Raising a bilingual baby (and brushing up on Deutsch as an adult)

OSZagIgPersonal share here: My dad is from formerly East Germany – Leipzig – and came to the US when he was a teenager in the 1950’s.  By the time I was born, in the 70’s, he had stopped speaking German very much other than when he was having an argument with my grandmother.  I grew up speaking only English, though I did study German in high school and college.

I have read some studies showing that speaking several languages to children from an early stage helps to get their neurons firing.

From The Economist in 2013:

The benefits, by contrast, are both strong and long-lasting. Bilingual children as young as seven months outperform monolinguals at tasks requiring “executive function”: prioritising and planning complex tasks and switching mental gears. This is probably because monitoring the use of two languages is itself an exercise in executive function. Such studies control for socio-economic status, and in fact the same beneficial effects have been shown in bilingual children of poor families. Finally, the effects appear to be lifelong: bilinguals have later onset of Alzheimer’s disease, on average, than do monolinguals.

These benefits are stronger the earlier the children learn the second language.  And so, for that reason, I have been brushing up on my Deutsch to be able to speak to Hannah more often in German.  Some resources I have found, which might be of value to others who are learning German again after an extended break are:

– the Slow German podcast.  Every week the owner produces a podcast of news or other themes, read slowly so that you can really understand what is being said.  The site is also full of links to German music, vocab lists, and other resources.  You could get silly lost in it.

Amazon.de will deliver to the US for a surcharge of about 3 euros.  We have purchased a number of German children’s books, which I add an English translation to, so my husband knows what’s being said when he reads it!   You can also get DVD’s – I got the entire Harry Potter set for myself because I know the movies so well, I thought I would pick up more words by watching them auf Deutsch.

Duolingo offers a very Rosetta-Stone like experience (ie not simply lessons in “translations” but learning a language the way a child learns it, by learning what “things” are rather than learning what it is in English, and then learning the English translation).  I love Duolingo, which has apps that have quick 5 minute lessons, and a social aspect so you can “compete” with your friends.

– YouTube videos.  This link will take you to a list of search results of German TV shows for kids, mostly cartoons.  We don’t watch much TV with Hannah (none at all before she was a year old) but from time to time I’ll put these on so that she (and I) can be immersed in the German.  I have also found various TV shows like Seinfeld in German which I enjoy having on from time to time as I’m cleaning or working just so I can hear the language and start to pick it up.

There are plenty of other language learning resources at the library (and other online resources like Mango Languages, Rosetta Stone, Pronunciator, Pimsleur, and others) but this list is what I have been able to incorporate into my life around work, hobbies, mommyhood, etc.

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