March 9, 2008

Ich kann Deutsch... sort of.

As many ma
y know, Marc and I are trying to raise Erich speaking German. Yeah, it might seem random at first, but if you know us its really not so much. Marc took German in college but he's also half Swiss, so he's had a lot of exposure and strong ties to the language. We also have a lot of German blood between the two of us, so speaking German in our home seemed to us to be the perfect holla' back to our ancestry. We've always talked about doing this, but I didn't get serious about learning the language until Erich was born. I'm now in a second semester course, which Marc is taking with me as a refresher. (To be honest, I'm so glad he's there! He's naturally the smartest in the class and not shy in the least, so he raises the bar while bringing me out of my shell.) And now that Erich is 1 and saying his first words, the heat is on! I feel sometimes like he and I are in a race to see who can pick up the language faster. Sure, he can't form a lot of words yet, but I know he's listening and absorbing everything I say. And that is where the trouble lies; in my presentation. I'm no linguist and German is certainly not my native tongue. To say the least and I've had... moments. Sometimes I get really excited and have all the faith in the world in my abilities. Other times, however; I'm convinced that I'm making a mess of my child and I'll never be able to pull this off. I should add though, that those negative feelings have greatly decreased in volume and intensity over time. I only wish I'd started sooner. I still worry a lot that I'm not coming across to Erich as sincere, fun and confident, so I try to be very aware of how I come across when I speak to him.

We have a pretty decent arsenal of German books, dvds and music, but I'm always on the lookout for more - as at this point they help me more than they do Erich. I did a Google search today for "German Dr. Seuss" and found the best site: Alphabet Garten. It was truly a blessing to find because the woman who runs this website is a non-native German speaker (married to a German) and she keeps a blog about her family's bilingual life. She also links to all kinds of support sites for multilingual families. It was exactly what I needed!! I can't say what a relief it is to read about other parents in my same position with the exact same concerns, and then to read the reports and studies about why those concerns are crap! Seriously, check this out. What I realize now is just what Marc has been telling me all along: Don't give a damn. Around friends, family, or anyone, just speak German as best I can, make mistakes and don't care what they may think or say. The only person I need to care about is Erich and if I stay focused then I'm giving him gifts that will last forever. And now that I've said that... I hope you all hold me to it! I mean it now, if you're really my friend then you won't let me slack off in front my kid.

To top this all off, I joined a German playgroup through I haven't officially been accepted yet, though. The group representative sent me an email basically saying (depending how well I translated my German) that they expect all members to speak only German at home and with the playgroup. And if thats where I'm at then let him know. Yikes. I basically responded (in broken German), uh yeah, sure, I can do that.

I'm so scared.


david santos said...

Hello, Melbo!
Excellent posting.

Alifinale said...

All I can say is wow. Good for you guys, especially for you for not only learning German but teaching it as well. That is amazing. But next time I see you guys will I be able to talk to Erich?

Natalie C. said...

What a challenge! But that will be exciting & like you said a great gift to give him and yourself. It's a little bit too late for us to teach our kids by language immersion, but I love learning foreign languages & hopefully they'll take after me a little & take advantages of other opportunities that come up for them.

Too bad Chris & I don't have any languages in common, either & neither one of us are as brave as you are to try and learn & speak & teach. (Chris speaks Spanish & I speak Swedish, Finnish, French & German.)

That German playgroup is really awesome! Let me know how it goes. That will probably help you a lot! I admire you guys.

Marc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marc said...

Wunderbar!!! Du bist meine lieblings Frau!!! Wir werden Deutschsprecheren sein!!!!

buddens said...

At least you picked a language and stuck with it. We waffle back and forth between Russian and German ... and to be honest we've done very little with either. Hmm. Good luck though, and keep up the good work! And that is SUCH a Michel/Marc attitude -- don't give a damn. It's such an admirable, yet sometimes frustrating trait!! Too funny.

melbo said...

Don't worry Ali, I'm not worried about him learning English. I have a feeling that the struggle will always be to make him speak German.
And Natalie & Buddens, you should be careful because now I'm going to make you speak German to Erich (broken or not!) :)

Sarah Mueller said...

Hi Melbo,

Thanks for mentioning Alphabet Garten! I was so pleased to come across your lovely post. It sounds like you're doing a great job speaking German with your little one. It is a HUGE challenge - don't be discouraged :) The more support the better.

Viele Gruesse,