Raising a Bilingual Child in Germany

germany | german flag

Welcome back and happy Wednesday! Today, I wanted to talk about a topic that was recently asked in the comments: how we are raising our bilingual child in Germany.

For anyone new here, my husband and I have a 1 year old daughter, E, who was born in Germany last June. While we always planned to have our child be bilingual, it’s been a more relaxed experience than I expected. And though she doesn’t talk much yet, we have already seen her understanding of both English and German.

The Pros of Bilingualism

I’ve never wanted myself to push my dreams onto my child, but having our daughter be bilingual is definitely something I feel strongly about. Being able to speak more than one language opens the doors further to other cultures more than just reading about them. It gives you millions of more people to connect with as well and once a second language is learned, the ease to learn another is greater. On top of being able to connect with more people, it may also bring more professional opportunities.

Our “Method” for Bilingualism

Before E was born, we did talk a little bit about how we would raise her bilingual. Since my husband is German, we just figured that he would speak German all of the time and I would speak English. While that would have been a great method, with me being with E most of the time and wanting to expose her more to German, things changed a little bit.

As a whole, I would say that both German and English are spoken equally, but we don’t have set times when one language will be spoken over the other. When I’m home alone with E, I do speak German wherever I can, while also translating what I say into English. While reading books, whether in English or German, I will point out key words that I can say in both languages well.

A short article the The Local, a website for expats in Germany, helps explain a few benefits of bilingualism. In the short article, the author talks about her experience feeling pressured to speak German to her kids while out in public. I definitely feel this as well whenever I go out, but for the most part I speak English and translate to German when I know I can say things correctly. We live in Germany, so E will learn German regardless anyways and it’s not something I worry or think too much about anymore.

The Language Benefits of Having a Child in Germany

As a native English speaker, I feel blessed to be in a multicultural relationship and share the gift of 2 languages with my child. Kids are able to absorb languages really easily and I don’t have to worry about the pressure of constantly speaking German had we stayed in Canada. I know that my daughter will learn German regardless, and she will also be able to learn a third language in school here as well.

One of the other benefits to being in Germany is having access to books in German as well as in English. If we were still living in Canada, we may have a few German books around, but it would be a lot more expensive to buy and ship them. Thankfully, in Germany, popular English children books are easy to buy!

Our Results so far…

As I mentioned in the beginning, E doesn’t speak much so far, but we’ve seen evidence of bilingualism earlier than I expected. I didn’t think much of it before, but I just assumed that we wouldn’t know until she became more verbal.

The first time I noticed how much she understood was a couple of months ago. I had asked E something in English and when my husband asked the same thing a couple of hours later she responded the same way. It’s definitely a very cool experience to know your 1 year old can understand two languages! I also feel a little bit intimidated because my child may already know more German than I do!

Thank you to Bonnie for asking for this topic and once E gets a bit older, I can share more about our bilingual experience. I’m no expert on bilingualism, but if you have any other questions, be sure to leave a comment!

If the topic of language learning interests you, make sure you check out what I wrote back in November about the Hardest Part of Living Abroad!

5 thoughts on “Raising a Bilingual Child in Germany

    1. It depends on what the school offers, but I think French or Spanish could be possible options. A lot of people speak Dutch where we live as well.

  1. Interesting post! At this point, little E won’t even realize she’s learning two languages. My older daughter is fascinated by languages, and always regrets that the first languages of her grandparents and great grandparents were not passed on into her daily life.

  2. I remember having a lot of questions about how would be the best way to teach our kids both languages when we were in Germany. Turns out it’s easier than you think! I spoke only English with my boys (except for occasionally German in public). They played quite a bit with German kids, as well as their father speaking German, so they got to hear and understand both. In the early years they often mixed both languages in one sentence. Then they started kindergarten and school, and had no problem switching between languages. It’s quite amazing to witness! One thing I would like to note, though, is by the time they were in 4th grade (or somewhere around there) it became more comfortable/ normal for them to speak German than English, and I found myself sometimes being the only one speaking English in the house! That is why I think it was important to have a strong foundation of mostly English from the beginning, because the German will come naturally just from living there.
    It’s been interesting reading your posts!

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