Wednesday, 6 October 2010

6 step plan to boost the minority language

I have a cunning plan. I've told Cubling that Snowflake only understands German. Couple that with me spending more time with Cubling (in theory, I'm sure we'll get there in time, at the moment she's rather neglected when she's at home with me and Snowflake), this surely must, no will, lead to an explosion of her minority language.

So, now that I'm on maternity leave, this is my plan to increase her active use of German, which is not just lagging behind English by miles, but also not developing much (while she surprises us every day with new words and constructions in English):

1. Monday mornings we will meet up with the mums and kids from the German Kinderclub.
We are lucky to have a German parent group and it's a great opportunity that we can now attend. I even changed nursery times so we could accommodate it. Initially, I had my doubts about the effectiveness - the club isn't very structured and mums chat while kids play (and if you let Cubling just play by herself, she'll speak English). There is some singing at the end, sometimes some craft activity organised by a parent, other than that, there is a real temptation to spend the two hours just chatting to other mums. However, I've noticed that even if I don't make a massive effort to engage with Cubling and the other children during the two hours (though I generally try to spend at least half the time engaging with Cubling), she will still use more German just after the club. So somehow, it's working.

2. I'll insist that Cubling speaks German only to Snowflake. So far so good, though there's a bit of disappointment that Snowflake doesn't speak back.

3. This is the hard bit. I'm trying to insist more on Cubling speaking German to me, and not respond if she speaks English. It's hard because she always speaks English to me, and even when making an effort, her idea of effort is still to only say nouns and verbs in German. In practice this means that after every sentence I mirror the same sentence in German and ask her to repeat. I hate doing this. She's ok with it, and she's at least not yet reluctant to do this. It's a strategy I can only use when on my own with her, it just doesn't work when in English speaking company.

4. Try to make friends with a couple of German parents. Our best German friends (well, German/Canadian to be precise) have moved away so if I'm lazy, Cubling will not have much opportunity to hear German from adults or children other than myself and the TV. I loathe how contrived this sounds, and is, to go out there in the search of friends so that my child is exposed to German more often. I'm not going to do well on this one, I'm not one who makes friends easily in the best circumstances, nevermind with alternate motives. At the same time, I've not socialised much in the last few years due to lack of time, so it's hight time anyway to rekindle some connections and friendships.

5. This is another difficult decision. Cubling will stop attending the outdoor kindergarten for the months that I'm on maternity leave. Instead, we'll join a group of parents and toddlers who go outdoors on the same day of the week. The reason for this is that it gives me an extra day of interaction with Cubling and while none of the other parents speak German, I hope that we can still combine some outdoor play with more exposure to German.

6. When Cubling plays by herself (which she now does) and I'm in the room, I interject and try to switch her imaginative play to German (she chatters non-stop when playing, all in English of course). This is what I did with the Spanish boy I taught German as an au-pair, he was 4 then, and after 6 months his German did improve significantly this way (to be fair, I can't take full credit as he also attended a German pre-school).

Some things we're doing already: all TV Cubling watches are German language DVDs, and obviously my bedtime reading is in German always. Our plan where we'd have an hour where the whole house speaks German only hasn't happened, our days are just too unpredictable with a newborn around and different nursery times each day.



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