a small German community, as well as a German immersion school and preschool.

Anyways, I would be more than happy to hear any more reports from you guys about how things have continued to develop with your situations. Once again I apologize for the inconsiderate delay in responding, and I thank you guys much for your stories, encouragement and tips!

Regards from frozen Minnesota!

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Clara says, “Your bond with your child will not be lessened in the least by you speaking your non-native language with her/him”. I envy, but do not share, her certainty. She may be right, but I don’t see how she can be sure that she is.


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1. Country you live in
           United States (Oregon)
2. Languages the family speaks
            English (native), German (fluent, non-native mother: myself )
3. Ages of the children
           4 mos.
4. Language system (OPOL, ML@H or any other method)
          Currently OPOL

Hi Mark and Eric,
My name is Tamara. I live in Portland, OR, and teach and tutor German which I learned both in college and through a few years spent in Munich. I am speaking 99% German with my 4 month old daughter, and my husband is very supportive but has never taken any German. I have been following your posts, (as well as yours, Mark, in response to Paul regarding speaking native language to your child), and I want to thank you both for posting and sharing your experiences. It’s amazing to me how reading others’ experiences can really help me feel more confident in what I’m doing and hoping to accomplish. It really helps to know that not only are there are others out there in my shoes, but that it is working for each of you thus far in your situations.

I’ve been speaking German with Kaya since the moment she was born and it feels very normal most of the time. I’ve been having doubts, lately, however, as I come upon words I don’t know or when she’s really upset or I’ve hurt her…I find that it’s far more unnatural for me to speak German when I’m scared or upset. Is it the same for you? Does it become more natural feeling?

Mark, I’m curious how you have navigated the waters of your wife not understanding some of what you say to your son. Does it feel awkward? Do you feel like you’re leaving her out? My husband only knows words here and there in German but is learning quickly with a huge interest in learning more. He really wants to improve his Spanish for his job, but now that we’ve decided that I will speak German with Kaya, he’s more interested in learning German than we thought he would be. I have a hard time understanding how dinner conversations will go…?!

I’m also wondering how you work out the challenges (as I see it to be right now for me) of speaking German to your kid/s in public? Do you ever feel, as a non native, that other people might think you are “showing off”, that you are part of an elite class that is raising your child bilingual, even though you aren’t a native? What about how people respond to not understanding what you are saying? Do you/did you feel like a sore thumb in public at times? What about in English -speaking playgroups, for example?

I would love to bounce around other ideas, and hear more details as your lives progress…though there are surely others in our situations, somehow it helps me to relate to others with the similar language scenarios.

If you aren’t Mark or Eric and you’ve got ideas for me regarding my questions, or you, as well, are in a similar non-native position, I’d love to hear from you, too!



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