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How to positively encourage the minority language?

(5 Posts)
cloudjumper Wed 26-Aug-15 13:40:02

I'm Swiss-German, DH is British, we live in the UK. DS is four and just told me a few days ago that he doesn't like reading German story books for bedtime, he prefers 'normal' (i.e. English ones). I am really sad about this, but it's probably my own fault.
I am really struggling to speak German with him, and it is getting worse. He doesn't ever speak/answer in German, and that together with the fact that DH does not speak or understand German makes it incredibly hard for me to stick with any form of OPOL. We do not have any German friends close by, and as we both work full-time, getting to German play groups etc. is impossible. So he only hears English day-in day-out.
We do watch the occasional DVD in German, but to be honest, I don't think that DS really gets what is going on - which I suspect is the reason he doesn't want the books in German anymore, as he is now actually following the story and wants to know what is going on.
To make it even more difficult, after over 15 years living in the UK, with increasingly less German 'exposure', I am finding it increasingly hard work to speak German myself! Certain phrases etc. just come to me quicker in English now. Switching languages is such an effort and requires a lot of concentration, and when we are with friends/DH's family, I only speak English because it's easier to include people into any conversation I am having with DS.

So, how can I positively encourage DS regarding the German language? I don't want to enforce anything, for example, I don't want to suddenly start reading only German books because that will mean that he will request that DH reads the bedtime stories with him. He is starting to struggle to understand what I say in German, so I have to repeat things in English - what do I do about that? I'm not expecting him to speak German (I don't think he gets enough exposure for that), but I would like him to at least understand the language... Any advice?

wowfudge Thu 27-Aug-15 12:58:02

Repeating things in English is your problem - you have to start straight away with them as babies and be consistent. If he has lost interest and expressed to you that he doesn't like stories in German then you run the risk he will become uncommunicative and resentful. You've said yourself that you don't use your native language much yourself so what really is the point? When he's older might he study it at school? If so, his experience as a young child might help him.

I have cousins who were brought up to be bilingual, but one of them really struggled and it started to cause problems. The parents were advised to stick to English only and the child was much happier as a result. Friends of different nationalities each communicate with their three year old in their own languages and they are totally consistent - they speak to each other in their own languages and respond accordingly in front of him. Luckily each speaks the other's language! If your DP had learned your language that might have helped. It sounds as though you are at the stage where you should either immerse him (Skype with your family plus more use of German around him?) or give up.

Flingmoo Sat 05-Sep-15 15:11:33

It's really hard isn't it?! It's probably even worse for my DS as I only speak English and my Swiss German DH hardly ever speaks to DS in Swiss. Even if we did OPOL properly, he would still struggle as DH spends less time with him than I do...

On the positive side I think any level of exposure will make it a lot easier for them to pick it up properly when they're older/at school.

DH moans at me when I'm teaching DS words "you have to speak to him in Swiss!" he says... I'm like "well, that's going to be a bit tricky as I'm not the one who speaks Swiss!". I only have a really basic vocabulary including mostly food, numbers, polite chit chat and a few animal names. Not great at forming sentences and quite dodgy pronunciation. So I'm not really in the best position to be teaching him Swiss. Wish DH would speak to him exclusively in Swiss. Even DH doesn't like the German bedtime stories as he dislikes standard German, but you can't get books in Swiss German! confused I think our only choice is to move to Switzerland and then myself and DS would be forced to pick it up.

Have PM'd you by the way, I'm excited to come across someone Swiss on here!

cloudjumper Sun 06-Sep-15 20:50:11

Yes, things would be so much easier if DH spoke German, but sadly, he doesn't, and I have given up nagging now - if he doesn't want to learn it, that's his decision.

Having to learn a foreign language in school or other types of lessons is so much harder than being able to speak/understand through upbringing, and in spite of everything, I really want to give DS that opportunity. Now that I'm pg with DC2, I am hopeful that it might get easier, since I will then have 2 people to speak German to/with (sorry DH wink).

Louise3000 Fri 01-Jan-16 21:56:10

Hi, I have just seen this post. I am also Swiss German living in London with my British fiancé. We now have a 10 week old dd and planning on bringing her up multilingual. I am also trying to convince my fiancé to learn German. He's started to pick some things up slowly but difficult when he's working full time etc. We are going to use both books (from Switzerland) and obviously English as norm. I will also speak both Swiss and English to her as she grows and hoping she should pick it up as we go along. Im happy I've found a fellow Swiss on here!

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