Struggling to explain things in second language

(13 Posts)
Metalhead Tue 09-Aug-16 10:49:28

DD1 is 6 and I've been speaking to her in German since she was born. Didn't do very strict OPOL though as I found it too hard, and as a consequence she doesn't really speak any German, though she will repeat some stuff I say or throw in the odd word here and there, and generally she understands everything I say (though I do sometimes get "I don't know what you're talking about"...).

However, now that she's a bit older and in Y1, I find I'm struggling to explain more abstract or difficult concepts to her in German and often slip into English. It's partly because I can't always find the right words in German or it just sounds wrong, and partly because I'm not sure she understands what I'm saying if I use more complex words. Anyone had similar issues, and if so what did you do?

paap1975 Tue 09-Aug-16 10:52:55

My advice would be to just keep going. If she doesn't understand, she'll let you know and anyway she'll need to learn new words to make progress. I've stuck it out with a child who fully understood language a but only every replied in language b. Now she's fine talking to me in language a

noramum Tue 09-Aug-16 16:31:09

We do school stuff in English, especially if it is a concept I have no idea about in German because I learned it differently and just don't know the exact German version (if there is one at all).

But generally day-to-day stuff is done in German. If DD struggles to get a concept we try again. We may do it in English as well but German is always the first option.

DD is 9 now and until she was 4.5 she virtually didn't speak German at all despite understanding everything. We were consequent but the real breakthrough were holidays, Ferien auf dem Bauernhof, where she had to use the language and - surprise - she could do it. She is by no means perfect but can now read German, write to a certain extent and speak if she has to or wants. We have German only at mealtimes and in the car for example.

noramum Tue 09-Aug-16 16:32:11

Oh, do you read to her in German? We found that if we read to her more complex books and talk about the content and explain expressions DD takes them into her vocabulary and understands them more and more.

Metalhead Tue 09-Aug-16 20:29:04

Thanks both, I guess I'll just have to keep on trying!

nora we have done holidays in Germany and sometimes meet up with my cousin and her kids, but it's not really helped. DD1 does get a bit upset when she realises someone can't understand her in English, but I guess because there's always someone there who speaks both languages (me, DH, Oma & Opa) she takes the lazy option and just comes to us and asks us to translate...

I'll have to try and read a bit more with her again, I go through phases of doing buying books for her and then it kind of fizzles out again after a bit because she prefers English books.

noramum Tue 09-Aug-16 21:52:46

I think we are the mean ones then. I refuse to speak a lot of English to DD. For me, German is my preference, I see language as a very emotional thing and I find it strange to speak English to her unless I have to.

I have friends where trilingual didn't work (dad German, mum Turkish and family language English) and the dad gave up as the children didn't understand enough German to get along.

I also know that in the future with Brexit looming we may have to go back and I need to know that DD is able to cope.

LockedOutOfMN Tue 09-Aug-16 21:58:59

Maybe some German tv series for kids or anything they have like Newsround, in German? (Or a show in translation?)

Agree with the other posters' ideas too.

Metalhead Tue 09-Aug-16 22:14:56

I guess I'm the opposite, I've always found it a bit weird to speak to DD in German when there are other people around who don't know the language (though I do do it if I'm only addressing her directly). And for us there is no real chance of ever going to live in Germany, DH's German isn't good enough to find a job and I've been here so long that it would be too much of an upheaval all round.

locked we have got DVDs in German, but again, DD1 prefers to watch English stuff. Maybe I should try and get a copy of her favourite films in German and just make her watch those... hmm

noramum Wed 10-Aug-16 10:28:19

We found that DD doesn't like watching shows in German she knows in English. Honestly, I don't watch dubbed movies/TV in Germany anymore, I can survive 2 weeks there without any TV.

We have various DVD sets and audiobooks. Astrid Lindgren is a big favourite both in books and DVD, Cornelia Funke now and the - for me - dreaded Conni series.

We have some kind of rule: bedtime stories are one book English/one book German. Movies are similar, she can choose, we choose. Audiobooks in the car - we insist on at least a German on every now and then.

I doubt we will move back, DD is now in Y5 and it would be harder and harder. But I refuse to let the opportunity go.

noramum Wed 10-Aug-16 10:28:28

We found that DD doesn't like watching shows in German she knows in English. Honestly, I don't watch dubbed movies/TV in Germany anymore, I can survive 2 weeks there without any TV.

We have various DVD sets and audiobooks. Astrid Lindgren is a big favourite both in books and DVD, Cornelia Funke now and the - for me - dreaded Conni series.

We have some kind of rule: bedtime stories are one book English/one book German. Movies are similar, she can choose, we choose. Audiobooks in the car - we insist on at least a German on every now and then.

I doubt we will move back, DD is now in Y5 and it would be harder and harder. But I refuse to let the opportunity go.

mikesh909 Wed 10-Aug-16 10:40:01

As a language teacher, this is all interesting to me.

I just wanted to say how great I think it is that you're trying so hard! Both my partner and my best friend grew up in bilingual families and both sets of parents gave up on the 'other' language when their children expressed lacking enthusiasm for speaking it. As adults, both really regret not keeping up with it. One is now living in the country where the language is spoken and painstakingly trying to learn. The other laments the fact that I (having lived in the country for two years as an adult) have to explain the most basic sentences in his childhood language to him.

Language is absolutely an emotional thing, and is fundamental to your identity. As young adults, those who've let one of their languages slide often realise this. Your DC will thank you so much for this further down the road!

Metalhead Wed 10-Aug-16 15:19:25

nora I know what you mean about dubbed movies, I can't watch them anymore either!

We do have some DVDs with stuff like Connie, Lauras Stern etc. and DD1 used to love them, but now that she's older and into the Disney/Pixar movies she's not really interested anymore. I might try and get some Astrid Lindgren, think she might enjoy that.

SystemAticcally Wed 10-Aug-16 17:23:50

Just keep going. The more you deviate into English the worse it gets.

You also need to have other source of German in your household. TV/Radio etc... Put these on while you have breakfast, even 5 minutes a day does a lot in the long run.

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