Multilingualism in my family: Michelle S's story

5 Jan 2015

It has been a long time since I have posted an instalment of this series. So, here it goes: an English-German speaking family in Germany. I really love Michelle's last comment about mentioning bilingualism from the get go when looking for childcare. This has always been crucial to me too and always asked how they felt about it.

via mkorsakov (Flickr)

1. Name

Michelle S

2. In what country do you currently live?


3. How many children have you got and how old are they?

1 daughter, 18 months old

4. Who speaks what to whom (in the home)?

I speak to her in English, hubby speaks to her in German and we speak to each other in German.

5. What language do your children hear outside home?

German almost exclusively.

6. If you had to put a percentage on the languages your child(ren) hear what would they be?

70% German, 30% English

7. Did you set out to follow a particular method to raise your child(ren) multilingually? Why? Why not?

One parent, one language because I had read that it is the method that tends to work the best.

8. What works with your current family language set up? Why?

OPOL works pretty well. My husband doesn't really speak English so every once in a while he'll get frustrated with it. But he also knows how important it is for me to teach my child English. But when she looks at me and hears "It's time for bed," and daddy says, "Es ist Zeit ins Bett zu gehen," we've already noticed that she understands both. She's great at switching back and forth. We've also noticed that when daddy says, "Ei..." teaching her to touch nicely, she touches nicely, but when I say the same sounds, she points to my eye. She knows that we're speaking different languages!

9. What doesn’t work? Why?

It doesn't always work to speak to her in English when we're talking to other people. I try to stick with it as much as possible, but it's the other people that make it hard. Sometimes, they need to understand what I'm saying to her, so I'll give her a short German sentence and switch back again. I also praise her new words by repeating them no matter what language they're in, sometimes it doesn't work to repeat the words in English because she doesn't always understand that that's the word I mean.

10. What would you do differently if you could or would have to do it again?

Um... it's hard to say, because I really feel like we're at the beginning of this journey. 

11. Any other comments.

Another thing I've been very careful about was when we were looking for a day care situation, I mentioned very early on that we are raising our daughter bilingually. This has really helped them to be supportive of our efforts and to monitor her language acquisition without immediately thinking something's wrong if she has slight delays.

Read about other families here.
Are you a multilingual family? Would you like to share your story? Contact me.

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