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!