Q&A: How to prepare a bilingual toddler for a move to another country?

by | Oct 8, 2015 | Babies, Challenges, Coaches, Family life, Practical advice, Rita R, Toddlers | 2 comments



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.

[mlp_include id=4168]


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

[mlp_include id=4349]

Rita Rosenback

Rita Rosenback

Rita is an author, Family Language Coach, blogger and speaker, who was born into a bilingual family on the Swedish-speaking west coast of Finland. After studying languages in Finland and Germany she worked as a university teacher, translator, interpreter and manager of multinational teams. Rita is now a full-time writer and coach and has been living in the U.K. since 1998. Rita is the mother of two grown-up multilingual daughters, who are the inspiration for her book: “Bringing up a Bilingual Child”, an easy-to-read guide for parents, where she navigates the reader across the “Seven Cs of Multilingual Parenting: Communication, Confidence, Commitment, Consistency, Creativity, Culture and Celebration”. Currently English and Swedish are Rita’s main languages, but she instantly switches to Finnish or German or to her Finland-Swedish dialect when the opportunity presents itself (and when push comes to shove, she can communicate in a very basic Punjabi). Rita is the creator and driving force of this website, and she gives talks and holds workshops for parents and teachers on the topic of bilingual children. She also coaches families on how to make the most of their languages and raise their children to become confident speakers of the chosen languages.


  1. Elodie

    Servus aus München!

    If you move to Munich, there will be plenty of bilingual kindergarten for example and a big English-speaking communities with toddlers group and everything. Even in only German-speaking daycare, the staff is so used to multilingualism that they take into account the communication barriers that kids might encounter at the beginning… I wouldn’t worry about that at the transition! And I would not worry about school yet 😉 maybe you’ll end up moving somewhere else anyway…

    No doubt that you will be able to keep up her English, especially if you change to mL@H!

    All the best!

  2. Elisa

    Dear Jill, I am brazilian married to a german (also bavarian!) living in Germany.

    Our 22 mounths kid is attending a KiTa (child care 0-3y). The kids “just” play there and get plenty of out time (even when it snows), they do not learn anything releated to school. They learn social skils and independence. A 3y old that know letters but cannot eat or dress himself alone ist not considered smart here. You do not have to prepare your kid in anyway, let your baby girl be just a child, she will have time enough to be a student.

    About the language, nobody will have any problem to a 1,5y not speaking or understanding them (which is really not the case, as the father just speaks german with the child), it happens all the time here, they child minders are used to. if you like there is plenty of options for bilingual english/german KiTas and in the future Kindergartens.

    TV is a really bad advice, a child until 6 should not be exposed to screens at all. I know that is hard, but please use screens to skype (where the kid will speak to a lovely family member) and not to TV watching (no, kids do not learn to speak just watching TV, they need human interaction).
    Music and books are allies of anybody rising a bilingual todler/kid.

    Have a nice time with your baby!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.