Before the Dude was even a sparkle in my eye, I made a firm decision to raise my child to be bilingual. I read lots of blogs and even got some books. There are two primary theories. First, the household language stipulates that the entire household speaks one language, usually that which is not the community language outside. Second, the one-parent one-language philosophy argues that each parent should speak their native language with the child. The former is the most popular with bilingual families and what we chose to pursue.
For me this decision was completely natural as it was totally unnatural to speak German to my child. Also, I did not know any songs in German so instead of silence I picked American nursery rhymes. The German speaks German to the Dude.
Because I am the only English speaker the Dude knows, I reinforce the language via books, CDs, and DVDs. Baby Einstein (particularly Baby Noah these days) is very popular in our house. Also, I speak English with the Dude everywhere, not just at home: the local swimming pool, play group, even the grocery store. As a result I speak more English at home at the German has even picked up more. Since giving birth, the amount of German in the home has actually decreased.
Out of this has come a Deutsch-English mix: Dinglish. As I reported, the Dude has indeed started to talk. Most of his vocabulary consists of words that exist in both languages: mama, papa, ball. Some words however are a bit different. I have taught him "thank you." For weeks he would say, "dank du." But now it comes out "danke," i.e. the German form.
His favorite word is "nein." I was a bit sad because I felt that the Dude was not picking up on English. Today he proved me wrong. I went to put him in his car seat so that we could go to the store. When I took his stuffed animal away in order to buckle the belt, he shouted, "No!" I was estatic. Later, after lunch, he looked at his empty plate and raised his palms, "Aww Ga." I think he was trying to say "all gone."
It appears that the Dude knows that Mama has a different language. It is our secret language and thus he must use those words with me. He knows to switch with people who do not use the secret language. Maybe I am just a really proud mom, but there is a light on behind those eyes which makes me very happy.
Over the weekend we had a visitor. A good friend from Canada came to see the sites in Wildeshausen. After that 30 minutes we spent most of the time just hanging out. It blew the Dude's world that someone else spoke the secret language. He was very shy and did not know what to say. But he is after all, my son, so he was able to babble regardless.