As I mentioned in my last post, we’re making the move from a family of three bilingual people, to a bilingual family. We are definitely not fluent, but we all have quite a bit of German under our belt. Although we will need to put in more work than native speaking parents would, we have the head start of everyone having a good grasp of the language.
Herbert started attending German preschool 30 hours a week shortly after his 3rd birthday. Being in Germany, this was total immersion. Many of his teachers did not speak English, and none of his classmates spoke English. He had 3 months off due to COVID, winter break is 2 weeks, and summer break is 3 weeks. So all in all, he has been in full German immersion for about a cumulative 16 months, give or take a few days off. That’s around 2,000 hours of German exposure that we do not want to lose!
Now he has just turned 5 and he has a good command of German. In Germany, he frequently used German to tell us about things that happened at preschool. There are some words he only knows in German. Although his English vocab and grammar is stronger, he seamlessly switches between languages and can understand anything said to him. Just before leaving Germany, his teacher reported that his German is just as good as any of the native children.
However, now that we have been back in the United States for about 2 months, he is noticeably favoring English. He still understands us and enjoys watching Der kleine Tiger Daniel (Daniel Tiger in German), but he does not initiate or respond in German as much as he used to. The pressure is on to make sure he doesn’t lose his speaking skills!
William took about 7 years of German classes, starting when he was 12. He attended a German technical school for 9 months in his mid-20s, and most recently worked at a German company for a year and a half. Therefore he is comfortable with conversational German and has a particularly good knowledge of jewelry-related German.
I have been self-studying German on and off for almost 8 years. I also have taken intensive A1, A2, B2, and C1 courses (B1 I essentially self-studied). In June I took an exam, and earned a C2 in the written portion and a C1 in the spoken portion (resulting in a C1 certificate). Although I am very comfortable with coursework and can talk about the pros and cons of digital lessons, my conversation skills are very weak. Of the three of us, I will need need the most initial support with every day vocabulary and getting into the habit of talking.
Our Bilingual Goals
From here, our focus is Herbert’s fluency. We want him to be fully fluent in understanding, speaking, and reading. Fluency in writing would also be great, but that is going to be much more difficult to support. Since it isn’t something we even have to think about for 2 or 3 years, we’ll circle back around when we see where we are at.
To achieve our goal of fluency for Herbert, we will build a culture at home as a bilingual family. I hopefully will see my personal comprehension and speaking ability become more nature. I hope to be able to read comfortably as well. German family read-alouds should help with that!