How Do I Raise a Bilingual Child in Germany?
(by Kate Müser)
I was raised in Northern California by American parents (who hail from San Diego and can still hold their own in Spanish). My husband was raised by native German speakers in Germany. We may now speak multiple languages between us, but grew up monolingually – not counting the Ruhrpott dialect and the menu at our favorite Mexican restaurant – and we each possess just one passport.
Our son, who arrived in November 2017, may be a first-born child, just like both his parents, and have his mom’s chin and his dad’s eyes. But he is different from us. He is 100% German and 100% American. And he is stuck with a mommy and a Papa who use different words for the same things.
Before he was born, I did some research on raising bilingual children, by reading books and watching YouTube videos.
Now that he’s here, speaking English with him comes naturally of course, but I know that more questions will come up the older – and more talkative – he gets.
As “California Germans”, I’m sure many of you have bilingual families or were raised in one yourself. I would love to hear your story.
Watch the video below and share your tips and thoughts with me! I may just include your comments in a future video.
Kate Müser, who grew up in Pleasanton, California, was surprised to discover that she feels even closer to her home state now than she did when she first moved to Bonn, Germany, over 14 years ago.
She is the creator of the successful YouTube series #thoseGermans and the portrait series #germany24. Visit Kate’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/katemuser and her website, justkate.de.
For over a decade, Kate has been a TV, radio and online journalist at Deutsche Welle, where she has hosted the feature documentary film Gutenberg in the Cyberstorm, the video series Meet the Germans with Kate and the TV show PopXport.
Hello, we’re an Italian couple living in Mexico. We have a 4-years old son. We speak Italian to him and he learnt Spanish with his babysitter first and later in kindergarten. Our rule is to ONLY speak Italian at home – and we have been very strict with that. Right now both Italian and Spanish are his mother tongues, and he perfectly switches from one language to another, without mixing up. So my advice to you would be: speak the minority language (English in your case) at home, as he’ll have a lot of opportunities to learn the majority language (German) outside (school, playgrounds, TV etc.) All the best!
Thank you so much Valeria! Those are excellent suggestions. How lucky for your son to be bilingual! It’s a real gift that we, as parents, can give our kids for the future.