Educate bilingual- how do you teach the language to your girls?
I teach my girls to speak just like I teach them to smile, to walk or to eat.
Namely not at all!
That happens all by itself. They see how we eat, walk, smile or speak and they imitate us. Totally natural and without any compulsion.
But let me take a step back. We´re a German-American family because Chris (my lovely husband and stress-minimizer) was born and raise in the USA and I was born in Germany. There are different “systems” how a family can live bilingual or multilingual. We decided that we speak German at home (Chris can speak German) and out of (currently we live in the USA), we speak English if there are American friends around us.
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My experience with bilingual education is that it should happen without pressure. Toddlers aren’t sitting at the table and learning vocabulary from the book. This would be super boring. So here are my tips:
- the language nearly has to be omnipresent and be applied.
In German you say “wenn du es nicht anwendest, vergisst du es.” in English it means as much as „Use it or lose it!”, they have to hear and use it daily.
I always learned languages particularly good when I was alone in the country, whose native language I wanted to master. This kind of distress and pressure lets you learn quickly. That’s the same with children. When Lily is on the phone with her grandma it only works in German. Lily knows, that her grandmother cannot speak fluent English and that’s why Lily has no other choice to get through this German conversation and learn rapidly in the process. Every time we are in Germany, to visit my family, she makes a big step linguistically, because everyone around her speaks or is German.
Chris and I consistently speak German at home. Even if it’s hard sometimes, when we are tired and the English seems to be easier. Many people think, that it is easy to raise their children bilingual. Indeed it requires extra energy and perseverance.
Through being consistent a kind of requirement arises. About as: “to be able to communicate with mom, I have to speak the language, that she speaks.”
- Talk bilingual. Talk to your children!
You want your child to become bilingual? Then you have to talk to them. Sometimes I felt stupid while talking to my 1,5 years old daughter because it was like having a conversation with our dog, Einstein. Children who are one year old, mostly just speak a few words. Nevertheless I spoke and spoke to her. I sang to her or counted her fingers. Everything in German. When she started to speak several words at a time and short sentences I started repeating what I said.
ich: “Yes exactly, the ball is red.”
Lily: “Ball is red.”
ich: “Quickly, we get the red ball!”
This is how the conversations sounded with us. And I tell you, nearly I felt like an broken tape (the 80s and 90s kids between us will understand me LOL). But it actually works wonders.
- Play games
For me the best way to learn is in the game and with the interaction with others, not in theory from books. That’s how I think it is with children too. So I always keep my eyes open, if there are any German play groups around us or I’m looking online for German clubs etc. There are Facebookgroups for everything. From knitting to yodeling up to a local German-“Stammtisch” or just German play groups.
- Music, books, movies, audio books
Meanwhile Spotify has many German radio options for children. On our list here in the USA, Bibi Blocksberg and Petronella Apfelmus are very popular.
Oh and not to forget the wonderful album “Spiel-und Bewegungslieder von Lichterkinder” on Spotify, we like to dance to it with Letti and Lily.
Children films or series like Peppa Wutz and JoNaLu, we are watching in German. There are some of them on YouTube for free so you can stream them easily. But there is a lot of advertising on YouTube, and that’s why it is not my favorite variant.
In Germany I have an amazon-account, so I can buy Peppa Wutz or movies like “beauty and the beast” for Lily in German and then we can watch them on our TV. An disadvantage is, that German amazon prime series or movies don’t work here in the USA. So I have to buy them in German. (You can’t see it, but I’m sitting here shaking my head about it. I hope amazon will change it in the future.)
In the morning we love to hear “Erdbeerinchen Erdbeerfee” as an audio book or Bibi Blocksberg.
I can get children’s books at amazon here in America. But I prefer when family and friends, who visiting me bring me books.
I love books that rhyme. Our favorites at the moment (for. 1 and 3 years old):
Für Hund und Katz ist auch noch Platz (hier findest du das Buch: https://amzn.to/2Ph6Mnp)
Der Bieber hat Fieber (hier: https://amzn.to/2REZuXC)
Die Eule mit der Beule (hier: https://amzn.to/2OwFXXc)
Die Maus mit der Laus (hier: https://amzn.to/2QmLt0s)
Der Hummer hat Kummer (hier: https://amzn.to/2qzPdAe)
Wenn kleine Tiere wütend sind (hier: https://amzn.to/2PNY5R2)
Grüffelo (hier: https://amzn.to/2RAM0vG)
Schnecke und der Buckelwahl (hier: https://amzn.to/2JM7ZgC)
This rhyming books make it easier for children, to memorize words.
I didn’t found a children language-app for the German language yet, which inspired me. If you know any, let me know in the comments or by mail.
For adults a language learning-website and app, which works really well is “Rosetta Stone”. With this website, Chris has learned German back then (still before I got my YouTube Channel or Instagram) and as a family we have just been able to use it as a cooperation partner for our trip to Italy. Actually it was only for Chris and me, but that Lily thought it was a game, I did not expect that.
She “played” with the app and remembered sentences like:
“Il bambino mangia” oder “Buon Giorno!” oder “Grazie!” oder “Voglio mangiare un gelato” und “Ciao ragazzi!”
By the way, there are a free trial lesson: ….Link zur kostenlosen Demoversion
[Read more about Rosetta Stone and a 50% discount code on the full version of a language below.]
- Patience! Relax instead of compulsion.
The benevolent rule in matters of multilingual education for us is not to have an unrealistic point of view and to have our girls and do a vocabulary test with them at home.
As I wrote at the beginning, I don’t teach my child the way to smile either. That happens all alone through the reflex of imitation. This is exactly how families should deal with language acquisition in my opinion.
And not everything has to be German in our house. We also read English books and listen to English music. Quite honestly, we as a family also want to have fun and a positive feeling about multilingualism.
Everything with verve and nothing without fun!
Do you want to raise your children multilingual? How are your experiences with it? Do you have any more tips for me?
*This blog post contains a cooperation partner. We are allowed to partner with Rosetta Stone and bought it ourselves years ago and used it to learn German (Chris) and Thai (me, but only basic knowledge).
A few days before our trip to Italy we started our Italian language exercises with Rosetta Stone and I was even able to record on video how our 3 year old Lily happily plays with the app version and says “Buon Giorno” or “Grazie” to the Italian waitress in the restaurant ! ”.
What we like about Rosetta Stone:
The language learning system can often be navigated intuitively. This means that you don’t have to read instructions in advance. You can start directly with the exercises, which saves me time that is rare as a mom anyway.
You don’t learn mindless with conjugation or word tables, you learn with example sentences that are memorable. We quickly learned important verbs like “eat”, “drink”, “run”, “have” etc.
In my opinion, Rosetta Stone has a logical structure and we only invested 10 minutes a day to acquire basic knowledge of Italian. Lily had a lot of fun “playing” with me and the app and learning words like “uomo” and “donna” which sounded funny to her.
I have two favorite exercises. The first is hearing native speakers speak and then having to repeat it by speaking the same words into the phone. After that it either glows green, which means you pronounced it correctly, or, as in Chris ’case, it often glows red “ failed ” haha. Lily enjoyed that too.
And the other favorite exercise of mine is saying a sentence in Italian and then I had to tap on the corresponding picture. Immediately it will tell you whether you did it right or not.
I would describe our Rosetta Stone experience in the following words, learn through play!
And that’s exactly how I like to learn. 🙂
Link to the free trial lesson of the language of your choice: https://www.rosettastone.de/lp/h2/?cmp=ipromo&utm_source=youtube&utm_medium=sm&utm_campaign=jessy50&utm_content=sl&cid=sm-sl-yt-jessy50
50% Discount code: JESSYKPISKAI50
Link to my YouTube video “Are we overtaxing the girls with all the languages and travelling? https://youtu.be/npgrBIH016M