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Who else brings their child/ren up with German and English?

(52 Posts)

What we do:
Very strict OPOL
During the week the child is to 75% exposed to the German language. I talk German with him all day, we have German TV, he watches only a few programs in English. We have lots of German friends, go to two German playgroups and only have a few play dates with English speaking children.
We have lots German books etc.

However, he is two and does not talk at all. He just had surgery for his glue ears and we hope his hearing improves now.

Is there anything else I can do?

noramum Tue 09-Apr-13 20:07:05

DD is nearly 6 and we are a German household but DD's main language is English as she attended nursery from 11 months for 4 days a week.

Until she was 3 we hardly read English books to her but in the end it was just not possible to carry on being a German-only house. And honestly I don't want to. We live here, I can't take the outside world away from her and she needed to be fluent in english to attend school.

She is now in Year 1 and you wouldn't know she is actually bilingual, she has a very Sout-East London accent.

She speaks German with an English Grammar and often struggles to find the right word. We don't have German friends but spend each year our main holiday in Germany. Passiv is her German perfect.

Unless we are in English speaking company we only speak German to her.

omletta Tue 09-Apr-13 20:12:45

We had the reverse noramum - DS spoke English with the German grammatical. He was bilingual from starting speaking till about aged 8 - he then chose English only (English school) and now (nearly 11) claims to know no German - oddly enough he follows German instructions and sometimes watches German films (Wild Boys!)

Rulesgirl Tue 09-Apr-13 20:15:52

Completely bilingual here.....but Welsh and English.

omletta That's exactly what I am worried about. We hope that he can spend his summers with his family in Germany when he is a bit older so he keeps speaking German.

omletta Wed 10-Apr-13 06:45:17

It's a real challenge. We are an English family who lived in Germany - so the opposite of you?

Had we remained in the German community I am sure that we could have maintained the mix however a sudden family situation bought us home and he went to English school where he was found to be behind - unsurprising given that in Germany the kindergarten goes on on until aged 6, where as in the UK its all pressure, targets and achievements from about aged 4 - the school told me to decide a language and stick to it! I didn't much like their approach but felt powerless to argue. DS choose English, even though he was stronger at German, but of course all of his new (cool) friends spoke only English.

I am sure that it must be possible to maintain the two, especially with bilingual parents and lost of the non educational language speaking friends and activities. When your DS goes to school you will need to make them aware of his bilingualism and of its importance to you. I just got fed up with m bilingualism beng blamed for his failure to make progress. And actually a few years on it turns out it was a load if tripe anyway and he is almost certainly dyslexic.

Good luck

doradoo Wed 10-Apr-13 06:54:49

We're a UK family in Germany - and are trying to bring up the 3DCs as bilingually as possible.

No UK tv - only english DVDs - which sometimes the older two prefer to watch in German anyway. All 3 have been immersed in German kindergarten, though the oldest 2 are at an international school now.

Sometimes they play together in german which I find a bit odd - and certainly DS1 has no trouble switching between languages.

DS2 - 1 when we moved here now almost 6 - has the most German grammar/sentence construction and choice of word in English - which sounds 'wrong' to my English ears.....

DD2 (3) started kiga in August so is just beginning to speak some German.

It's interesting to note that they are good at adjusting to whatever language they are spoken to in - such as in restaurants they can reply directly in German / understand what's being asked of them.

We try when out of the house to speak german - but mine isn't really good enough for this and I struggle sometimes - but we all speak English at home.

It's a very interesting 'experiment' to be watching first hand.

WidowWadman Wed 10-Apr-13 07:09:09

We live in the UK, I'm German, the husband's English, kids are being brought up OPOL and I speak English with my husband- as I work full time, their exposure to German is reduced, however they also have German DVDs, CDs, at bed time I will read only German books to them.

There's also a few other German kids in town, 2 of them at my children's nursery.

English is obviously the stronger language, but when they address me in English I answer in German, and ask them to speak German to me. There's a lot of pidgin/mixing of languages going on, but I'm not too concerned about it, as that's to be expected.

NK2b1f2 Wed 10-Apr-13 07:55:41

Also struggling here. We've just come back from two weeks in Germany and I was disappointed that my two more or less refused to speak German. dd1 is 5 and since starting school in the Uk English has taken over completely. She understands German and speaks well when pushed (her grandparents don't speak English). She starts at a German Saturday School next week and I hope meeting other bilingual children will help her realise it's a 'real' language, not just something I try to get her to speak at home. I no longer do OPOL because it's completely impractical with homework etc.
dd2 is 3 and claims she knows no German, but understands everything. I hope hearing her older sister speak it will prompt her to follow suit. At the moment the girls speak only English to each other.

cory Wed 10-Apr-13 08:41:18

Ime a lot of children go through these phases where they refuse to speak one or other of their languages. I think it helps if you can be fairly laidback about it, just continue doing what you're doing and not let it become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Our ds went through a phase where he refused to speak English for a period of about 6 months- very awkward as we live in the UK, all his friends spoke English, he went to an English speaking childminder's and an English speaking playschool. He used his older sister as an interpreter or simply refused to communicate at all. I was getting worried about his starting school until he went to a performance at his sister's school and as we got out he turned to me and said "When I go to school, I shall speak English". Phewww, huge sigh of relief!

JBrd Wed 10-Apr-13 14:55:55

We live in the UK, I'm Swiss-German, DH is British. I speak German to DS for about 90% of the time, DH only speaks English, I speak English to DH. No German TV (yet), but lots of books (which only I can read to him, though). No German playgroups, we both work full time and don't have any around here at weekends (not that I know of anyway).

DS is 22 months and not speaking much at all yet - at least not that we can understand! But he understands a lot in both languages. The few words we do understand are mostly English, although he has started saying 'bus' both in English and German pronounciation, depending on who he speaks to.
I'm a bit realxed with OPOL, as I find it incredibly hard switching between languages when with other people that don't speak German, in that situation I tend to stick with English, otherwise I lose the plot and start speaking German to the English people.
I've heard about bilingual DCs refusing one language from lots of friends, so I'm expecting that as well. I think that as the only one who is speaking German with DS regularly, I'm pretty much in the loosing position - but as long as he understands it and can speak when prompted, that's OK with me.

cory Wed 10-Apr-13 20:42:25

I wouldn't make any assumptions about being in a losing position yet, JBrd; it depends on so many factors- personality of child, other factors triggering an interest in Germany later in childhood etc etc.

Since dd got old enough to go on facebook, I am no longer her only daily purveyor of Swedish- very far from it. Suddenly she has a whole circle of Swedish teens among her (virtual) friends. I never had that in learning English, but I just happened to be interested in languages, so I taught myself to quite a high level before I had ever even met a native speaker. Lots of things can happen, never write anything off.

JBrd Thu 11-Apr-13 09:16:37

cory you're right, thanks for reassuring. I think it will really depend on how we manage it, trying not to put any pressure on DS (and any other future DCs) regarding language. I just want him/them to associate German with fun and nice things, and ideally, he'll use it without making any conscious effort... We'll see.

Can anyone recommend German DVD/TV programms for a 2-year old? All I have at the moment is 'Urmel aus dem Eis' from the Augsburger Puppenkiste, but that's still a bit too advanced for DS. I have no clue anymore about German TV, I left over 15 years ago, so any recommendations would be appreciated!

cheaspicks Thu 11-Apr-13 10:46:19

Jbrd Laura's Stern is very sweet, possibly better for slightly older children though. Der Sandmann must be age-appropriate. DD probably watched the odd episode of Biene Maja at that age, but I don't suppose she could follow it. I will try to think of any more, but we're in the opposite situation and have mostly English DVDs at home.

NK2b1f2 Thu 11-Apr-13 11:04:36

JBrd A big hit with my just 3 year old has been Kikaninchen and Trotro which we found on utube. Also Der kleine Maulwurf (although he doesn't actually speak... wink
The 5 year old loves Pippi Langstrumpf, Bullerbue, Der kleine Eisbaer on DVD and discovered Biene Maja over Easter.

StyleManual Thu 11-Apr-13 11:24:34

Hi, bit off topic, but is there a German corner on MN? I need to brush up my German for work and it would be nice to chat auf deutsch.

cheaspicks Thu 11-Apr-13 12:02:45

Jbrd just remembered Die Sendung mit der Maus (never seen it, but have 20pc jigsaws with the characters on, so it must be aimed at fairly ound children).

style not as far as I know. We have a Living in Germany thread, but we all chat in English as it's kind of the point to escape the German world around us grin. i have seen the odd chat thread in pidgin German/English, but I don't think they last very long and probably wouldn't help you improve your German much anyway.

NK2b1f2 Thu 11-Apr-13 12:36:11

DieSendung mit der Maus is great but the characters don't talk either...

cheaspicks Thu 11-Apr-13 12:40:29


weegiemum Thu 11-Apr-13 12:42:16

Dh wishes he'd been brought up like this - his Dad is German, mum Irish. Sadly, I speak more German than dh does, his dad wouldn't even help help with German homework from school.

It was pretty much decisive in persuading us to use bilingual education now. Though we both are only fluent in English (though I speak good Spanish, reasonable French) our dc have been educated since age 3 in Gaelic and English, and are now all completely fluent in both languages.

C4ro Thu 11-Apr-13 13:04:39

Not-very-strict OPOL used here. DD is 2.5 now and she talked a little late I suppose but we took it for normal as she has had a lot of different languages thrown at her.

I'm English with limited German, DH is Austrian and Eng/German/Dutch fluent, DD has a 2-day a week Hungarian nanny (who speaks to her in Hungarian) and 3-day a week Tagesoma (German). We lived for her first year in Holland (so Dutch KG for 9 months) and now live in Austria since she was 1 year old. All her DVD are in English, a few have the German option but it's rarely used (only when her older cousins come over- they are in an all-German environment). Books are 80:20 English:German. TV programs German (very minimal though). Skype to grandparents in their native languages.

After all that, she basically speaks German (90%) with a bit of English but will respond, in mostly-German, to questions in German/ English/ Hungarian.

I find it hard to understand how people can do OPOL REALLY strictly. E.G. My daughter wants my DH to read her a book, she picks an English one... what should be done according OPOL? - he reads it but translates to German as he goes? Refuses her choice and picks a German book or do I have to swap in and read it to her in English? For now, we just read what we're given, in whatever language it is. I will ask her to do things in English, she will reply in German and it's fine. She is definitely picking up gradually that it is Please to me and Bitte to papa.

Do the OPOL-hardcore get all their books in dual language? I think that rigid forcing/ not responding unless they "perform" in the right language is about the best way to put them off the minor language (which is mine at the moment). Am I going to have an illiterate mixed-patios speaker because I respond to both "please carry me" and "Bitte Trag Mir"?

C4ro Thu 11-Apr-13 13:10:42

Sendung md Maus - the weekly podcast (5 minute videos) is spoken German.... except for the few weeks it actually is the cartoon mouse and blue elephant doing things which are silent like NK said!

BertieBotts Thu 11-Apr-13 13:10:49

DS will be, we hope! We're all English but will be moving to Germany in the summer. DS is 4 so he will go to a German Kindergarten. Neither me or DP speak German currently although DP understands more than I do.

MmeLindor Thu 11-Apr-13 13:13:44

Non-strict OPOLer here too.

Our kids are 8 and 10yo now, brought up for the first years in Germany. DD spoke mainly English till Kindergarten, then mainly German. DS always mainly German.

Then moved to Geneva, where they learned French and spoke a lot of English. German only at home.

Now in UK, and they speak only English. DH has moved over, after a year in Germany so hoping that they will speak more German with him. They do manage fine when they speak to their German relatives though, so not too worried.

I haven't fussed about the language, have no rules of which books they can and cannot read, and with whom they may read them. They are quite comfortable switching between languages, and still speak reasonable French despite hardly speaking it at the moment.

When I we read an English book I'll translate it into German. I translate it as I go along. Big hit in our house is "Kleine Einsteins", Benjamin Blümchen and Pumuckl.

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