Tuesday, June 16, 2009

We sprechen Dinglish

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.


Gracey said...

I have experience with the second theory (each parent -mostly- speaks his own language) and it works!

Unfortunately, I have observed that, when the kid goes to school (let's say, a German school), he/she learns the Grammatic and other rules of the language taught there, while failing to learn the ones of the second language - because he/she is not taught. As a result, he/she speaks good English, for example, but doesn't know why something is said this way and not the other.

I believe it is important to instinctively know the language, but also understand its rules and
general logic. So, I would suggest some English lessons too when the time is right.

But I also I think it's cute to share "a secret language" with your kid. :)

Claire said...

I completely agree with the importance of the English rules.

As I am an English teacher, I already have several children's books and learning aids.

Be prepared!

christina said...

Woo, he's off to a great start! If you're consistent they do learn to differentiate between the two languages very quickly and my boys used to love entertaining our friends with the "Mummy says, Papa sagt" thing.

OPOL has worked wonderfully for us and they still speak to me in English-only even if they are cool teenagers now. Being an English teacher does come in handy when it comes to explaining all those grammar rules and I'm really happy when I can help them understand something their teacher at school has perhaps not explained so well. The big guy wrote the Cambridge First Certificate exam yesterday and I'm anxious to see how he did.

Sarah said...

Can you please let me know which books on OPOL you found helpful? Our baby is due in September and I would like to read up! Thanks!

Carrie said...

That's great! Hopefully he won't pick up the English words you don't want him to know.

Snooker said...

I think it's great that you're going the route of the bilingual. But I agree wholeheartedly with Gracey, the ability to speak in a "second native language" is one thing, but to speak, read and write in it is something completely different. Without the training in both languages, the usefulness of the second one is reduced.

Anonymous said...

" Dude" , was this posted in the 1970s?