Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Language leaps

The other day (ok, it's been about 3 weeks), Cubling took me by surprise.

We visited an old friend of mine and the minute she walked through the door, she spoke in complete German sentences.

I could not believe my ears. Was this my girl, who insists on speaking English to me, an English at best interspersed with some German nouns? I had never heard her speak a full sentence in German before unless it was modelled by me and painstakingly copied by her.

Interestingly, we also don't visit this particular friend very often, yet still Cubling had remembered that this was a house where German was spoken. And German she spoke.

She also still insists that daddy speaks German with Snowflake, and I wonder how the home language in general will shift in the next year. I'm also curious to see if Snowflake will be a more balanced bilingual as I'll return to work later, giving her almost exclusive German exposure for the first year, while Cubling only got 5 months and I met with a lot of baby / mummy groups where English was spoken exclusively.

At the same time I'm discovering that there are German words which Cubling always uses, her current language is thus a bit of a mix. "library" will always be "Buecherei", even in an English sentence to an English speaker. She's also picked up unusual words, as she currently delights in trying out new, long, difficult words, such as "Frostschaden" (frost damage - we're having a lot on that on our veggie bag tatties).

Her word order/syntax is often English even when she speaks German, but occasionally also vice versa. "Was hast du geweint for?" is a typical example (what did you cry for? - correctly using the German past tense, hurray, but the English prepositional phrase) or some mixup such as "nice Kleid ist besser".

Then we have the difficulty with German words that also exist in English with a different meaning. "Is it hell yet?", meaning "is it light yet?" I'm getting so used to them that I don't notice until some other parent stares at my daughter in disbelief. Cubling now really doesn't like words that are the same in both languages. She insists that if I say "Fisch", daddy has to say something other than "fish". We're also getting a bit confused about letters, she confuses R and A because the former is pronounced in English like the latter in German.

Now that she's about to learn letters and spelling - her interest is there, though she still doesn't like spending too much time on it - it's high time to put my big idea of a bilingual ABC book into practice. I had planned to produce one in a way that other parents could download it as a pdf, and if there is anyone who would like to provide illustrations for it, please do make yourself known ;). For now, I think I'll make it into an craft project for Cubling, and get her to try and draw/paint the letters, maybe 2 per week. Should keep us busy.

Above all, I'm amazed to find out that she can do more than I give her credit for. While she is worried that her German isn't good enough (she was shy playing with a 10 year old who visited from Germany, who in turn was worried he might not understand her), she has demonstrated that she can speak complete sentences in German. A sign that a bit more encouragement, a few more real needs and motivation to speak it will do the trick. She loves the Kinderclub, the German playgroup we attend, and her TV experience is very German too. Janoschs Traumstunde, Die Biene Maja and Die Maus are clear favourites.

Which reminds me that I've updated my little bookshop with new titles, DVD, audio and books. They are recommendations for good German children's books, DVDs and CDs. And if you have any recommendations that you would like to share, we'd love to hear about them for our next order. If you click on the bookshop and then buy something from amazon.de in the same session, you'll support our own love for books through the Amazon Associates programme to absolutely no cost to yourself.



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