Raising children bilingually
Peter is a German who works in London, where he lives with his family. Liz is a colleague of his.
Liz: Hey Peter, could you do a short translation for me?
Peter: Hi Liz, sure, no problem, just send it over!
Liz: Listen, I wanted to ask you something personal.
Peter: Go ahead.
Liz: A friend of mine is having a baby with her husband who is Italian – and they are thinking of raising the kid bilingually.
Peter: Well, in my opinion, it is important to teach children all the languages that are spoken in the family, from the very beginning.
Or at least the mothertongues.
Liz: Now, that your kids are already in school, I thought you might have some advice on how to do it right.
Peter: You know, there is no right or wrong – it actually comes naturally.
Susan, my wife, talks to the kids in English and of course their life takes place mostly in English, but I always talk to them in German.
I am very consistent.
Liz: And which language do they reply to you in?
Peter: Now, they usually reply in German.
However, when they were still little, they always replied in English and I got frustrated from time to time, because I thought that they weren’t picking up the German at all.
But then, one time we spent Christmas with my parents in Germany and they started talking to their grand-parents in fluent German.
Liz: So, they had actually known the language the whole time!
Peter: I think so!
Liz: Did they attend any German classes or did you have a German nanny or anything to help them learn the language?
Peter: No. We would have liked to have a nanny or an au-pair, but we had neither the money nor the space in our little house and now they are almost grown up.
But of course, they develop an interest in the language on their own, especially if there’s contact with grand-parents or other family members who only speak it.
Liz: That sounds really cool, Peter. I think it will be a huge advantage for the careers of your children.
And they will have good self-esteem and be open-minded towards other cultures!
Peter: I sure hope so!
Liz: Thank you Peter, I’ll encourage my friends to follow their instincts.
And I’ll send you the document that needs translating!
Peter: You are very welcome.