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Encouraging almost 4 year old to speak his second home language

(13 Posts)
dodi1978 Wed 17-May-17 20:50:09

DS1 is 3 years 9 months. I am German, my husband is British.
When he was born, it was my intention that he would grow up fully bilingually (knowing of course that, as he'd go to nursery, his English would be stronger).
Unfortunately, I have slipped into the habit of speaking far too much English with him, mostly because my husband's German is very weak and it is just sometimes easier that way. He does understand pretty much everything I say, but doesn't respond in German (he uses the occasional single word).
However, in the last month or so, he seems to get more interested in German, occasionally asking me "What's that in Deutsch?" or similar. He has also occasionally responded in German when I asked him to repeat a German phrase after me (e.g. "Ich will Wasser").
Should I harness this new interest now to try and make a new start with German? A friend of mine always asks "Wie bitte?" if her daugther does not respond in German. We are going to visit the German grandparents in two weeks, so will have a good chance for some immersion at that time.

savagehk Sat 20-May-17 08:10:12

The trip to Germany will help. I'd try hard to only speak German to him as well, and buy books/dvds in German while you're there.

NaturWilde Sat 20-May-17 08:14:15

Definitely let him respond in whichever language he chooses though, I wouldn't follow the "wie bitte" approach, especially at this age.

Mamabear12 Sat 20-May-17 08:25:40

Def buy loads of German books and dvds while on the trip and make sure grandparents speak only German to him. Fine if he responds in English. He is still learning. You will regret if you give up now. Just make more of an effort to speak, read German, play German music etc. You could also do sat german school and set up German play dates. It takes a lot of effort to keep the language going once they start English school.

Sgtmajormummy Sat 20-May-17 08:44:32

At the risk of sounding like a nationalist, remember that YOU are the embodiment of YOUR language and culture to your child.

No matter what level your English is, how can you truly be yourself (tell stories, share jokes and affectionate moments) in a language you learned in later life?
And are you willing to effectively stunt the relationship between your child and his German grandparents through lack of communication abilities?

Make a stand for bilingualism, One Person One Language. DH will not be at a disadvantage and neither will YOU. He'll speak his language and you'll speak yours. The benefits are well documented.

Rant over. I have 2 successfully bilingual Italian/English kids (18 and 11) and a very supportive but not linguistically gifted DH. Any other way of bringing them up would have been unthinkable for me.

Ktown Sat 20-May-17 08:50:44

Peppa pig/Disney in German and German pop music
Makes a massive difference for us
And repeating the same phrase in German/English and back again

CrazedZombie Sat 20-May-17 08:53:55

My friend is German with a British husband. I've never heard him speak in German but she often does to her kids. Her 3 year old watches Die Simpsons with older siblings.

I'm British and when my son was at Kindergarten, he'd watch Spongebob Schwammkopf rather than the English version very happily.

savagehk Sat 20-May-17 08:59:38

If he responds to you in English I'd also repeat what he said but in German.

DoorwayToNorway Sat 20-May-17 10:27:03

Yes, harness it. My 4 year old is fully bilingual but we have the advantage that we all speak both languages fluenty so home is one language and outside is another. It's more difficult when home is a mix of two languages and one parent doesn't speak that language. But you can still manage it.
I agree with TV, books etc, harness to the full. My DS asks me what things are sometimes and he recently said "I have two words for everything mummy". It's a great advantage. My neighbours lived in the USA, they didn't speak English at home and as a result their youngest, who is a US citizen cannot speak a word of English. She's trying now but he's 9, left the USA when he was 3. He is not interested in learning now. But she's not a native English speaker. You are in a different position as you are teaching your native language. Good luck!

Trinpy Sat 20-May-17 10:51:22

Yes I think you should definitely make use of this opportunity now when he is interested in learning; it becomes harder as they get older.

My Dh is Hungarian, I am English and do not speak Hungarian. We live in England. We've followed the OPOL approach since birth with both dcs and it's worked very well (so far). If they say something in English to Dh he repeats it back in Hungarian then responds in Hungarian (they are 3 and 1 so still learning). He reads in Hungarian to them every day and they have plenty of one on one time with him where they only speak/hear Hungarian for an afternoon. We've made friends with other people whose dcs are being brought up English/Hungarian bilingual and we Skype a lot with friends and family in Hungary. Dh has also started taking ds1 to Hungary for a few days at a time just to immerse him in the language. YouTube is very good for finding dubbed over versions of popular kids cartoons in different languages.

RedBugMug Sat 20-May-17 10:54:57

german films/videos
'sendung mit der maus' etc.
holidays with family for immersion. language play dates.

noramum Tue 23-May-17 13:41:39

We had this with DD when she was 4-5. Passive understanding = 100%, active usage = max 5-10%. And DH and I are both German but she spent 4 days in childcare and then in school.

Our solution was Ferien auf dem Bauernhof. She suddenly had to speak German in order to play with the other children. While she is still not happy to actively use German at home we know she can do it.

Also reading to her is purely German at bedtime, only when she started using it we agreed to also read English to her (school work apart obviously).

Lots of audiotapes, DVDs work as well but the holidays really made a dent.

RedBugMug Tue 23-May-17 16:51:12

nothing can beat bibi blocksberg or benjamin blümchen audio stories grin

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