This website has helped me so much, it’s wonderful!
We are a bilingual family and live in the US. I only speak Spanish to my 15 months old and my husband English most of the time (he is American, I’m Latina). Both my husband and I work full time, we have an au pair at home that only speaks Spanish to our daughter.
Our daughter is exposed to Spanish 80% of the time. She doesn’t say any words, but understands so much Spanish. She also understands English, but not as much as Spanish. Schools here have Spanish classes, so I’m not worried about her learning how to read and write in Spanish, as I will be teaching her too when she’s ready, maybe at 4 or 5 years old.
I went to a German School (elementary and high school) and have relatives living in Germany (I used to be a fluent speaker, but now my German is a bit rusty). I wanted to introduce German to her, but I’m not sure when would be a good time. there’s no German schools close to where we live, but there’s an academy where she could go Saturdays 9-12 (only option I could find). They take kids starting at 4 years old. I was thinking to introduce it at around 2.5-3 years old at home, with dvds, books and games. I feel that the academy will teach her how to read and write, and have friends to speak the language with. I wouldn’t be speaking to her in German, unless we are watching a dvd or reading a book in German. I would like to just communicate with her in Spanish.
So, basically my questions are: Would it be a good idea to start introducing German at around 2.5-3 years old? Would it be a good idea to enrol her in an academy on Saturdays, or would that be too much for her? I feel like kids need the weekend for other activities after a whole week of school. Would it be ok to keep communicating with her only in Spanish since that’s my native language?
Any advice would be really appreciated!
Thanks so much,
Thank you so much for your kind feedback – it is always music to my ears to hear from parents that my site has been useful for them! Likewise, it is a pleasure to read messages from parents like you who have clearly put a lot of thought into how to raise their children to speak more than one language.
As you state, both English and Spanish seem to be on a very strong ground for your daughter, so you are looking to introduce a third language, German, to her. You are in a great position to support her with learning German as your own German skills are very good.
It would be fine to introduce German through play at the age you suggest. She may pick up some words and even learn to sing a song or recite a children’s rhyme. She will however not learn to speak with this occasional exposure. It would however be a good introduction if you want her to attend the German academy at the age of four.
Without knowing the German academy’s approach to teaching the language, I am unable to comment on its suitability for your daughter. I would recommend that you ask to attend one of their classes before enrolling and that (if possible) you commit to a shorter period to start with. Once you see how your daughter reacts and fits in, you can make your decision.
If the academy uses age-appropriate teaching methods I can see it being a good choice. However, if your daughter would be the youngest among much older children, then you need to assess whether the class is right for her. Three hours of classroom-style teaching for a four-year-old may not be the best option, while a play-based learning would be more engaging. You also need to find out if there are any expectations on the children’s language skills prior to attending.
Coming back to exposure times, three hours a week at the academy and the occasional use of German during the week will not be enough for your daughter to pick up German. Before thinking about how she will learn to read and write the language, I suggest that you consider what goal you want to set for your daughter’s German fluency. If you want her to grow up trilingual, then you would need to arrange more interactive German exposure to her through contact with other German-speakers, and different German immersion opportunies for her.
Should you want to go into more detail with setting up a bespoke family language plan, please contact me and I will send you some information on the individual family coaching options.
Wishing you a successful trilingual family journey!