Raising Alex in Two Languages

Back story

My father's father's parents came from Germany around 1900, and my dad spoke a few phrases of German to me and my sisters when we were kids. (Mostly "Raus mit du!")

Later, in high school, I had the chance to learn a foreign language. I'd heard that German was good for engineers, and that's what I wanted to be. So I took it for three years... and even though I got an award in the subject, I still couldn't read or speak it fluently.

A few years later, I ran into a huge trove of cheap pulp German language novels, $1 each, at the local drugstore. It being winter and I having no car and not much to do, I struggled through them. After a few months of that, I was able to read novels for pleasure, and eventually became proficient. Writing and speaking was still hard, though.

And then came Alex

Eventually I met Liz, and when we decided to start a family. I figured I may as well pass my hard-earned foreign language on to my son. According to the one person, one language idea, all you have to do is have one parent always speak to the child in the minority language, and the kid can't help but learn it.

Because my spoken German wasn't really all that good, we also hired a native german babysitter. And we had the great luck to have a dual immersion German/English charter school (Goethe International) open up just when it was time for him to start first grade.

And you know what? It worked. I pretty much only speak German with our son, Liz speaks only English with him, and he speaks both. It doesn't seem to have slowed his progress in English at all.

Things to read and to listen to

But it takes effort to keep a minority language alive. The school can only help so much; 70% of their students don't speak any German when they arrive, so if he's going to be fluent, I've got to make sure he has fun things to read and listen to at home. And that's hard. Here are places I've gotten books / cds / dvds locally:

And online: If you have other tips, please write me (dank at kegel.com) and let me know.