Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bilingualism x 7. An Interview with Anne-Marie Gorman

I recently corresponded with Anne-Marie Gorman about her family's experience raising and homeschooling 6 7 bilingual kids. Here is our conversation:

Sarah: How old are children?

Anne-Marie: They are 17, 17, 14, 12, 9, 7, 5

Sarah: How do you speak German with your family?

Anne-Marie: My husband and I speak some German with the kids.

Sarah: How do your children respond?

Anne-Marie: They all respond in German, but the extent to which they can understand and reply is much smaller for the younger ones. The three oldest are fluent; the fourth is fluent but grammatically inaccurate; the fifth is comfortable but has limited vocabulary and grammar; the two youngest make sentences but have very limited vocabulary and grammar.

Sarah: Why do you want your children to speak German?

Anne-Marie: I grew up bilingual (English and French) and learned other languages, including German, in high school and college. My husband learned French and Latin in school and German as an adult. I always assumed our kids would learn languages too, and figured French would be the first one. But it happened that German was actually, after English, the next most useful language for us.

When the oldest were still preschoolers, we spent a year in Germany on a research grant (my husband is an academic); we hoped for more such opportunities, so it made sense to maintain and expand what German the kids had acquired. As things have turned out, we've gone back for two further stays. Each time, we try to teach the kids some German in advance, and they learn tons more while we're there, from going to school/kindergarten in German. (We homeschool in the US but not in Germany).

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

Anne-Marie: For the oldest ones, I don't actually teach. They just read and write in German.
For the youngest ones, I just read stories and we watch movies, and we haven't had problems with that, except for the cost.

The difficulty is with the 12-year-old. She has picked up a lot of German by immersion, but doesn't have much grammar. I have not yet found a good resource for teaching her. I'm using a grammar review aimed at German schoolchildren, but it doesn't have enough practice for our purposes. Also, it often assumes that the student uses correct grammar without understanding it, so there often isn't enough explanation.

What are your goals for your children in speaking German?

Anne-Marie: We wanted them to enjoy school and make friends when we were in Germany, and stay in contact with these friends when we came home.

Sarah: Would you recommend your favorite German language book, CD or DVD.

Anne-Marie: Otfried Preussler's Krabat.

Sarah: Do you have access to German language children materials through another source such as public library, school library, Samstagschule, other…

Anne-Marie: There is a Goethe-Institut in Washington, DC and a German school north of here. They probably have materials but they are inconvenient for me to get to. Our public library system has some materials in German, but not at our branch. They are in the process of updating their catalog, so I hope that I will soon be able to find out what they have and order it sent to our branch.

Sarah: How long have you known about Alphabet Garten?

Anne-Marie: I had heard of you several months ago, but didn't need anything at the time, and forgot about you. Then I was reminded of you (on the Sonlight homeschooling forums) and read your blog.

Sarah: Anne-Marie, thanks for your time!

Bilingual Families Wanted!
We are always looking for new families to interview! It's quick, painless, and lots of fun! Plus, we'll send you a free book for participating.

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


Sarah Mueller said...

Ugh. I promise, people, I can count! Anne-Marie has 7 kids. My apologies, Anne-Marie.

Jeanne said...

Does Anne-Marie have a blog or contact info? I would love to chat with her! I am finding it hard to strike a balance between German and English since I am not a native speaker of German. Plus she is a fellow mom of 7 (and twins too!)


Sarah Mueller said...


I'll forward your note to Anne-Marie.

Thanks :)