Sunday, December 28, 2008

Closed until January 5 - in the meantime have some Glühwein

Alphabet Garten is closed until January 5 - all outstanding orders will ship at that time. We hope you are enjoying a peaceful end-of-year time with your family as we are with ours.

In the meantime, why not enjoy some tasty Glühwein (Erwachsene only please). Nathalie has a great recipe and a fun style of mixing German and English in her posts that I can relate to.

See you in the New Year!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Frohe Weihnachten!

From the Muellers at Alphabet Garten, we wish you a Merry Christmas! Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

In der Weihnachtsbäckerei

Photo: Kochtopf

Have you started your Christmas baking yet? Make it even more fun by baking with another friend or family. Learn new recipes and share the results of your baking. This requires a bit more preparation than baking by yourself though so here are a few things to consider in advance:

- Which cookies to make – some traditional cookies (Plätzchen) include Zimtsterne and anise cookies.

- Will you spend your time together mixing cookies, baking cookies or decorating?

- What ingredients are needed?

- What tools are needed? Pans, spatulas, mixers, etc.

Photo: Noema

While baking, enjoy a cup of Glühwein or Kinderpunsch, and pretend you are visiting one of the German Christmas markets. You can buy bottled Glühwein or Kinderpunsch, but it’s easy to make your own. The recipes are very adaptable so adjust them to fit your family. Here are two recipes for Kinderpunsch:

Kinderpunsch (1)

2 cups brewed herbal tea (I’ve used strawberry or hibiscus but experiment)

2 cups Cranapple juice

½ pkg of mulling spices from Simply Organic (or use cloves and cinnamon sticks)

Cook for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm.

The kids love it. It’s a beautiful red color and smells great.

Kinderpunsch (2)

2 cups brewed herbal tea

2 cups apple juice

Juice of one lemon

3 teaspoons honey (or to taste, we use less)

Brew tea for 10 minutes. Add other ingredients and reheat.

Then get settled, turn on your German Christmas music (we recommend Wir warten auf Weihnachten by Rolf Zuckowski), or read some Weihnachtsbücher and have fun.

Sing along with Rolf to “In der Weihnachtsbäckerei“:

In der Weihnachtsbäckerei

Music and Text: Rolf Zuckowski

In der Weihnachtsbäckerei

gibt es manche Leckerei.

Zwischen Mehl und Milch

macht so mancher Knilch

eine riesengroße Kleckerei.

In der Weihnachtsbäckerei,

in der Weihnachtsbäckerei.

Wo ist das Rezept geblieben

von den Plätzchen, die wir lieben?

Wer hat das Rezept verschleppt?

Na, dann müssen wir es packen,

einfach frei nach Schnauze backen.

Schmeiß den Ofen an -

und ran!

In der Weihnachtsbäckerei ...

Brauchen wir nicht Schokolade,

Honig, Nüsse und Sukkade

und ein bisschen Zimt?

Das stimmt.

Butter, Mehl und Milch verrühren,

zwischendurch einmal probieren,

und dann kommt das Ei -


In der Weihnachtsbäckerei ...

Bitte mal zur Seite treten,

denn wir brauchen Platz zum Kneten.

Sind die Finger rein?

Du Schwein!

Sind die Plätzchen, die wir stechen,

erst mal auf den Ofenblechen,

warten wir gespannt -


In der Weihnachtsbäckerei …

Wir wünschen ein frohes Fest!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Christmas Titles - Der Grinch

Note: this post was first published in 2007.

Have you seen the Grinch? Since The Cat in the Hat went out of print, this is one of the few Dr. Seuss titles in German remaining and a classic for Christmas. Oh, why didn't I stockpile Der Kater mit Hut when I had the chance? Oh well, at least we still have that stingy old Grinch to entertain. The translation is excellent and the rhyming is perfect.

An excerpt:

Der Grinch rief: "Hü hott!"

Dann ging's in die Tiefen

Zu den Häsern in der Stadt,

Wo die Hus friedlich schliefen.

Wie der Grinch Weihnachten gestohlen hat

Monday 2pm Deadline for Standard Shipping

Tomorrow Monday at 2pm is the deadline to order with standard shipping and get your packages by Christmas! And don't forget free shipping for orders over $100. View all holiday ordering deadlines.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

German Advent Traditions

Photo: Xanesmommy

Advent, Advent,
ein Lichtlein brennt,
erst eins,
dan zwei,
dann drei,
dann vier,
dann steht das Christkind vor der Tür.

Adventszeit, the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas, is a wonderful time for singing, baking, making crafts and gifts and spending time with family and friends. It’s fun to bring German traditions and culture into your family, and reinforce the German language you are using with them.

Photo: PetroleumJelliffe

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, winter days are short and dark. Advent wreaths and Advent calendars help children mark the time until the birth of Jesus on December 25. Last Sunday, November 30, was the first Sunday in Advent 2008. The first candle in your Advent wreath should have been lit. Next Sunday, December 7, light the first candle and a new one so that 2 candles are lit. Use the candle lighting as an reason to spend time with your families, read a Christmas story, sing a song and enjoy special cookies or Stollen.

Create your own Adventskranz
An Advent wreath (der Adventskranz oder österreichisch Adventkranz) is often simply 4 red pillar candles surrounded by a wreath of pine or fir branches, then decorated with nuts, ribbons, berries or other items. It can be as simple or as decorated as you want to make it. One year, we had a platter filled with nuts in their shells and 4 candles. Simple but elegant. For smaller kids, have them cut out of red paper 4 rectangles of different heights for the candles. Glue them to a green paper rectangle (wreath base). Each Sunday add a yellow flame.

Advent calendars are meant to count every day from December 1 until December 24. They come in many styles. Originally they were pictures behind the doors, but now the most popular style has chocolates behind the doors (die Türchen). You can even find them filled with LEGO or Playmobil figures! If you have time, it is fun to make your own and fill the numbered boxes or bags with special items for your children. The SWR-Kindernetz website has several ideas with photo tutorials.

Several websites host online Adventkalenders, including:

* KI.KA – hosted by Beutolomäus and your favorite TV characters from Germany’s kids TV channel, also includes games, recipes, stories (about Bratapfel, die Kerzen am Adventskranz, and a kleinen Weihnachtsbaum), crafts, singing and coloring.
* SWR-Kindernetz – the gingerbread house advent calendar has games and activities behind the windows, many involving Janosch’s Tigerenten Club characters.
* – hosts an MP3 Adventskalender, also has poems and stories including several by Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Dickens, songs and recipes.

To get you in the Christmas mood, we recommend Rolf Zuckowski’s wonderful CD Wir warten auf Weihnachten. For a great story and explanation of a typical German Christmas, listen to Conni feiert Weihnachten. For more activities, try Advent und Weihnachten mit Kindern erlebt” and Kinder feiern Weihnachten.

Wishing you a happy holiday season!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Free Nikolaustag (St. Nikolaus Day) Unit Study

Edit 12/7/08: the free download has ended. Thanks to all who participated!

Nikolaustag ist endlich da! And to help you celebrate, we've prepared this Nikolaustag unit study. Normally $9.95, it's free for you today only, on Nikolaustag. It's packed with songs, crafts, suggestions for snacks, website recommendations, the Nikolaus story itself and a German-English vocabulary list.

Download your free unit study

Friday, December 05, 2008

Nikolausabend ist da!

I hope you are all enjoying preparations for Nikolausabend. Don't forget to shine your shoes and boots and leave them for Nikolaus to fill with treats! And don't forget to come back here to the blog tomorrow and get your free Nikolaustag unit study, if you haven't already purchased a copy. We've got lots of great content for you and it will be free tomorrow only.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I don't think I've ever put this many items on sale! Don't wait - most of these items are very limited quantities.

Browse sale items... Viel Spass beim Einkaufen!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hard work pays off for this German-speaking mom


Sarah Mueller chats with Claudia Gohler about her experiences growing up bilingual (English/German) and now speaking German with son, Damian, 2.5 years old.

Sarah: Thank you very much for taking a little time out to chat with me. You said that your parents raised you speaking German, is that right?

Claudia: Yes. My mom is from the Hannover area and my dad is from Leipzig. I grew up in California, so they spoke both English and German to me because they knew that we would never move to Germany, but they wanted me to be able to communicate with our relatives.

I didn’t go to German school or anything, but we had family stay with us a lot, and my grandmother would stay for two months at a time. We would fly to Germany every other summer, so I got a lot of practice.

Sarah: Okay, so are you fluent in German?

Claudia: Yes.

Sarah: Oh, cool. And you learned to write and read as well?

Claudia: I learned how to write and read, mainly I’d say, at college. Before that, I could write little things, like a birthday card or a Christmas card, small things like that. And I could read magazines but I hadn’t really learned the grammar or any of the formal spelling – I tried to take German in high school but I was stuck between classes. I was too advanced for the beginner because I understood everything but I couldn’t take the advanced because I didn’t know all the grammar. So I was kind of stuck between classes.

After that, in college, I took it my sophomore year, and then I spent my junior year in Göttingen studying at a university and that was kind of a sink-or-swim situation. I figured it out and practiced – some of my roommates would help correct my papers. That was basically how it clicked for me.

Sarah: Okay so the junior year sort of cemented for you and helped you get to the next level?

Claudia: Yes, even though I was always able to understand and say everything, in terms of becoming literate –to realize, there are different articles…because I never thought about that before.

Sarah: Right, right. It was probably instinctive.

Claudia: Then I started thinking of it in more of a literate way, so then I started thinking about how there are different articles – in English we just have the, and you know, I hadn’t really thought about it until I was writing a college paper.

Sarah: Yes, you probably didn’t need it, I mean, you’re not going to need it if you’re just chatting with friends and family, but if you’re going to be doing something more structured and it’s going to be graded, then it’s a different ball game.

Claudia: Right, and my parents didn’t want to correct me too much, because they didn’t want to discourage me.

Sarah: Does your husband speak German?

Claudia: He can speak it. He learned it in school as well.

Sarah: So does everyone in your house speak German now to your son? How are you working that out?

Claudia: It’s mainly me. We live in Connecticut and my parents are in California … so when we visit them they speak German to my son. And we go there I’d say every three months for a couple of weeks – and they only speak German with him. I was working the first year, and so I tried to speak German with him, but I stopped working when he turned one, and that’s when I really decided I just needed to really focus on it, and so I started just speaking in German to him.

Sarah: And how old is he now?

Claudia: He’s two. He turned two in June.

Sarah: And is he speaking back to you in German?

Claudia: Yes. And he’s beginning to understand it because he’ll say stuff to me in German. I also speak occasionally to him in English now that we’ve been having more play dates and classes where there’s other kids speaking English. But he kind of understands it. He doesn’t say German things to his friends here. He did in the beginning when we were outside over the summer and he pointed to the moon and said “Mond”, but he never really mixed it up other than that. He seemed to understand – talk one way to someone. I don’t know how he got it.

Sarah: Really? That’s pretty impressive.

Claudia: He never mixed it up. He was an early talker, and I did the baby sign language with him, I picked up a book and did the sign… for example, for dog you scratch behind your ear, so he thought that was really funny. In the beginning I would use that sign to say “Hund, dog”. I was trying to get him to understand it was the same thing.

Sarah: Oh, so you would use the sign language to bridge between German and English?

Claudia: Yeah, and I think it helped. And for the baby sign language, I don’t know if you ever did it, but the sign for milk, it’s like milking a cow. So he would say “milk” because we had a nanny the first year, so then I started saying “Milch, Milch” and I would do the same sign and then grab the milk. So I think it really helped him because now he has a babysitter here that only speaks Spanish, so he’ll make that sign and he’ll go “Milk, Milch, Leche.”

So I think that really helps that there was that connector.

Sarah: So he knew what was said because he saw the sign, and he understood the sign immediately and he would realize – okay, there’s just a different name for this.

Claudia: Yeah.

Sarah: That’s so great. We did baby signs with Jack and he did a bunch of signs, but once he started talking it just sort of fell away, like he didn’t need them.

Claudia: For us, it was good in the beginning. I think it helps with the frustration if they were hungry – if they wanted food or milk or water.

Sarah: Right, right. That’s interesting that that would be a connection, kind of help them see the similarities, know that they’d have more than one way to say something.

Claudia: Yeah, it seemed to click with him. I would try to focus on like one word, like Hund for example and I would say it all day, like “Hast du den Hund gehört? Er hat gebellt.” “Willst du den Hund streicheln?” “Der Hund hat ein langer Schwanz” “Der Hund hat Hunger” you know, whatever, I would just try to stick with one thing until he got it.

Sarah: Consciously introducing him to different words?

Claudia: Yeah, I felt so bad that I didn’t do it the first year, so I really stepped it up the second year.

Sarah: So was it hard to make the switch, then?

Claudia: Yeah, it was. The first year I would say things in English and in German. Then one of my friends said just to say it in German because he’ll learn English. It was a little awkward for me at first, to talk in German with him because he wasn’t really talking back yet. It was a little weird at first, but I got used to it.

Sarah: How long do you think it took for you to feel comfortable with speaking to him only in German to him?

Claudia: I’d say probably a month. And before, I had spoken a little bit to him anyway. And then I noticed I wasn’t reading books to him, which is how I found your website – to get some German books. Because I’d be talking to him and then we’d sit down and read an English book. I was tired of just pointing to the pictures in German, I wanted to actually read a story.

Sarah: So what are his favorite books?

Claudia: He likes Die Maus, it’s a book my mother brought. He likes those a lot, and then we were just in Germany and I got him a couple of books there. He likes Der kleine Eisbär. And a series from you – Guck mal, wer da schlummert… He likes those a lot too.

Sarah: I like those because they’re so simple. Little kids really like that they can understand what’s going on.

Claudia: And then I bought Unterwegs… he likes that too.

Sarah: The Mini Lesemaus.

Claudia: The little tiny ones where they’re going for a hike, a car ride…

Sarah: Yeah, those are really fun. So what were your biggest reasons behind getting him to speak German?

Claudia: For me it was so that he can communicate with the rest of my side of the family that’s in Germany. And also, I felt like it was something I could give him that will help him if he wants to learn anything else, because I think it’s really helped me. I learned Spanish in school and I think I really had an advantage that I had grown up with German. Because I felt like it opens your mind to thinking in different ways. I wanted him to have that as well.

Sarah: To have a different perspective on things?

Claudia: A different perspective, some connections to his German roots. We went to visit my grandmother, his great-grandmother, this past August. We were only there for three days, and she was able to talk with him so that was worth it, because, she’s not doing that well and it was nice to be there…

Sarah: Right, they could have a nice relationship.

Claudia: Right, and I didn’t have to translate, they were just able to communicate together. And he’s come back saying “Mensch Meier was kosten die Eier?” and all these little things that she was saying. Just seeing that was worth it.

Sarah: Well, did you run into any problems when you were growing up? Did you ever rebel? Was it hard for your parents to get you to speak German?

Claudia: They said it was fine when I was little, my mom said I was okay until I started learning Spanish. And then I didn’t really use German anymore because it was confusing. I remember there was also a time I didn’t want to speak it because no one else did. I thought, oh, no, I want to speak Spanish like everyone else did. And that was about 7th grade – then we had visitors come and they didn’t speak English, and so I got over it and would speak German with them.

Sarah: How did your parents do it? Were they pretty strict about speaking only German or did they speak English with you?

Claudia: They used English as well. They said they emphasized a little more German when I was little, when I was learning how to talk, and then when my relatives would come they would then only speak German. And like I said, my grandmother would come every other year for a few months.

Sarah: That must have made a big difference. That’s such a key, if you can have that type of experience, it really helps so much. You don’t have any choice, you just do it!

Claudia: I guess that’s what I want my son to have, to not be afraid to speak. Sometimes I’m afraid to speak in Spanish because I don’t know what to say, I’m not a native speaker… and with German, I never had that feeling – no fear, I just would speak whatever I thought and most of the time I was right. Sometimes I wasn’t. Like I remember, this is a family story, I’ll never forget it. I was trying to show my grandmother the butterfly and I didn’t know the word in German so I said, “Guck mal! Da ist eine Butterfliege!”

Sarah: [laughing] They got a big kick out of it.

Claudia: [laughing] Yes, so I made mistakes like that, my parents thought that was funny so it became part of our vocabulary.

So then I didn’t really know what was right or what was wrong. They were pretty easy on me. Sometimes I wish they had corrected me a little more, but they didn’t want to discourage me. So now I ask them if they hear grammatical errors, if they would please correct me. I also read German books, and pay attention to the grammar, so I can have a better idea of how to properly say things.

Sarah: Are you able to get German language materials through your library, or is there a Spielgruppe or something like that in your area?

Claudia: They don’t have it at the local library here, but this fall I joined a German school in Stamford. I started going with my son on Saturday mornings. We go there every Saturday. We’re in the group called the Flummis – kids under 3, kind of like a Krabbelgruppe. I’d say most of them are 18 months or so, which is a big difference at this age, so I think he’s getting a little bit bored. They just play for the first 45 minutes and then the last half hour we’ll sing songs, so I’ve learned things like the Itsy Bitsy Spider in German and it’s fun and he likes that. I just inquired about the next semester, which starts in January and I might try the PreK class with him – for kids starting when they are three – I think he might be ready for it. They do a little more structure but not too much, so I’m going to try doing that with him.

Sarah: Oh, that’s nice. That’s a pretty big school, isn’t it? I’m trying to remember how many – 100 kids?

Claudia: It’s pretty big, I think it goes through high school. I doubt I’ll do it once he’s in elementary school, so he can have his Saturdays off. I want him to be able to play soccer or baseball or whatever.

Sarah: Yeah, that’s the problem. That’s the real challenge, when they start school, then they’ve got the English influence, and it’s just so much more restrictive, you have so many more demands on your time.

Claudia: I want to try and get a Germany trip in, but I don’t have a very big family, so I don’t have that many relatives to visit. That’s why I’m trying as much as I can right now to really saturate him with the language and hope it sticks. My husband learned German in college, but he speaks it very well and he lived in Trier for a year. He can speak it well, but he doesn’t really do it, he usually speaks English at home. Sometimes I’ll ask him to speak in German. He’ll make an effort but it’s kind of harder for him, he’s more comfortable speaking English. But he can read our son the books, so that’s helpful.

Sarah: Well, what’s been the biggest challenge so far for you in speaking German with him?

Claudia: I would say not having someone else with me to do it, because it’s been me talking to myself in German, and even though I grew up with it, it was as a second language, so that was a bit of a challenge. I think not having other little friends for him that speak German, that’s hard. He’s noticing now also the TV, and that’s English. I’m going to have to get one of the DVD players and some of those DVDs because…

Sarah: One of the multi-region players. Well, you might be able to play the DVDs on your computer, if you have a DVD player on your computer that usually works out, without having to get anything new. We had Caillou on a little while ago for the first time with Jack. It was so cool because he was totally interested in it, he hasn’t really watched TV up until now – he just didn’t care for it for some reason, but he’s really into Caillou and we were watching it in German on the computer. It’s not the same as watching TV (on a computer), but at least it’s in German.

Claudia: I’ve thought of getting some other DVDs but it’s hard to know if it will be a hit with him or not, so it’s hard to make the investment. I think I should try it because he likes watching Cars, he’s watched that like 100 times. You can switch the languages, on a lot of them, to Spanish but not to German.

Sarah: That’s true. A lot of the German DVDs have English on them too, though, so, for some reason, if he didn’t want to watch it in German that’s always an option to change it back to English, at least most of them. All the Pixar ones, and the Thomas ones, Little Einsteins, that kind of thing. Those are pretty fun.

Claudia: Do you have Caillou on your website? I heard someone else mention it.

Sarah: Let’s see, we have Weihnachten mit Caillou, I know that one’s there. And I have Caillou und der Bagger, and maybe one other one. The Caillou’s are really fun. I like it because Caillou’s supposed to be about three, and it’s really simple. There’s not a lot of stuff in the background, the graphics are very simple and clear and I think that the speaking is very clear, too. Not complicated. That’s a very good choice for beginners, or 2-year-olds. Good option. Little Einsteins is really cute too. Those are probably the best ones for the youngest kids – there’s also Dora, If your son likes Dora, that’s pretty cute and pretty straightforward to understand. There’s also the Augsburger Puppenkiste that’s really popular, authentic German. It’s really neat, because it’s a traditional German kind of thing.

Is there anything else you want to add?

Claudia: It’s just so rewarding to see your child say things in different languages, it’s definitely worth any effort you put into it.

Sarah: I agree.

Claudia: It’s so nice to see him being able to communicate with his relatives. I think anyone who can do it, should. It’s a good idea.

Sarah: Well, again, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Claudia: No problem.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

If you have wiggly kids, then you need this German book without words

My littlest guy, J, is busy. When you're almost 2 years old, there's no time to waste; bunkbeds are waiting to be explored, forbidden scissors are beckoning, and cats begging to be chased :) He doesn't calm down willingly when playtime is over. So it is with much relief that I have been pulling out our Winter Wimmelbuch at naptime.

J doesn't normally have much of an attention span for stories but this book has held him spellbound for several weeks now. Each extra large page spread has a multitude of tiny details to observe and a story waiting to be discovered. Only there are no words, just a wintry city scene on each page which progresses as you move through the book. Each time we look at it, we see different things. The story of the characters is slowly unfolding for us. Maybe that's why J likes it so much - he can look and look and doesn't have to listen to any words to see what's going on. He enjoys pointing and naming the things he knows - Vögel (birds), Autos, Schneemann (snowman), etc.

Amazingly, this book never fails to calm J down and by the end, he's either sleeping or very relaxed and ready for his nap.

If you're looking for books with a German storyline to read aloud, this is not the one. However, if you want a book to help a wild and wiggly kid settle down, you can't go wrong with the Winter Wimmelbuch!

The author, Rotraut Susanne Berners won the 2006 Sonderpreis from the Deutscher Jugendliteratur Preis for her entire collection.

Continue to Berners Winter Wimmelbuch or browse the entire Alphabet Garten Books for German Learners website.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Nikolaustag Unit Study Available

We had such an overwhelming response to our free Martinstag Unit Study - thank you to everyone who sent in comments! It is gratifying to know that our work is helping you celebrate and enjoy German culture with your children.

We are pleased to announce the release of a Nikolaustag Unit Study! This guide is even longer than the Martinstag one and includes a sample schedule, notes on incorporating German into your lessons, crafts, food, songs, und, und, und.

Nikolaustag is coming up very soon on December 6 (and Nikolausabend December 5) so don't wait to start preparing. We also have several excellent German Nikolaus books and CDs that form the basis of a complete Nikolaus celebration.

View all Nikolaus Bücher.

There is an abbreviated preview version of this unit study available for free on the Nikolaus Unit Study page. The regular version is $9.95 or you can download it for free on December 6 only!

So whether you celebrate using our unit study guide or have traditions already planned, we hope you have a lovely time. Viel Spaß!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Extra value from your holiday order

Would you like to get a little extra value with of your holiday order from Alphabet Garten? I thought so :) That's why I'm giving away the most charming little German Advent calendars this side of the Rhein River. This tiny Advent treasure chest holds 24 gift cards and comes with a red satin ribbon. During Advent, hang up a new card each day to make a festive mini-garland. Or you can display them in the little chest that doubles as a display stand. Later you can use them for gift tags. The klitzekleine Adventschatz brings a little Christmas cheer to a corner of your home.

The only way to get your own Adventschatz is to place an order worth $150 or more at Alphabet Garten. We will automatically add yours to your order when we ship the rest of your items. Unfortunately I only have enough to offer them this way and will not be selling them individually on the site.

This is not one of those punch-out Advent calendars you see at the grocery store - the Adventschatz is valued at $16.50. Just like the rest of the selection at Alphabet Garten, it's imported directly from Germany, high quality and a great value! And don't forget that U.S. orders of $100 or more already enjoy free shipping which is an additional savings of $12-$16 or more.

Don't wait too long - these may go fast and besides, there are only 33 days until Christmas!

P.S. If you just placed a qualifying order during November, don't worry - yours is in the mail!

Bilingual Parenting from the Start - an Interview with Melissa Bohn

Sarah Mueller of Alphabet Garten chats with Melissa Bohn about the Bohn family’s experiences learning German together and teaching it to son, Erich, 22 months.


Sarah: Hi Melissa! Thank you for offering to be interviewed for Alphabet Garten. I’m really excited to talk to you about how you’re bringing up your son bilingually.

Melissa: Thanks for having me.

Sarah: Can you tell me a little about your family and how you speak German together at home?

Melissa: Sure! My husband’s mother is from Switzerland. My husband’s family spoke French until my husband’s grandfather moved in and then they started speaking English. Their French gradually faded away. My husband regretted not keeping his fluency in French. Then he took German in college. My sisters-in-law are speaking French with their kids, and it was going really well, so we decided to give it a try with our son. I just started taking German courses a year and a half ago, and my husband and I are now taking classes together. We are currently taking German 201 and another in German literature and writing. I also tried using Rosetta Stone but it didn’t help me as much because I like being able to converse with somebody and have someone explain the rules of grammar – Rosetta Stone doesn’t do that, although it did help with my accent. We’re putting all of our free time into learning German. Our son is speaking more and more in German and we feel like our efforts are really paying off now.

Although we’re doing well in our classes, we are frustrated because we aren’t where we want to be yet.

Sarah: What’s most frustrating to you? Is it because you are fairly new to the language?

Melissa: I want to be able to explain everything to him in German without having to think about it. I’m constantly looking up words, and sometimes I’m not sure if what I’m saying is the right thing. I have trouble with prepositions and vocabulary. Luckily Erich doesn’t notice the mistakes I make yet, although he is starting to. For instance the other day I used the word “putzen” to talk about putting away toys and when I found out it should really be aufräumen and switched, Erich still said “putzen.”

Sarah: Oh, so the original word stuck with Erich. Do you find he’s talking a lot in German for a 2 year old?

Melissa: Yes! He’s talking a lot. He is starting to put words together. The other day he said “Bibis Haus” (his aunt) and “Tür zu,” and he says a lot of vocabulary words, pointing and naming things. He’s starting to get concepts like hot and cold, too. He’s like a little parrot – repeating everything you say. I think he speaks more than a lot of other kids his age.

Sarah: He must be strong verbally. So how much German are you speaking with him?

Melissa: We speak in German all the time. If we don’t know how to say something, we just go around it. I don’t know how he responds to English, when people come over, we speak English to them and he mostly ignores it. He acts fine with babysitters so I know he is picking it up. He knows cookie, no, and some other English words. Plus some words are the same in English and German. But I do worry a little about when he gets older, that there might be some kind of shock when he realizes that other kids speak a different language.

Sarah: Well, he will start to realize that there is another language. Usually people just let it happen naturally and the child isn’t confused about it for very long.

Melissa: Yes, I agree – I think we’ll just let it happen – he will discover and learn English from friends and relatives. Our German professor shared this with us after we told him about our son. He said that he was babysitting the son of one of his German colleagues, and they were reading a book together. A word came up that for some reason or another had to be said in English, and the boy was confused. Our professor explained to him that that was an English word, and the boy said, "Oh, aber was ist das in Wirklichkeit?" As in, “What is that in reality?”. I thought it was so cute (and made it a goal to teach Erich what "Wirklichkeit" means)!

Sarah: What language do you speak with your husband?

Melissa: When Erich is around, we try to speak German to each other but it’s hard because neither of us are fluent or native speakers. Although we feel that it’s really important for him to get as much exposure early on as possible. I was a really worried initially because I didn’t know how to relate to my child in this foreign language, but things have been going great for the past 6 months. Our goal is complete fluency. I hope for that. What about your kids?

Sarah: I did start out with a goal of total fluency as well. Right now my two older boys’ German is mostly passive, although they do speak German to our toddler and they can have a conversation with Oma and Opa. It’s been challenging for us with all the outside influence of English to keep up.

Melissa: Our greatest help is we have tons of books that we bought from you and some other places. We have almost all of the Disney DVDs, although Erich doesn’t like to watch those as much. My husband and I watch them because we know the stories and it’s easy to pick up new words. Erich really likes die Kleine Einsteins and Teletubbies. Sometimes he picks up words from the DVDs that we don’t even know.

Sarah: Why do you want Erich to speak German?

Melissa: I wanted to learn a language and my husband wanted to improve on his German. His relatives live in the German part of Switzerland, so it would be helpful to be able to communicate with them in their language when we visit. We decided if we’re going to do it, we might as well do it now while our kids were young and we can do it together. We are all learning the language together.

Like I said, my sister-in-law’s family is doing really well with their French and it was an inspiration to us. I feel like this is a gift we can give Erich. We have a lot of support. Our neighbors are Pakistani, and they are supportive, too. Their kids want to learn German so they can speak to Erich! Our school system has a half day program where kids can learn certain subjects in German. We may enroll Erich there when he’s old enough for 1st grade. There’s also the Deutsche Schule in Maryland for preschool as an option. It seems really possible that we can actually accomplish our goal.

We have also had great support from German playgroups. They have been really great for Erich and for us as a place to speak to other parents. has some local German playgroups. Yahoo Groups is another place to go. German has a lot of rules that don’t really make sense, at least to me, and it helps if I can hear people use it.

Sarah: Do you find that the people at the playgroups are native speakers?

Melissa: Yes, I believe all of them are, or at least one parent of each child. My husband and I are the oddballs, but they are very accepting of us.

Sarah: What is your biggest challenge in teaching Erich German?

Melissa: Outside influences. It’s like a race to get him fluent in German first. I don’t always know if I’m saying the right thing. For instance with disciplining, you need to think fast, talk firmly. I need the confidence that what I’m saying is correct. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if he doesn’t understand something because he’s young or because I’m not saying it right.
It’s really challenging learning the language while teaching the language. My husband works a lot so I know if we’re going to do this, I feel that it has to be me because I’m the one who’s with him all day. And I have had less exposure to German than my husband has. We read a lot of books together and that helps.

Sarah: Do you find that you pick up words from children’s books you read with him?

Melissa: Yes. I buy books that relate to things that we do – like the Mini Lesemaus series – going to the doctor, going to the playground. I can point to the words and pick up vocabulary and that was really helpful for me to know the right words for things in those specific situations. Also the German Picture Dictionary is very helpful.

We’re planning on spending a month in Germany next year. Mulitilingual Living Magazine had an article that said that at around age 2 or 3 children notice what language others are speaking and they will want to speak it too. So when we go to Germany, Eric will be 2.5 and he will hear other kids and adults speaking German all around us. Hopefully things will just click.

Sarah: Well, it sounds like you are really well set up to achieve your goal. You have really put a huge amount of effort into the language. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I know my customers will be very interested in your story! Maybe we can follow up in 6 months J

Melissa: You’re welcome and thank you! It was really great to talk to you today. Hopefully in six months I’ll have some really great things to share!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parenting auf Deutsch

If you are a non-native speaker of German, you might not automatically have all the phrases you'll need when providing gentle parental correction to your offspring :) Therefore, I've compiled this list of useful phrases. Feel free to add 'bitte' to any of these! Use liberally as needed.
  • Komm 'runter vom Tisch (Come down off of the table)
  • Finger aus der Nase (Take your finger out of your nose)
  • Schon wieder? (Already?)
  • Na los! Auf geht's! (Let's go!)
  • Langsam (slow, slowly)
  • Vorsichtig (carefully)
  • Nicht hauen (Don't hit)
  • Bitte nicht anfassen (Don't touch)
  • Fertig essen (Finish chewing)
  • Mach's ordentlich (Do it properly)
  • Alles klar? (Is everything ok? ...or... Do you understand?)
  • Schlafenzeit (Bedtime)
And the most important one of all...
  • Ich habe dich lieb! (I love you!)
Do you have any to add to the list? Leave me a comment!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Die Geschichte vom Löwen, der nicht schreiben konnte

My 4 year old son is a perfectionist. He wants to do everything his big brother does and he wants to do it just as well. When he doesn't succeed, he gets mad. Super boiling mad. A bit like the lion in this story who doesn't get what he wants.
"Neiiiiiin!" brüllte der Löwe.
"So was hätte ich doch nie geschrieben!"
("Noooo," roared the lion. I would never have written this!")

The lion is mad because he wants to write a letter to a lioness. Since he doesn't know how to write, he makes the other animals write for him, and the letter doesn't turn out the way he wants. The lion gets madder and madder, roaring and eating a few of the unfortunate letter-writers along the way, until he finally yells out with utmost eloquence what he wants to say and the lioness overhears him. She is smitten and all is well. The story ends with the lioness teaching a now-gentle lion how to write.

My own little lion just came and confiscated his book back. Maybe the lioness is making an impression on him, too :)

Die Geschichte vom Löwen, der nicht schreiben konnte - a sweet story about patience and perseverance for preschoolers and beginning readers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Preschool Language Diary

The Berlin government has published a Sprachlerntagebuch for use in Berlin daycare centers and nursery schools. You can download it and use it at home.

The Sprachlerntagebuch (say that 5 times fast!) is a language and development diary targeted toward preschoolers. The good stuff begins on page 20. It has pages for a self portrait, a picture of home, family, favorite animal, und, und, und. The child can draw pictures or paste in photos or cutouts from magazines for a scrapbook effect. Ask the child to narrate a sentence or two to go along with each page.

At almost 100 pages, the Sprachlerntagebuch is quite extensive, so pick and choose the pieces that you'd like to use. Personally, I would skip the bureaucratic section at the beginning - lots of questions about place of residence and language spoken at home.

Viel Spaß beim Basteln! It will make a fun keepsake!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Deutscher Jugendliteraturepreis Winners are Here

The 2008 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreisträger (award winners) were recently announced and I have added many of them to our catalog. These are such exciting, beautiful books!

I will be reviewing them over the next couple weeks and will take you on a tour. For now, here is a brief list:

Ein kleines Fingerspiel

From Fingerspiele:
Mit Hochgenüß
den Abendkuss
bläst der Elefant
auf Deiner Hand!
Take your child's hand and blow a raspberry into it as you get to the part about the elephant. Quick, easy and fun! Your child will demand it over and over - I speak from experience :)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ahhh Stollen!

Originally uploaded by ReneS

Juergen brought home the yummiest Stollen from Aldi yesterday. I know it's really Weihnachtsgebäck but I guess we're starting a little early :)

Speaking of Weihnachten, my little guy will attest to the fact that I've got a mountain books in my foyer, all waiting to be unpacked and put online for you to peruse. Lots of gorgeous new Christmas titles, some Sesamstrasse, and much more. The new titles should be online by Saturday. I hope you'll like them.

:) Sarah

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Free Unit Study - Martinstag

Martinstag is almost upon us. We have created a free unit study for you filled with crafts, songs, stories, and ideas for you to use with your children to learn more about this German holiday.

Go to the Free Martinstag Unit Study download page.

We'd love to hear what you think of our first unit study - please leave a comment letting us know if you had any questions or problems or if you'd like other information. The ages of your kids would also be helpful although totally optional.

We are already planning the next one for Nikolaus!

Viel Spass beim Lernen!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bilingual Families Wanted!

We'd like to interview several German-speaking bilingual families for the blog. Whether your whole family speaks German or just one parent and the kids, whether you're a native speaker or learned German as a adult (like me) - we want details! How do you manage the languages? What is your biggest challenge? Do your kids ever resist? Come on, it'll be fun! I promise - we'll do all the hard work. You just get to talk. :)

If you'd like to be interviewed on our blog, please send an e-mail to thea (at) .

Danke im voraus!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

VA Position Filled

Thank you to everyone who applied!

- Sarah

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Virtual Assistant Needed

Update 10/22/2008: This position has been filled.

Original post
We are looking to add some help to our team! This is a part-time, work from home position. If you're interested in applying to be our new VA, please see the jobs page for more information.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

German Game Night

My friend, Thea, is planning a German game night for her community - how lucky for Seattle! This sounds like so much fun. Families can get together, play German games, (and maybe some American games with German vocab), and have a great time. Thea treated us to a pack of Schwarze Hai cards (a German pirate version of Old Maid) and we have had so much fun with them.

Thea asked me for some ideas on how to make the game night a success.

Photo credit: Firutin

Which Games to Offer?

Many familiar games can be adapted to be a bit more "German."
  • Old Maid, for instance, is Der Schwarze Peter (or Der Schwarze Hai if you have the cool pirate cards).
  • Sorry! is known as Mensch, ärgere Dich nicht.
  • Chess (Schach) and checkers (Dame) (rules) are old standbys.
  • Hangman would be a fun addition - kids could have quick rounds of Hangman in between other games.
  • Memory (Memo) can be easily assembled with any two sets of matching flashcards or pictures.
  • Twister - great practice naming body parts.

Game Instructions
I suggested she have game instructions written up so people can play with little assistance. If a few parents get a run-down of the game choices beforehand, they can facilitate play.

Game Vocabulary
Here are some words and phrases useful when playing games.
  • Jetzt bist Du dran............It's your turn (card game)
  • Du bist am Zug.................It's your move (board game)
  • Springen............................Jump
  • Gutes Spiel ......................Good game
  • Wurfel (Würfel)................die (dice)
  • Regeln................................rules
  • Brettspiel ..........................board game
  • Kartenspiel........................card game
  • Konkurrenz.......................competition
I love games - we try to use them whenever possible in our learning. Kids get so wrapped up in the game, they forget they are practicing important skills.

I'll ask Thea to let us know how her event goes. Do you have any tips for her? Have you been to a German group game event?

Monday, September 29, 2008

German T-Shirt Giveaway!
Note: The T-shirts are all spoken for. Thanks!

Uwe Kind has released a new CD, Lingotech Deutsch, that is very popular in school classes.

To celebrate Uwe's new CD, the first 3 people to order Lingotech Deutsch or any other Uwe Kind title will receive a "Talking T", a unique T-shirt created by Uwe and printed with German phrases. I'll update my blog when the t-shirts are all spoken for. Note: all shirts are now spoken for.

You can also read an interview I did a while back with Uwe (in German only).

Viel Spaß!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Free German Lessons via Podcast

For teens and adults wishing to hear some beginning German, try Radio Lingua's free podcasts, One Minute German and A Flavour of German.

I always recommend that German learners use a variety of inputs, from books to music and audio to DVD. These podcasts look like a great way to do just that.

HT: Thea

German pop star helps students learn the language

What a fun way to excite kids about German! Lucky kids at Beverly High School.

HT: Thea!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Free German Alphabet Flashcards - Woohoo!

We've got a new set of flashcards online - this time we've done Das Alphabet. This happened on the spur of the moment. I was practicing some letters with my 4 year old and grabbed a camera to take his picture - he's such a ham!

He loved having his picture taken so much, he did the entire alphabet. We added the audio from Dad who is our resident native speaker and some representative words and presto - we've got new flashcards to share with you!

We hope you enjoy these flashcards as well as the other sets - please let me know if you have any comments or corrections.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Schultüten are traditionally given to German children on the first day of school. Filled with sweets, school supplies and small presents, they are meant to celebrate the beginning of school and make the transition easier for first graders.

Mausi has a nice history on Schultüten and Einschulung in Germany.

I'm not terribly crafty but the Schultüten ideas at look so cute and easy, I might just try a couple for my kids. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you like - it's common to see German youngsters with Schultüten almost as big as themselves!

I promise to take pictures of our Schultüten. I'd love to see yours as well! Leave me a comment here with a link or send me a photo to post.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tanz mit mit Tanzalarm

Mega fun stuff at the KI.KA website - you can learn the dance that goes along with the title song from Tanzalarm. My kids are going to love this!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thinking about Back to School

September is just around the corner - if you're looking for some extra help with German, why not see if there is a German Saturday School nearby?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New set of free German flashcards online!

The response to the Animal flashcards was incredible! Thank you so much for your kind words. I am thrilled so many of your children enjoyed them.

I've just posted a new set - Bei uns im Garten (Backyard Nature). This time my dear husband recorded the sound so you have the advantage of listening to a native German speaker. Take a look and let me know what you think!

This has turned into such a fun project for me and my kids. Next we are going to try producing our own photo story. My oldest is helping to take the pictures. The two younger boys are the (not always) smiling subjects. Stay tuned for another set!

-- Sarah

P.S. Please let me know if you have problems with the sound. I think it's a little quiet but it may just be my computer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thoughts on Language Learning

Up until now my strategy of imparting German to my children has been very simple - give them as much German as I can in a number of formats. We haven't spent any time actually "teaching" them German - we expect that they will learn it through immersion the same way they are learning English. And so far, so good - they even speak to their baby brother in German - amazing!

Now I'm preparing to start a little German hour with some good friends of ours who want to learn German as a part of their homeschooling. They don't speak any German so we'll be starting from square one. I'm not calling it a class or a lesson - we won't be that formal - since my friend's daughter is just 5. Instead we will try to start her off with some songs, words and phrases a la TPRS she can use in everyday situations. I'll be posting about my research and results on the blog. It's going to be a lot of fun for all of us!

Kinder-Radio in German!

Ohrenbär produces radio stories in German for kids. This is another nice way to enjoy German with your kids.

Thanks for the tip, Thea!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Alphabet Garten Favorites - at your fingertips

Announcing two new collections - the Little Kid Favorites Collection and the Big Kid Favorites Collection. Each set has 10 of our very favorite German books and 1 or 2 CDs for your budding bilinguals.

So many of you have contacted me to ask for recommendations of appropriate German books for your kids. These collections were created in response to your requests. You can still use the buying guide which lists several excellent choices by age group, but if you want a quick and easy purchase option, these collections have everything you need for that little bilingual in your life. Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ich bin cool - bist du cool?

This is a reprint of an interview I did with Uwe Kind in 2004 for the KiNA Magazine. Uwe has just released a new CD, LingoTech Deutsch, which I am pleased to offer to you and this seemed to be a great time to re-release this article. I plan to translate it into English as well soon.

Zehn Uhr morgens bei der Hopewell Valley Central High School in New Jersey. Über 800 aufgeregte Teenagers verhalten sich, als ob sie bei einem Rock-Konzert wären. Es wird mitgetanzt und mitgesungen, alles auf Deutsch natürlich. So ist es einfach bei einem Konzert von Uwe Kind. Das muss man wenigstens mal miterleben. Sarah Mueller war vor kurzem dabei und hatte später die Gelegenheit mit Uwe zu sprechen.

SM: Deine Geschichte ist echt interessant - Du bist mit Deinen Liedern und Deinen Büchern in der ganzen Welt bekannt. Wie hast Du damit angefangen?

UK: Ich war (Deutschlehrer) an der New School (in New York) und während der Kaffeepause habe ich immer Volkslieder mit meinen Schülern gesungen und dabei bemerkt, wie schnell sich meine Schüler die Texte der Volkslieder eingeprägt und in Ihr Vokabular aufgenommen haben. Das hat mich auf die Idee gebracht, deutsche Grammatik und Sprechakte mit Musik zu lehren. Der Erfolg war sofort sichtbar.

Mein erstes Buch mit Ursula Meyer vom Goethe Institut New York hiess: “O, Susanne, ja konjugiere für mich”) eine Art von “Vermusizierung der deutschen Grammatik

SM: Also hast Du gar nicht als Musiker angefangen?

UK: Nein –. Als Deutschlehrer!

Das Goethe Institut hat mich dabei sehr unterstützt und mir die Gelegenheit geboten wurde, Deutschlehrern und Schülern meine Lieder vorzuführen.

Nach ‘O,Susanne, ja konjugier für mich’, folgte ‘Tune in to English’, das in der ganzen Welt und ganz besonders in Japan ein grosser Hit wurde. Im Langenscheidtverlag erschien dann nach meinem Auftritt bei Johnny Carson und David Lettermann ‘Eine kleine Deutschmusik’ . Dieses Buch mit Musikcassetten wurde und ist immer noch ein internationaler Renner. NHKTV in Tokio machte aus der “kleinen Deutschmusik” ein erfolgreiches Fernsehprogramm.

Durch Anregung durch das Goethe Institut begannen meine ersten Konzerte und Konzerte sind nun praktisch zu meiner Hauptbeschäftigung geworden. Es begann mit 100 Schülern. Mittlerweile stehe ich schon vor 1200 Schülern. Lehrer haben schnell erkannt, dass Uwe Kind Konzerte eine ausgezeichnete Art ist, für Deutsch zu werben.

SM: Ja genau - bei Deinem Konzert wo ich dabei war, waren die Schüler total begeistert. Wie bringst Du die Kinder dazu, so toll mitzumachen?

UK: Das ist der Rhythmus der Musik, die lustigen Texte, die Bewegungen dazu und auch meine Begeisterung, die die Schüler spüren und sie mitreisst. Die Musik ist modern and cool und zu eine Art von “educational entertainment” geworden. Die neue LingoTech Konzert CD geht
Weg wie warme Semmeln und die Käufer sind nicht mehr die Lehrer, sondern die Schüler. Ich bin 55 Jahre alt, könnte gut der Grossvater von Vielen meiner Konzertteilnehmer sein, aber die Kids finden mich toll, bitten mich um Autogramme auf Ihre T-shirts, Schuhe Hände und Arme. Wenn für ein Lernfach soviel Begeisterung da ist, dann weiss man, dass man ins Schwarze getroffen hat.

SM: Ich habe das gar nicht erwartet – ich habe sogar gelesen, es waren Schüler dabei, die überhaupt nicht Deutsch lernen, und die waren auch voll dabei und hatten enormen Spass. Übrigens, was ist Dein Lieblingslied?

UK: “Ich bin cool“ finde ich echt cool. In Dänemark wurde dieses Lied ein Radiohit. Aber ich liebe auch den Ohrenwurm “Ich bin Ausländer“ ,den Deutschlehrer-und Schüler mit mir identifizieren.

SM: Ja – diese Lieder haben tollen Schwung.

UK: Mit Musik und Rhythmus prägt sich Lernmaterial viel leichter ein. Das hat die Reklameindustrie schon längst erkannt. Musik entspannt, nimmt die Angst, verhindert Lernblockaden und das Lernen wird erleichtert. Der Übergang vom Singen zum Sprechen ist ein natürlicher Vorgang. Natürlich ist das Singen und Rappen nur ein Teil des

SM: Viele Leute sind der Meinung, Deutsch ist eine schwierige Sprache. Was sagst Du dazu.

UK: Keine Sprache lernt sich leicht. Deutsch ist vielleicht etwas schwieriger am Anfang, aber ich sage immer, “Es ist der Sänger und nicht das Lied“ –Ist der Sänger gut, ist das Lied leicht zu lernen. Der Lehrer muss die Sprache “verkaufen” und die Sprache so attraktiv wie möglich verpacken. Musik, Rhythmus, Tanz und Bewegung gehören zu “Verpackungsmaterialien”.

SM: Hast Du einen guten Rat für Kinder, die privat Deutsch lernen wollen?

UK: Kindern lernen am besten, wenn man sie in Spiele und Aktivitäten involviert, nie kritisiert, sondern nur belohnt. Ich empfehle auch meine Bücher, wie “Eine kleine Deutschmusik”, “Deutschvergnügen” und die neue LingoTech CD.

SM: Vielen Dank für das Gespräch.

Uwe Kind gibt Konzerte, Lehrerseminare und lehrt Deutsch bei Siemens.
Auf seiner Webseite können Sie seine Bücher, Musikcasssetten und CDs sehen und teilweise auch anhören sowie seine bekannten Talking T-Shirts sehen und ebenfalls bestellen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Closed for Summer Break

We are closed for summer break until Monday, August 28. You can still place orders online but they will be held until that Monday for shipment.

Until then, take a look at our new free online German flashcards with audio!

Happy summer, everyone!

Monday, July 07, 2008 is looking for a new German Guide

The German site at is fantastic - free German lessons, help with grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary, German culture, und, und, und...

Well, they are looking for a new guide to run the site - are you the one?