Friday, March 18, 2011

5% German?

I'm supposed to be packing right now. I told Geoff I'd be done by 4. That would give me an hour window before we are actually supposed to, that leaves me a few minutes to get a few thoughts off my mind, right?!

Today is Friday.
Since Tuesday, if I had to put a number on it, I'd swear Kaya's only been speaking 5% German with me. She'll speak in English, and depending upon my mood (which is quickly waning with each passing English word!), I'll respond in 1 of three ways.

1. Repeat back to her, in German, whatever she just said to me in English, with a question tone in my voice. For example:
Kaya: Kaya want a new diaper.
Mama: Oh, du willst eine neue Windel? [oh, you want a new diaper?]

I have to admit, I'm getting tired of this "translation game." It's one thing to create sentence after simple baby sentence in German, it's another thing to constantly translate and repeat back, esp. when I wouldn't necessarily say things the way she spits them out. It has me doubting my Germany capabilities, once again, and feeling overwhelmed and annoyed. She does end up often using the German terms soon after I mention them, so maybe it's 'working', but...I still have my doubts. Do others of you do this, or did you do this when you child was two-ish? Any input?

2. Respond to her as if she just spoke German, continuing my end of the conversation in English.

I do this pretty rarely, as I think about it now. I end up feeling that I'm "missing an opportunity" if I don't let her know what the German is for what she just said. But now, as I type this, I'm embarrassed to even admit that I do that as often as I do! It sounds so silly when I analyze it like this. In context it seems normal, but perhaps that's just because that's what I'm used to doing...

3. Tell her that with Mama she speaks German, with Dada, English.

I've been trying this approach at times during the past week, to see if it makes a difference. It has at times...she'll switch for a little bit. But I honestly think there are a number of words she doesn't know how to say in German...

It's shocking to me how quickly my mood can change about all this stuff. I mean, I really shouldn't be surprised, as much as I hate to should on myself. I've been watching myself on this bilingual roller coaster for 2 would seem that I'd be used to the ups and downs by now. I guess it's not really the undulations, so much, as it is the triggers that get me. One day of mostly English and all of a sudden, I'm doubting whether I've done enough, given her enough input, whether she'll end up being an active bilingual at all.

I end up analyzing what happened and what I need to do differently:
  • Monday night, I was gone for most of the evening. She was with English speaking Dada.
  • Tuesdday night, I was gone for ALL of the evening. Ditto.
  • Wednesday morning, I brought her to a German-speaking playgroup, eager for the exposure...then, after a few hours of grocery shopping, brought her to her English-speaking grandparents for the night.
  • Thursday, with her grandparents all day, immersed in English (she says, as if it's a crime!)
  • Friday, here we are together, alone, and I expect her to speak mostly German with me after a week of mostly English?
I gotta run. It's way past my 10 minute-window to write this post.

Naturally, as I was write this, Kaya came up to me and told me a variety of things in German: "Kaya braucht eine neue Windel" [Kaya needs a new diaper]...followed by, "Kaya gehen zum Sand" [Kaya go to the sand, in attempt to say, Kaya's going to the beach =Kaya geht zum Strand].

Maybe my fear is just impeding my ability to do the math correctly...

Either way, would love any input that any of you have.
Tricks of the trade? Confidence boosters?

Thanks, in advance!


  1. As you said yourself, this bilingual raising thing consists of ups and downs all the time. So you have to keep confident of what you're doing and wait for the next "up", cause it will definitely arrive. Keep doing the amazing job you do with your daughter!

  2. Tamara

    Remember what I said to you last week? About how reading your entry about Kaya's 80-90% German bouyed me when I needed it? Remember also how bouyed you were by reading about Douglas Hofstadter? So my advice is.... when you have one of these inevitable "down" moments remember the ups and go back and read some of these inspiring posts... especially the ones you have written yourself. You will then remember just how good it can be and will be again.

    I for one can focus more energy on the downs than the ups.. but that makes no sense. Every phase is simply that, be it up or down. Just roll with it.

  3. One additional trick you might try when she keeps speaking English to you is to deliberately distort what she says when you repeat it back in German.

    For example, when Griffin tells me, "I want a snack," I'll say (in French), "Oh, you want a bath? Good idea!" "Nooooo!" He'll protest, "I want a snack." "Oh, you want a hippopotamus?" "Nooooo!" (starting to giggle) "Oh, I know, you want a kiss!" and so forth until he corrects me in French by telling me exactly what he wants.

    I think this works because of the humor and because he sees it as a reversal of roles--he's the one giving Maman words in French!

    (But it can get tedious--for me--though he seems to love to hear me make "mistakes" over and over."

    Just my two cents!

  4. Sarah and Maman,
    THANK YOU!! Very helpful indeed, not just your words, but your thoughtful presence, as well!

  5. Mamay,
    Thank you SO much, to you as well!!! I'm sorry I was so slack in responding to the sweet comment you wrote!!


I LOVE reading your comments, they make such a difference! Thanks for sharing!