Saturday, January 23, 2010

To speak or not to speak...

Today was a challenge in the language department for sure. By tonight, I was ready to give up the whole German speaking endeavor with Kaya, feeling more overwhelmed by the terms I don't know and the new formulations that sound awkward to my ears. Things like, "slide it out and dump it" simply sounds weird to me, because when did I ever say THAT while I was in Germany?! "Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy..."--didn't find myself saying that on my two years abroad in college, either! And it's terms and phrases like that, that I find the greatest emotional challenge with, because they aren't so easy to just look up in the dictionary or online. All the little words too--ab, auf, an, darueber...

I've been told that my German is very good. I thrive on those occasions when I'm mistaken for a German. Despite that, however, my self-doubt in those moments of new sentence formulation is huge.

But today, actually, that wasn't the biggest challenge for me. It was wondering, fearing in fact, that my awkwardness at times with the language will get in the way of the connection that my daughter and I have. That, and worrying that my speaking a language with my daughter, that my husband is just learning, will create a space too big to fill with foreign language.
I haven't given up yet, though. It was a close one, tonight. Very close. I don't want to. At all. But fear is big. Very big. And it gets the best of me sometimes.

I know what a big gift to Kaya this will be if I can follow through with helping her acquire a second (even third!) language. That keeps me from giving up. That, and ALL of the German books I have for her, the CDs, and the sense of pride I have in this process. That last part, the pride part, is hard for me to admit, esp. here, to people I may not even know, but it's real. It's there. I love German. I love being trilingual. I recognize that it's a true advantage, a true gift, to know more than one language in this country. I want that for her, not necessarily more than anything else, but my desire is HUGE.

With immense support from Geoff, my husband, I decided to keep going with this process until Kaya can talk more. I know how wonderful it felt when it became crystal clear that she understands German--more words than she recognizes in English. I can imagine it will be even more motivating once she's speaking it, too. I can only hope. Cuz this is hard right now. =) Thank goodness for George Saunders, author of Bilingual Children. He's my biggest inspiration. Without a doubt.


  1. Tamara, I know this post is from a little over a year ago now, but I wanted to go back and see how you got started. I feel like I could have written most of this myself! I don't know if I would call what I feel fear exactly. But it can be so frustrating and overwhelming. Like you say, I just don't have the vocabulary I need to use with my toddler! And like you, I may be taken for a native-speaker (in certain situations), but I am all too aware of the mistakes I still make. How can I avoid passing them on to my son?? It can also be tough to stay motivated through this time when he isn't speaking. But it is encouraging that he understands German so well!
    I was wondering why you chose German instead of Spanish? Do you think you'll ever add Spanish? I would love for my husband to speak Dutch with our son, but so far he only does so rarely. Maybe when Aleksander starts to speak and be more interactive....
    The fact that things are going so well for you now - a year later - is so encouraging to me! I look forward to reading more into your blog. But if I'm not careful, I'll be up all night doing so :)

  2. Sarah,
    Thanks for your vote of confidence! I must have read this back then, but didn't respond!

    I'm wondering if Wordpress gives you a diff. "handle" every time you respond? That's pretty awesome for privacy purposes, if they do...
    Anyway, I'm glad you can relate to my writings as I can to yours...I'm also really glad that you are finding encouragement...I'm finding so much connection and support in this community, it's really amazing! Especially when I was first starting out, it was invaluable!

    It IS really encouraging that your son understands...I remember that feeling, too!
    And to answer your question, I'll point you to a post I wrote on that exact took me a few months to get to that topic, so it's a bit hard to find, but here it is:

    Thanks again! Be in touch soon,


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