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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