Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Poetry auf Deutsch

I've been loving my work lately and I think my kids are as well - we've read and listened to almost all of the new German titles - lucky us! I'd been looking to add a little poetry into our day and came across the Gedichte für Kinder CD by Oliver Steller. What a find! Olli, as he calls himself, sings and recites poetry along with his guitar, Frieda, in front of a live audience of boisterous kids. With poems by Heine, Fontane, Brecht, Morgenstern and Maiwald, there are plenty of big names.

Our favorite poem so far is called Spinne Martha - here's an excerpt:
Wo ist meine Spinne?
Wer hat sie gesehen?
Sie hat sechs lange Beine und sie ist sehr wunderschoen, ja wunderschoen...

Don't ask me why he says "sechs Beine" instead of "acht" - N surmised that maybe German spiders only have 6 legs. Spinne Martha is set to a very catchy rock beat and Steller is a wonderful accompanist as he sings and the children join in.

The enunciation on this concert-style CD is excellent and quite easy to understand for my not quite fluent German-speaking kids. Most of the poems are repeated 2 or 3 times, sometimes with music, and sometimes without and so my boys have a chance to catch words they may have missed the first time around.

I'm working on memorizing some of the poems myself and the kids will enthusiastically join me with the parts they know. We are playing the CD in the car right now so we get a good dose of it every time we go somewhere.

One caveat - the first poem is called Fisch Fasch - who unfortunately has "einen weissen Arsch." It seems that the Germans are a little more free with the language than Americans might be :)

I highly recommend this CD for kids ages 4 and up, and maybe some ambitious 3 year olds!

Gedichte für Kinder CD from Alphabet Garten

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Haufen von Büchern!

After my latest newsletter, I got so many wonderful recommendations! Thank you all for your tips and favorites. I have over 20 new books and a few CDs on the website now and the kids and I have been enjoying them all. I'm working on reviews for all of them but for now here is one of my favorites.

Emil kocht für Teddy

I love books with photographs. In this book, young Emil makes soup for his Teddy, sets the table and cleans up at the end. He reminds me of my little M who loved to have tea parties even as young as two years old.

An excerpt
Emil probiert. Hmm, das schmeckt gut!

Emil kocht für Teddy
Einfach goldig!
Boardbook, 30 pages

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A bilingual moment

Child running past loudly while mom talks on the phone to a customer - mom gets annoyed.

Mom realizes child is singing "Alle meine Entchen" at the top of his lungs - all is forgiven :)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A multilingual family story

Patricia was kind enough to share her family's story of many languages.
Vielen Dank!

~ Sarah

Let me write in English, as my fingers move faster in this language.

We are both native Germans, my husband and I, and at home we both speak only German with our children, who attend an English speaking or at least bilingual school wherever we are living (changes every 4 or so years). Result? There is no way you can tell how well a bilingual speaker your child becomes.

One thing seems to be true. Children need to be exposed to non-native-toungue in the age of four to eight months - no matter what language, even if it were Chinese or Suaheli. During this timewindow, the brain developes its "second (third etc) language center" and if exposed to another "code", the connections in this area won't be disconnected ... your ability to speak/think/dream in another code is getting hard-wired.

We see the results with our children. Both younger ones pick up languages very, very fast while for our oldest it is an ordeal each time. She learned French when she was 3 1/2 and English with 5 1/2.
Today, living in a Spanish speaking country, she is in the hightest level English class of the official IB program, but German is now difficult, although she mastered the AP German quite well ... and Spanish ... it is not as easy for her as for our other children. Our son, the middle child was born in France and exposed to French at the age of four month (when he could sit). He speaks three languages fluent by now (he is twelve), all of them without accent: German, English and Spanish. Next year he will take up French (again, after he had been (childen-)fluent in that language when we left Belgium some years ago). We will see how much will come back.

My little one ... I speak to her in German, she answers in English. She has difficulties to get a complete sentence out in German, but when at "home" (Germany) for only a week, you would not think that she never had lived in Germany or would even know another language. Although tackling the language issue from a different angle than our son (he is as well very well settled in grammar) she as well is fluent trilingual English/Spanish/German.

Well, you see: three children, three different stories. What's genom, what's environment, what's place you were living in? I can't tell. It is difficult.

Viele Gruesse an Deinen Mann. Ich denke, das beste was ihr tun koennt, ist ganz fest bei eurer jeweiligen Sprache bleiben. Du sprichst mit Deinen Kindern Englisch und Dein Mann Deutsch. Dann werden sie immer die eine Sprache mit dem einen Gesicht verbinden und nicht die beiden durcheinander werfen. Doch das funktioniert auch nicht immer, wie man bei unserer kleinen sieht - oder vielleicht doch ... da sie mit Omi, die wenig English versteht, nur Deutsch spricht, waehrend sie mit Oma, die mehrere Jahre in England lebte und vermutlich auf Englisch reagiert, in Englisch conversiert.

Alles Liebe


Friday, June 01, 2007

And baby makes three. Even if you're not a native German speaker, you can raise a bilingual!

When NJ was born 7 years ago, I had lots of time to prepare and think about how I wanted to incorporate German into his life. We wanted him to have a strong connection to Juergen's family roots in Germany. Even though we chose to live in the U.S., we hoped to maintain strong cultural and language ties "back home." In addition, Oma and Opa don't speak English so practically speaking, NJ would have to be bilingual in order to have a real relationship with his grandparents.

If you, like me, are not a native speaker, it will be a little harder but it can be done, and the rewards are great. Seven years into this adventure, I'm still learning and changing my strategy as needed. Here are a few things I've learned along the way.

1. Get educated.
Read up on bilingual children. Find out about the different language patterns you may use. You may decide OPOL (one parent one language) is right for you. Or maybe mlah (minority language at home) makes more sense. Informing yourself is important for two reasons - first, you can think through how you'll make it work in your family, and second, you'll be prepared with facts when the nosy neighbor tells you a second language can cause speech delays (it doesn't) or a relative complains she feels excluded when you speak to your child in German. Just tell her you're increasing your child's potential! If people see you're confident and educated about speaking German to your child, they are less likely to question your motives. It's critical to be prepared with research and facts, especially for a non-native speaker since you might not see much progress for the first couple years and it's easy to get discouraged.
Suggested resources:
- A Parents' & Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism

2. Build a support system
If you're lucky enough to have German-speaking relatives and friends, let them know you'll be speaking to your child in German. If they are close by, ask them to speak only German to your child. It's a huge help to have other sources of German for your child. If they are not close by, at least they can provide moral support and perhaps letters, phone calls and visits.

If you don't know any German speakers, seek them out! Find a German-speaking playgroup or start your own. Consider attending a German school, either on Saturdays or during the week. German immersion schools are available all over the country and you may be surprised to find one nearby.

Still haven't found German speakers in your area? Turn to the internet! Discussion groups and blogs are wonderful for inspiration and invaluable when you need advice and motivation.

Consider subscribing to magazines for bilingual parents. A regular read on bilingualism will be helpful in keeping up your motivation.

3. Prepare the environment
Get some German books and music for your little one. This is an easy one! :) German music especially is a favorite of mine to help me remember to speak German and it's great for tired new mommies and daddies.

4. Start at the beginning
You may feel a little strange chatting away to a baby who does little more than sleep, eat, and pee, but getting into the habit of speaking German to your new baby right away is easier than starting up later. I have always sp0ken German to my babies and to this day find it difficult to speak to any baby in English! I do speak English with my children now, but that's another post :)