I've found the magic potion. The one that turns a passive bilingual into a fluent German speaker. After all the trials and tribulations, the hard work, the questions, the wondering if it's all worth it, it has happened. My child, at least presently, speaks German and English equally well and speaks German only to me, as well as to any other person who is German (even if they speak perfect English).
How did it all come about?
Of course the basics were to consistently speak German. That did a pretty good job for passive bilingualism. I then insisted on German responses when she was older, but did so gently by modelling (I really couldn't enforce a rule that I wouldn't respond to English utterances, I would have felt a cruel mum, considering how beautifully she speaks English with such a lovely Scottish accent!).
Next ingredients was maternity leave = spend more time with the child. There is a direct correlation of time spent with a child and level of language - 4 days a week in childcare is boo, 2 1/2 days with mummy around the rest of the time and a little sibling who mummy says is German and won't understand English - we're getting there.
Finally: Go to Germany without daddy but with a German friend and her children.
Magic. 2 1/2 weeks later and we've moved from slow and laboured minority language with interspersed English words and underlying English grammar to:
The Balance Bilingual Child. Yes.
I hope we can keep it up but it does seem easier now that speaking German finally comes natural to her and is no longer difficult. The hardest part was getting through her reluctant phase where she rightly said that it's harder to speak German than English. Now it's not and she no longer is reluctant.
Was it easy? No. It was much harder than I ever thought it would be. But it's been so worth it. I'm one proud mama.
Milestones in retrospect:
Cubling realises that there are real children who speak German when she first watches Die Sendung mit dem Elefanten (age 3).
Cubling travels to visit Opa and realises he doesn't understand her at all when she speaks English or Denglish (age 3)
Cubling becomes a big sister and mum goes off on maternity leave. She also goes to a German playgroups where there are lots of mummy who speak German. (age: 3 1/2- 4)
Cubling travels to visit Opa and is able to communicate pretty well in German and gains confidence in speaking it (age 4)
Cubling goes on holiday in Germany with a German family and is surrounded by German only for 2 1/2 weeks (age 4 1/2)
She now calls herself English and German. A year ago, she called herself English.
I've got a feeling that bilingualism will be an easy ride from now on.
(this post is written for the August Carnival of Bilingualism)