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Mar 122015
 

Question

Hello,

my husband and I live Australia and are going to adopt a child that we would like to bring up bilingually. We currently don’t know what the age of the child will be but it is likely that it will come to us speaking English, while we both speak German.

We would love our child to speak German, but are looking for some advice/resources to support us in this. Clearly, we don’t want to start exclusively speaking the household language with a potentially traumatised child from day one, but are wondering if you are aware of resources for gradually introducing our language to the child.

Many thanks
Anna

Answer

Dear Anna,

Your question is very interesting and I can fully understand your worries and why you are questioning yourself. Adopting a child is already a big step in your life and the life of that child. From what I have read and also from the contacts I have, I would advise you to do in the manner you would do as if it was your natural child.

As long as the child feels comforted and happy with you, he/she will adopt German. So, if you speak one language at home which is different from the community language, stick to the minority language until the child starts school. If the child is older and can already speak English, I think you can introduce German a little at a time or choose the method which is one person one language, which means both of you (your husband and yourself) will speak to the child in a different language.

Your child will realize quickly there is a difference: that there are two languages in the home, and with time, he/she will start to use both of them. It will not happen overnight and will require time and patience. If your child feels happy, the language will flow.

I hope I answered your question. If not, please feel free to come back to me.
Wishing you a very happy life with your child and I look forward to hearing from you.

All the best,
Isabelle

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  3 Responses to “Q&A: Should we speak the minority language to our adopted child?”

  1. Dear Anna,
    you must be so excited and looking forward to your child! Congratulations! As Isabella mentions, the approach you can take with German depends very much on the age of the child – maybe you can get in touch again once you know and we can give you more specific ideas on how to introduce German.
    All the best,
    Rita

  2. Many thanks for the reply to both of you Isabelle and Rita,
    and thanks for being so encouraging! It will be a while yet until we’ll know the age of the child. Until then we’ll probably do a lot of reading in preparation. I am sure we’ll have more questions once things have become a little clearer for us!

    Many thanks!

  3. I think that since many international adoptions involve the child, regardless of age, being immersed in a new language and suddenly no longer being exposed to their native language, the fact that you would be using both the new and native languages together is already going to make the transition easier for everyone. Congratulations on your upcoming adoption!

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