Monday, June 20, 2011

It's working! It's working!

It's hard to know where to start, really.
I see success everywhere, and all I want to do is share.

In the past, as you may know, I've been uninspired to write about much of the English that Kaya has been producing. It's hard to be inspired when the overwhelming emotion is sadness and confusion, often masked by frustration and overwhelm. With all the German she's speaking again, though, through the success of this little 'insistence experiment', I'm feeling in love all over again, with both her AND nearly everything that comes out of her mouth.

Here's a snippet of a conversation that I heard this morning while she was changing Frieda's diaper (Frieda being her babydoll):

Kaya: ah yu wet?
Baby: ---
Kaya: yeah? OK. Ah you sure?
Baby: ---
Kaya: OK. (runs off to get a diaper for her baby...)

And this morning, on our bike ride home after from visiting Dada at work, Kaya was 'singing' Old MacDonald in her trailer. She's been doing this for about a month, and as much as I hate to admit it, I've been hung up on the fact that she's been singing an English song instead of a German one. This morning, however, I was able to fully appreciate it for how cute it really is that she talks her way through this song, adding different animals and the sounds that they make to the various verses that she 'sings'. The video that I captured below is not only typical of how she sings it, but also of how, over the past day or two, she tends to switch almost immediately from English to German with just one simple response from me, without growing frustrated.

In the video, you will hear me chime in at one point, asking her, "Was macht der 'pig', das Schwein?" [What does the pig say?], at which point, she resumes the song, adding "oink, oink..." Towards the end, when it hits her that she would rather be watching the video than being filmed, she initially speaks English, but then switches, as I mentioned, to requesting to see "das Foto" [the picture] in German.

Something has definitely clicked for her over the past few days. As Gramms says, you can clearly see the wheels turning. There have been many times over the past two days where she will start speaking to me in German (as opposed to switching after starting in English), as she used to do about 4-6 weeks ago. Sunday morning, for example, as I was lying in my bed and she in hers, she called out, "Mamaaaaa," at which point, I responded, "Morgen, Baby. Ich bin wach. Ich bin in meinem Bett, und du bist in deinem." [Morning, baby. I'm awake. I'm in my bed and you're in yours.] After a few seconds, she began to ask me if I was awake, but cut herself off in the middle of asking: "Mama, are you awa--" Then, she began to babble to herself for a few minutes, reciting the alphabet (in English) and playing with her toys. After about 2 minutes, she let me know in German that she wanted "aus dem Bett." [out of bed]

This morning, as well, her first words for me were in German, letting me know that she'd drunk all her milk: "Es ist leer, Mama." [It's empty, Mama]

For the most part, the German that she's speaking is basic, often just a word or a short phrase. It's clear to me that she's formulating once I ask her what she's said, or told her that I don't understand. Until today, she wouldn't switch languages without a number of attempts on my part to get her to switch (What did you say? I don't understand you. Excuse me? I only understand German from you.) Today, however, she only needed one, if even that, to switch. As I was riding my bike this morning, and she was repeating, "I don't want that water," I realized that, initially, it felt really mean to me to 'ignore' her when she was speaking English. That's because that's all she would speak to me, so I would be ignoring her all of the time. Now, however, if I don't respond immediately, she seems to be processing a message that the language she's using isn't getting her want she wants or needs--so she'll switch to see if that works better. And it does. I'm even going out of my way to respond faster to her when she's speaking German, and even offering allowances that I normally wouldn't. Tonight, for example, she let Geoff know that she wanted me to come into her room. When I went in there, she immediately told me that she wanted to "kuscheln" [snuggle], and though we normally leave her in her bed once we've put her to sleep, I picked her up immediately when I heard that, and let her snuggle with me until she let me know that she was ready to go back "ins Bett" [in bed].

As well as the simplicity of her German that I've noticed over the past few days, I've also noticed that she's confused about a few grammar concepts that she has nailed in English. After I laid her in bed for the first time tonight, she told me that she wanted me to "schaukeln" [rock]. After I rocked for a while, I stood up, and went to her bed to kiss her goodnight. "Ah you going, Mama?" she asked me. I was surprised at the clarity of her question, and about how calmly she was asking. "Wie bitte," [What was that?] I asked her, expecting a quick switch on her part. "Ah you going, Mammi?" she repeated in English. "Bitte?" I asked her, again, confident she'd switch this time 'round. She paused, as she often does lately, formulating her new question. This pause seemed a little longer than most, and she followed it up with a grammatical statement in the first person as opposed to a question in the second: "Ich gehe?" [I go?] She similarly struggled this afternoon with the 'yours-mine' concept, when she was telling me whose swing was whose today on the playground. Despite my experience as a language teacher, I still struggle with how to 'teach' this concept. It's a hard one. I don't expect her to get it easily (and was surprised when she got it so quickly in English about a month or two ago).

I'm confident we'll start seeing longer, more grammatically correct sentences soon, though. This afternoon, right before I recorded the Old MacDonald video, Kaya was eager to switch water bottles with me. I had the fun one, with the easy-to-suck straw. She had the metal one with the hard-to-open lid. She'd been repeating herself about 8-10 times while we were riding, until I finally pulled over and let her know that I could hear her but didn't understand her. At this point, she switched to German and produced a sentence that put quite a smile on my face: "Ich will dat Water. Ich will...ich moechte...dieses Wasser....haben." [I want that water. I want...I would like to have that water.]

And my last point for the evening, before I hit my birthday at midnight (what a gift this week has been for me!!)...Kaya is conceptualizing all of this so much sooner than I've read that she would. I read that, in general, kids are aware of people speaking different languages at about 3.5--the same age that they generally stop mixing. Kaya is beginning to label the languages now. While we were playing at the park, and after she had just spoken English with me, Kaya said, smiling, "Das ist English...Das ist Mamasprache." [That's English. That's Mama-language.] I set her straight, reminding her that 'Mamasprache ist Deutsch. English ist Dadasprache." [Mama-language is German. English is Dada-language.] This afternoon, however, while we were folding laundry, she got the terms right, saying, again with a smile on her face, "Das ist Deutsch. Das ist Mamasprache." [That's German. That's mama-language.]

That's right. It sure is.
It feels really good to be proud of that, again!


  1. Excited for you - what you're doing is working! :)

  2. Weiter guten tag, meine tochter!

  3. What amazing progress you've had in just a short time!
    I'm SUPER impressed by Kaya's sentence about the water - putting the verb at the end?! Wow!
    Congratulations! It's wonderful to read of all your successes and be able to revel in them with you.
    And... Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!!

  4. Matt and Lauren~
    It's great to hear from you again...thank you for sharing in our joy!

    ~vielen Dank! Though I might need a little translation help...? Ich liebe dich!

    The fact that you are reveling in my successes with me means SO much...I can feel your energy in the words that you type, and it's really contagious. Granted, this success has been huge enough, that I can be happy enough alone...but how wonderful it is to have you along for the ride, too!! And vielen Dank fuer die schoene Geburtstaswuensche!

    Look forward to hearing from you all again soon!


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