Friday, June 19, 2009

Do your kids think German is only for parents and old people?

Frankie is a minor celebrity in our house.
At age 11, Frankie seems to do everything my boys (ages 5 and 9) can only dream of. He plays baseball, is a boy scout, has a real pocket knife, and best of all, a pool in his very own backyard. Luckily for us, Frankie is a great kid and I'm glad to have my kids look up to him as a role model.

Role models and peers are really important for kids learning German.
Kids need to see that there are other kids who speak German, too. It's not just Papa's language or what we speak with Oma. If your German network is very small or far-flung, this can easily be the case. Without other kids who speak German to look up to and relate to, they may decide the language is not relevant to them. German will be, in their minds, a language of "old people", i.e. not cool.

You know where that will lead, don't you?

So instead of letting things go down that path, why not bring your very own peers and role models into our house using... German books.

When you read exciting, enchanting, or everyday stories auf Deutsch to your kids, they see that they are not the only ones who know German.
They will even think about these stories in German (they have to - that's how they know them and it's very hard to transfer these thoughts back to English). They will transfer these positive associations to the German language itself. They will accept these book worlds, where German is the norm, and understand that there are real places where German is commonplace. This may be a great revelation for some children!

What if my child attends a German school? Doesn't he have enough peers and role models who are bilngual?
If your child attends a German school, then you are one of the lucky few. This experience will make a huge difference in how he views German. But you still should confirm that the children actually use German to communicate among themselves. English is often still the norm outside of class when kids aren't yet fluent, and so you still need to create peers and role models. Regardless, kids can always benefit from a storybook character to whom they can relate.

In summary:
1. Watch out for the perception that German is just for parents and old people.
2. Look for role models and peers who speak German.
3. If necessary, find them in books.
4. Let the positive associations follow.

Frankie's example has pushed my kids to become a bit more adventurous. What would a few good role models do for your children's love of German?

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