Question

Hello,

I’m looking for resources and advice for educating our daughter who is now nearly 7 months old. My husband and I currently live in the USA but will be moving to Germany when our daughter is 1 1/2 years old. I’m a native English speaker (US). My husband is a native German (also Bavarian) speaker. Also his English is nearly perfect from living in the U.S.

For the past few years I am studying German, but I know so little that we still speak English to each other. We have applied your advice I found on Pinterest. He speaks German to our daughter. I speak English. I am starting to work with her with letters, colors and numbers in English. My question is since I am the primary caregiver and educator what approach should I take to make sure she is prepped for entry into preschool in Germany while not losing her English?

I have many many more questions regarding our situation if you could suggest books on the topic and websites.

Thank you for any help.
Jill

Answer

Dear Jill,

Thank you for your question – it is great that you are planning ahead, and based on the way you phrase your question, I can see that you are putting a lot of thought and effort into your daughter’s bilingual future. This bodes well for your daughter growing up to speak both English and German.

Since you will be moving to Germany in less than a year’s time I would not worry about making German your home language. When you move and your daughter goes to daycare and later preschool, German will be the majority language for her. She will be immersed in it during daytime, hear it on TV and come into contact with it in the community and through other children. English will become the minority language, so as a family you would be following the minority language at home (mL@H) approach, which has actually been proven to be the most successful way of ensuring that a child grows up to become bilingual.

Your husband speaking German to your daughter is enough language preparation for her for entering the child care / school system. When you move to Germany, unless you stay at home with her (please correct me if I am wrong), she will first attend kindergarten for which children really do not need any academic prepping. By all means, include letters, numbers and colours in your play with her if she is interested, but remember to keep it fun.

I know it can feel a bit daunting for you, but your daughter would be alright even if she didn’t know German when she starts kindergarten – and she will actually be more relaxed about the situation than her parents, no doubt! If you feel nervous about her starting kindergarten and later preschool, please try to not show this to her, so not worry her. Also, please keep in mind that the emphasis in German kindergarten is on developing the children’s social skills, not their academic achievements. Your husband might help you to read this article (in German) describing the expectations for a child attending preschool (Vorschule) in preparation for going to school.

There are lots of resources you can use to support your daughter’s German – taking her age into account, I would start with songs and rhymes – on this site you can find some lullabies for example. Check out Eulingual for links to many different German language resource pages to use with kids. Also on-line, you can watch children’s TV programmes and listen to children’s radio in German. These are only examples, there will also be others available. By far the best way for her to learn is through interaction with her dad – so it would be good to have plenty of German children’s books available to bedtime reading.

Wishing you all the best, and please do return with any further questions you may have in the comments section below.

Kind regards
Rita

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