Off topic: bilingualism
Thread poster: Julia Kasper

Julia Kasper
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:29
English to German
Feb 14, 2003

I read somewhere that just speaking two languages from an early age, does not necessarily make you a bilingual. Bilingual in the sense to be able to speak two languages like a native speaker is in fact supposed to be very rare. I am a German native speaker and I live with my British husband in England. We want our children to speak both languages. My husband talks English with the children and I stick to German. In conversations that include my husband, we all speak English. Obviously there is much less exposure to German. I wonder whether my children have a chance to grow up to become real bilinguals? Are there any bilinguals out there. What is your experience?


Anna Ryden (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
English to Swedish
+ ...
possible but difficult Feb 15, 2003


Both my sister and I are perfectly bilingual german-swedish, but in our case it took more than just one parent speaking german in our swedish home. In fact also our father used to speak german at home, even though it´s not his language, and we both went to the german school for 13 years.

I think that without the support of a school your children will be able to understand german perfectly, and they will speak it to you when they are small, but as soon as they start going to school the english language will prevail. Possibly they will be embarrassed by their bilingualism and they won´t admit to speaking german in public. It is very important that BOTH parents are VERY positive towards speaking the second language. The foreign language speaking parent must never force the child to speak his/her language, like pretending he/she doesn´t understand anything else (sounds strange, but happened a lot among friends who still have a bad relationship to german).

Anyway, all children grow up and then they will be more than grateful for their bilingualism. There are only advantages, e.g. it´s always easier to learn new languages if you´re predisposed for it \"by birth\".

Good luck and don´t give up!




Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
English to German
+ ...
Check this thread Feb 15, 2003

...I guess you\'ll find a few answers there:


Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:29
French to Spanish
+ ...
Yes, there are... Feb 15, 2003

I consider myself absolutly bilingual: french and spanish, two \"mother\" lenguajes... why not ? I spent all my life between those two lenguajes, and, more important, those two cultures. So, bilingual and bicultural... but, beware, that\'s no guarantee to be a good translator, of course. Please, go on like that with your childrens: it\'ll be the most precious gift you ever give them, and you\'ll make them very happy, I\'m shure !

Cheers. (Please excuse my very poor english writing)


Maya Jurt  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
Member (2002)
French to German
+ ...
More than just speaking two languages at home Feb 15, 2003


I see it in my family: the first kid speaks both, but talks to his sister in German, the language of his daily environment. So the little sister understands English, the tongue of her father, but does not speak it.

To make my son a bilingual person, I did much more: From the time he was seven, we had 20 minutes lessons 4 times a week at noon, very much against his will and inclination. If he wanted to watch TV, it was in English. We spend the holidays in the States in other English speaking countries. I favored English speaking families, had the kids over for week-ends. And all video tapes we rented (Disney and other films) were in English. He got enough exposure to French in school. The French of his elder Swiss German cousins was not very good, so my son spoke to them in English.

Today, I can say that he is fully bilingual, because he also prefers to read English books. Reading is very important.

When we started out, he hated it. Today, he is proud of it. And it helped a lot to acquire fluency in German as well.

I hope you have the courage to insist. It is well worth it.




Birgit Elisabeth Horn
Local time: 13:29
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
Very hard work!! Feb 15, 2003

Hallo Julia,

ich antworte dir auf deutsch, das geht schneller...

Ein hartes Stück Arbeit; ich lebe es im Moment voll aus:ich bin deutsche Muttersprachlerin und lebe mit meinem ital. Ehemann in Italien, unser Sohn ist vier. Er hält überhaupt nichts davon, mit seiner Mutter deutsch sprechen zu sollen. Da mein Mann kein Deutsch spricht, ist es noch viel schwieriger. Viele Bücher und deutsche Kinderstunde sind meine einzigen Verbündeten.

Eine große Hilfe war für mich ein Buch von Elke Montanari: Mit zwei Sprachen groß werden (Kösel Verlag ISBN 3-466-30596-9). Sehr zu empfehlen.

Was sehr wichtig ist: immer nur die eigene Sprache mit dem Kind sprechen, auch wenn der anderssprachige Partner anwesend ist.

Leichter gesagt als getan!!

Durchhalten lohnt sich auf jeden Fall: manchmal belohnt mich mein Sohn, wenn ich es am wenigsten erwarte, mit einem holprigen Satz und abschließend: habe gesagt ganz in deutsch, Mama.

Alles Gute



sylvie malich
Local time: 13:29
German to English
I have a funny story to tell Feb 15, 2003


On 2003-02-15 16:58, b.h. wrote:

Was sehr wichtig ist: immer nur die eigene Sprache mit dem Kind sprechen, auch wenn der anderssprachige Partner anwesend ist.

A girlfriend of mine is French, her husband is German. She only spoke French to her little girl, her husband only German. As a result her toddler addresses only women in French and only men in the German!

Now, I have a completely different situation: I\'m raising my child as a single English-speaking parent in a German-speaking country. I worriedly started reading all I could find on bilingualism when she was still a baby because the initial problem was, naturally, that I wouldn\'t be able to separate 2 languages in my household. I would only speak English in the home but my daughter knew I could speak and understand both languages. So as a consequence she addressed everybody in mixed language sentences. Horrible! I thought I\'d failed. But by the time she was 4 she figured out that there were 2 completely separate languages out there in our immediate environment and there were people who only understood one of them, so she started separating the languages herself! This was the first stage on the way to true bilingualism.

I absolutely respect what Anna Ryan is saying about it taking more than just speaking the language at home. It is a difficult journey that, as a parent, you can\'t give up or stop at the \"passive bilingual\" stage, or in my case, at the mixed-language stage.

You have to convince your kids that your language is WONDERFUL. Videos and vacations are not enough. I also know from experience that the language spoken at home is more \"cool\" if there are same-age kids speaking it in your child\'s environment.

My own parents came from the old country and it was embarassing for me that they spoke German. Ewww, how uncool! They were also of the old school \"if you don\'t speak to us in German we will ignore you.\" And they sent me to German school on Saturdays when all my little girlfriends were taking ballet!! Well, you can imagine how I felt about the language.

If you can send your child to an international school as well, then bilingualism is just about guaranteed.

My daughter, now 10, is attending a bilingual/bicultural school and both languages are at the native speaking level.


Gillian Searl  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:29
Member (2004)
German to English
Looking at this thread Feb 16, 2003

and the one Ralf mentions it seems to me that although the parents can do a lot to help the child to become bilingual it takes even more effort to become truly bilingual - it involves living and studying in both languages/cultures. If a child spends a number of years living in one country and then the other then they will eventually reach the point where they can be considered bilingual and bicultural. That of course requires a greater committment by the parents and it is hard to imagine families choosing to move countries just for that purpose. In West African culture children are frequently moved around relatives and these days that may include being sent from Europe to Africa or the other way round and having to adapt not only to a new language (French/English as well as their local language(s)) but a new culture, climate and environment too. There\'s no doubt that children are very flexible but it requires enormous committment to being up a truly bilingual child.


Arthur Borges
Local time: 20:29
+ ...
Bilingualism vs. Translation Feb 16, 2003

I say \"versus\" because I remember visiting a rural home in Finland where the father spoke Swedish and the mother, Finnish. They had a son who struck me as being of sub-average intelligence but was perfectly bilingual. Intrigued I asked him how to translate something simple from the one language to the other - something like \"How are you?\" or \"Where\'s the pen?\" Well, he had to think about it a longish while and came up with a grammatically incorrect answer although he had expressed the same thought correctly earlier in monolingual conversation.


Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
+ ...
Just the list for you! Feb 17, 2003

Hi there,

sorry I missed this one. Hope you are still tracking it.

You sound like you would be wise joining the bilingual families mailing list.

Check out the details here!

The list comprises 400+ families all trying to do what you are doing and their collective advice is invaluable. Plus it is generally a very good humoured list with some truly great people.

See you on the list,



Julia Kasper
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:29
English to German
Thank you Feb 17, 2003

Thanks for all the good advice I have received from you.


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:29
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Any second language input in early childhood ist beneficial Feb 26, 2003

I\'m a native German living since 27 years in Finland and have two children. With their mother we conversed at home in English and talked our respective tongues to the children. My daughter speaks very well German and keeps contact to my relatives. My son spoke at first German, but became reluctant later on. Anyhow he still understands German and even talks it, if he has to.

Of course if their is German Kindergarten or a German school in your town put the children there.

Brain research has shown, that in early childhood the brain developes differently, if the child learns two or more languages. Language centers for both languages develope at the same location. When one learns a foreign language later, the center developes further away in the brain.

Bilanguals are very common here in Finland, almost all children of the Swedish minority speak perfectly Finnish, but the problem is, that Finnish is corroding the Swedisch, as people in daily conversation use much more frequently Finnish and its so much easier to swear in Finnish...


Horst2  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
English to German
+ ...
Bilingualism is fun and a clear advantage Feb 28, 2003

I had kids in varieties of bilingual situations. My impression so far is that kids actually enjoy it and benefit fom it.


Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:29
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
my experience bringing up 2 hopefully biliginual kids Mar 6, 2003

I\'m sorry I missed the beginning of this thread and have just now quickly scanned over it.

Anyway, I have 2 children I\'m rying to raise as bilingual as possible, with very good results so far: they switch between the 2 languages depending on situation, have a very rich vocabulary in both languages and are also able to translate the meaning, not the words, and do \"play with words\" in both languages.

Background: I am Italian, but raised in 4 different countries and 3 languages (i.e. Italian was always spoken at home, but I attended Italian, English and French schools as we were moving country). My husband is German, brought up with only German and speaks English fluently.

Strategy: right from day 1 (when the baby only goes guga-gaga) I always addressed the children in Italian, my husband in German. To compensate for the fact that we live in Italy and Italian is therefore the dominant language around us, we always had a German-speaking aupair, thus making German the majority language at home. TV, videos, CD-ROMS, gameboy diskettes etc is strictly in German. Music cassettes for car trips are German. At home I\'m the only one speaking Italian; when the kids are around I speak Italian to my husband and the aupair, they reply in German (if I don\'t understand, they repeat in Italian for me, then back to German) (when the kids are not around, conversation with husband and aupair is usually in English because my German is limited). We have as many German books in the house as Italian ones and we read to the children in both languages (of course each one of us in his/her native language only). When we see the kids show a special interest in a topic (dinosaurs, Harry Potter, Asterix, whatever) we get books about that in German so that although they attend Italian school they are stimulated to read in German as well. Felix (who is in primary 3) has taught himself to read German with a great dinosaur book. He is now really into Ancient Egypt, so we got him some nice German books about pyramids and pharaohs (of course they have do be appealing books for kids, with pictures and captions, so that they will WANT to read them. Although we live in a small place, we met 2 other German-speaking families with kids the same age as ours and we try to spend as much time as possible with them. The children speak German among themselves and they can also hear more grown-ups speaking German together.

The amazing thing is that their Italian is benefitting from this too, because of all the \"translating\" that goes on at home. We really try hard not to slip into the laziness of mixing up the 2 languages in the same sentence (all too easily done, once we realise that the other person understands anyway). Teachers at school report that they have a very rich vocabulary and a very good grasp of the structure of language.

A couple of interesting things are in the accent and pronounciation: they both pronounce r as in German r, instead of the rolling Iralian r; Sophie (who is the more musical of the 2) changes her accent slightly with each new aupair, to match the aupair\'s accent; Felix (who cannot sing in tune) sounds a bit more \"foreign\" and I guess that is something that will never leave him. People will always probably wonder where he is from, because they will not be able to tell from the accent. Interestingly enough, with Italian it\'s the opposite: Sophie has my more \"neutral\" Italian accent, while Felix has picked up more of the local flavour.

Inevitably, there will be situations/subjects in which they will feel more at ease in 1 language, others which will come more natural in the other language. But that is also the case with mono-lingual individuals: it is unlikely that a nuclear engineer will ever be articulate and at ease with legalese...



To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Fernanda Rocha[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »


Advanced search

PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search