Tag Archives: Education

How Do I Raise a Bilingual Child in Germany?

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.


Image: Pixabay.com


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.



EUSTORY, an International History Competition for German and French Youth to Reflect on Peace

Students of a German School in San Diego learn how to write a movie script

About a month ago  German Pacific School San Diego and San Diego French American School collaborated in preparing for an international competition that invites them to reflect on the concept of peace before, during and after WW I.

EUSTORY, an international history competition wants to guide students to a greater understanding of historic events but also engage them in finding relations between today’s events and events in the past, and overall help them become productive citizens of the world.

Both schools decided on choosing film as a medium for their project, and to learn the ‘nuts and bolts’ of scriptwriting they participated in an intercultural scriptwriting seminar. In the following read more about their experience:

German and French students collaborate on international competition

( by Lenni Elbe)

An excited buzz fills the air as groups of French and German students discuss their ideas. They are preparing for an international history competition, called EUSTORY.

On October 14, students from San Diego French American School and German Pacific School San Diego partook in a seminar run by a professional scriptwriter, Diane Alpaio, to help prepare them for the competition in Spring.

The script writing workshop led students through a pre-written script in order to learn the basic elements of story writing. First, they watched and analyzed a short film. Then, they were split into small groups and wrote their own scenes using those basic elements such as dialogue, conflict, and characters.

The students left with a greater understanding of how movie scripts are written, and with plenty of ideas on how to continue their own EUSTORY project. “Working with the French students was great and I didn’t expect the seminar to be so much fun. It really got everyone excited about the competition” said Jack, a student at GPSSD.

The script writing seminar was just the start. Students will continue to meet on a regular basis throughout the script writing process. Instructors from both schools are guiding the students, including Mr. Baron (SDFAS), Ms. Brouder (SDFAS), and Ms. Elbe (GPSSD).

EUSTORY was started in order to provide students with an opportunity to reflect on the events of World War 1, to work together, and to foster cross-cultural understanding. This year’s theme is: “Peace in War Time, Peace in World War 1.” This initiative is representative of the creative potential in students, and broadens young people’s perspectives, giving them the tools and skills required to become productive citizens of the world.

The short film will premiere this coming spring at an event at SDFAS.
For more information, please visit http://www.eustory.fr or http://www.gpssd.org

Images: German Pacific School San Diego – GPSSD


Albert Einstein Academies – A German-English Immersion Charter School in San Diego

The first school in our series on ‘German Schools in California’ is in San Diego. It is the Albert Einstein Academies, located in Southpark near Balboa Park with its many museums. 

From the outside looking like one of many other public schools there is nothing that suggests that this building hosts quite a different version of an American public school until one enters the school’s premises, and suddenly is greeted by murals depicting German “Fachwerkhäuser” and a “Brezen Bäckerei”.

Albert Einstein Academies, a Public Charter School, is one of only three schools in California that offer a K through 8 International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum, but the only one that offers a German-English immersion within this IB program . Since 2008 Albert Einstein Academies is also an official German Partner School (PASCH).

All the fabulous education this school has to offer is free!

Having started out in 2002 with only 24 students and in rented rooms of a church, the school has grown into over 800 students and is slowly growing out of its present school site. Initially just an elementary school, Albert Einstein Academies now offers also a middle school and is working on expanding into a High School as well.

The school has become very sought after in San Diego for its high academic standards, and since there is no school tuition for public schools, it makes the school evermore attractive! So if you live in the San Diego Unified school district, consider yourself lucky since you at least can apply to this popular school via an official lottery.

Birgit Schafer, elementary language coordinator at Albert Einstein Academies, is one of the school’s true veterans. She has witnessed the school’s growth since the very beginning. Her son was one of the first students to start first grade with only 24 other registered students at the newly opened school.  “We have just grown exponentially over the past years, and our success shows that we are on the right track. With our 9 out of 10 Academic Performance Index (API) we are among the top ten schools in the district wide ranking!”  says Mrs. Schafer. Applying to the school has become highly competitive and the waiting list is long. “We have about 300 children every year who we have to put on a waiting list” points out Mrs. Schafer. An official public lottery decides on the final admissions.

Priority is given to German-speaking students, but the selection process stays competitive also for them.

In order to guarantee the dual immersion program with the German language, the school is officially allowed to fill 25% of their over all applications from a pool of German-speaking applicants. You might therefore have a slight admission’s advantage if your child speaks German. But since applications by German speakers have equally increased over the years, a lottery makes the final decision also here. To be admitted into the pool of German speakers, students have to pass a special test that will determine German language fluency.  “This testing is difficult particularly for the younger children who are often shy”, so Mrs. Schafer, “but for an immersion school like ours, it is important to have fluent and native speakers in all classes. They are speech models in the immersion classes.” She further points out that, since the children not only learn speaking German through classroom instruction, but also from interaction with each other, it is critical to have a certain amount of German-speaking children in a class.

Walking through the school and visiting some classrooms I am in fact impressed by how much the German language is present in every classroom. This is particularly visible in the elementary classes K-5 where the dual immersion program guarantees that  “50 percent of the total instruction time including core subject instruction is taught exclusively in the German language” (ABE website). The instruction alternates between German and English on a weekly basis and is continuous.

Options for students planning to enter Albert Einstein Academies  at a higher grade level but speak little to no German.

The school has incorporated a “Foreign Language Pathway” class that academically goes along with the three regular German immersion classes in a particular grade level. Available from third grade on the “Foreign Language Pathway” class makes it not only possible for non-German speakers to join the school at a later time, but it also gives current students of an immersion class the option to withdraw from the immersion part, but still stay at the school, and enjoy the benefits of the unique IB program and an international community.

While the IB program continues throughout Middle School the Dual Immersion does not. In Middle School (6-8 grade), the students actually can decide on which language they would like to concentrate on, and can pick between German or Spanish. At the moment 220 of the 300 middle school children chose to continue with German while 80 students went on to study Spanish. To further deepen language skills in either language the school has a foreign language exchange program in place with a Gymnasium (High School) in Germany and a High School in Mexico.

But that’s not all.

Apart from the extraordinary language immersion opportunity for children, Albert Einstein Academies offers a well-rounded curriculum along the guidelines of the IB program incorporating California State Academic Standards. In addition to that an extensive after school program encourages all students to get involved in many other learning opportunities. From German Drama & Choir to German Soccer, Spanish Club, Mad Science, martial arts, yoga and much more. Special  workshops sponsored by the “Friends of Albert Einstein’s German Cultural Commitee” offer additional cultural immersion into Easter, Christmas and other German traditions.

Last personal impressions…

All the classrooms I visit have a very inviting, friendly learning atmosphere.  I admire one page essays by first-graders on the topic “Frühling”, written in such perfect German that I start wondering if I accidentally got lost in a second grade class.  Many of the classrooms feature a piano and as I am glancing at one of the music sheets I recall my own elementary school years learning songs like “Brüderchen komm tanz mit mir…” Another class displays projects on ‘life cycles’ and a 3rd grade made a collage on the topic “Umweltverschmutzung” (pollution).

Albert Einstein Academies  – definitely a school worth checking out!

Albert Einstein Academies (AEA) in short:

  • Tuition-free public charter school with dual language immersion in German-English
  • Accredited IB World School offering the IB program from K through 8th grade
  • Official German Partner School (PASCH) since 2008. The title is awarded by the German federal department of schools abroad a  PASH Model School
  • Admission to the school is by official public lottery
  • Students wear school uniform
  • AEA prepares for the German language diploma level A2 in 5th grade & level B1 in 8th grade
  • School features foreign exchange programs with Germany & Mexico in Middle School
  • Extensive German & English library on the school premises
  • Great catalog of after school activities offered 
  • Special German tutoring in place by German intern teachers
  • Special cultural enrichment assured through private foundation “Friends of Albert Einstein”

For more information visit the school’s website, http://www.aeacs.org or contact the school at:

Albert Einstein Academies
3035 Ash St.
San Diego, Ca. 92102
Phone: 619-795-1190

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School is out – Summer is here!

English: german school-boy (Heinrich Bruno Wit...

English: german school-boy (Heinrich Bruno Wittig), aged 7, with schultüte & schulranzen, on his first day of school, Zeulenroda, 1936.wittig-archiv.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another school year is over for so many students in CA!

As much as we all are looking forward to relaxing and just enjoying a life that is not controlled by the daily school calendar of our children, for many families the summer is also the time of final decisions in regards to which school to send the kids to next year.

Stay tuned.  Throughout the summer CaliforniaGermans will have some special reports on “German” schools in California.

Also, for all parents of Firstgraders starting out this fall, have you thought of making this special day of your “Erstklässler” an unforgettable event with the traditional “Schultüte” (Schoolcone). If you are not in the mood of making one by yourself (see instructions to make your own here on CaliforniaGermans ), there is also the option to order one. And you don’t have to have one sent all the way from  Germany. KinderCone ships your German “Schultüte” right from Chicago.

Last, German teachers looking for a new challenge might want to check out Bay Area Kinderstube (BAKS) in the San Francisco area (Bay Area Kinderstube 842 Key Route Blvd Albany, CA 94706) .  BAKS is looking for a Preschool director and a Preschool teacher. Full job descriptions can be downloaded at  http://kinderstube.org/jobs.html . For questions please email board@kinderstube.org

Happy Summer and come by often to check out what’s new on CaliforniaGermans!

Sybille Cohen : Thinking Adventure Only – Settling for a Lifetime

-A CaliforniaGermans Interview-

Sybille Cohen originally from Hamburg, moved to Northern California in 2001. She is director of the Bay Area KinderStube (short BAKS) a full-immersion German-language preschool for children between the ages of 2.5 and 5 years in Albany, a city very close to Berkeley. She has been teaching children from infants to preschool age over her extensive career and taught also as a teacher at the German Language School in Novato.

When coming to California initially, she didn’t have much of a plan but was ready for an adventure. And in fact the trip turned into the adventure of her lifetime. During her stay she met her now husband and made California her home.

Sybille you arrived in California about 10 years ago. What made you leave Germany?                                                                                                                                          This is a great question. I think I was just ready for a change and an adventure. I wanted to do something completely new. I had not seen or traveled ever before so I took a sabbatical from work and just went. California came to mind because I had a friend whose aunt lives here in San Anselmo. I just wanted to experience something new and get to know a different culture.

What was your first impression when you arrived here in CA?
.         Boy, arriving in the states was quite a shock. Everything was so big and enormous, the stores, the freeways, … On the other hand I was very surprised how friendly the Americans are. Always willing to help no matter if I had trouble with the car I rented or if I needed driving directions…

How long did you initially plan on staying in the USA?                        
.        Initially I had planned on staying for 6 month. But everything changed when I met my husband to be. During my stay I was asked if I would like to work as an Au pair for a widowed father who had two boys. I took the job and a couple of months later I found myself in love with the nicest man I’ve ever met, the dad himself! When my visa was about to expire there weren’t many options for us to have me staying longer especially since this was after 9/11. After consulting with an immigration lawyer we spontaneously decided to get married, and this after only nine months of being together! Would I have ever done something like this in Germany? Hell no! But it was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Since it was such an unforeseen change in plan, was it hard leaving family in Germany behind? What was your family’s reaction?
.       It was very difficult to leave family and friends behind! It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. For many years I lived in, or better between two worlds, which means, when I was in Germany I wanted to be in the US and vice versa. By now I am content and I enjoy my stays in Germany and am happy when I’m home. Home for me now is California.                        Moving to California turned out to be a very tough change for my family back in Germany. The one most affected by it was my mother since I have a very close connection with her. But in the long run we rearranged our lives and we found a way that it now works for both sides. I’m trying to visit them once a year at least, which is very important to me, especially now as they get older.

Given the option, would you consider moving back to Germany at some point?
.       This is a tricky question. At this point in my life I’m not considering moving back to Germany because everything my life revolves around is here. The US has become my home. Germany on the other hand will always be special for me, since this is where I’m coming from. I am German in my heart and always will be!

You have been working with BAKS (Bay Area Kinderstube) since 2007 and since 2009 you are the school’s director. Please tell us a bit about BAKS.                                                                                                      BAKS started out as a parent initiative in 1994 and became a private pre-school open to the public in 1997. We are a full immersion German language pre-school, which means that we exclusively speak German with our children. The German language development takes an integral part of the social, emotional, and cognitive development of our children. We not only teach but ‘live’ the language so that it becomes a natural part of our students’ life. We have many different activities throughout the day from reading, singing, art and dancing to nature explorations, and we also cook and bake together. Since this school year we offer also martial art lessons once a week, alternating with yoga sessions as part of our curriculum!

There is a long waiting list to get a space at Bay Area KinderStube. What’s the success of BAKS?
.        In my opinion KinderStube’s success results in the fact that we are not only a childcare center. KinderStube has the feeling of home probably because it is small and therefore homelike. We have no more than 24 children in our morning program. With 4 teachers on site we have a great teacher/child ration of 1:6. In our afternoon session our ration is 2:12. The other component to our success is that we have very compassionate teachers. We always try to understand each child in his or her own way. Our goal is to get the best out of each one of them and make them feel accepted as an individual. We want to give them a feel of belonging.


What are the prerequisites, if any,  for a child to start at BAKS?
.        It is always a plus when the child has already some knowledge of the German Language but it is not a must. The one thing we are looking for is that one parent is able to speak the language and that it is spoken to the child outside of our school.

Can you share some advice with our readers on whether to start their child in a traditional American pre-school or a German immersion pre-school?
.        I do know both school systems and I have to say that the decision which route to go depends really on the parents and on what they think is best for their child. The big difference between these two systems is that the German system is not as academic in preschool and Kindergarten as the American. Kids learn to write and read in first grade, which I think is early enough considering the amount of school years still ahead of the child. But it also depends on the child itself. Is he or she already interested in reading, writing, and wants to learn more the parent should address it as well. On the other hand, is your child not an early “starter “, then don’t worry to give him or her a little more time and let them play a year longer. It won’t matter in the long run.

Sybille, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your insights with us. We wish you and BAKS continued success!


For more information on BAKS please visit the school website at: http://www.kinderstube.org/home.html

If you would like to visit BAKS – Bay Area KinderStube, you can just call for an appointment or come by to the “Laternenfest” (lantern fest) this Sunday November 13th at 5pm. There will be Glühwein, Hot chocolate “Weckmänner” and Hot Dogs . For sale will also be German children books and lanterns for the children who don’t have any but would like to participate at the lantern walk.

The festive evening will start out with fall season’s songs and have its highlight in the presentation of the St. Martin’s play presented by the KinderStube “Füchse”. The following lantern procession will conclude the evening. At the end there will be a raffle with 5 opulently filled Gift baskets with the proceeds going towards buying new wood chairs and tables for the school.

BAKS – Bay Area KinderStube
842 Key Route Boulevard
Albany, CA 94706
(510) 525-3105

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