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Bilingual Baby and Deutsch Dienstags

20 Mar Posted by in Language | 3 comments
Bilingual Baby and Deutsch Dienstags
Today my suspicions were confirmed. My son prefers German over English; at least he seems to understand more German than English.

Our son, Fynn already knows the word “ball” and that’s pretty much where the English starts and stops. And that isn’t saying too much considering it is the same word in German just pronounced a little differently. If you ask him in English, “Where is the ball?” or “Bring Momma the ball,” he will follow instructions.

His very first word was “Ei,” (pronounced eye) which is what the Germans say when they want a child to be gentle. They say, “Ei” and grab his hand to gently stroke their cheek.

Fynn quickly picked up on the word “Ei,” but not the gentle part. Every time someone says “Ei machen,” he reaches his hand out and either slaps you in the face or smacks the top of your head. Yep, that move needs work.

If you ask him in German or English to, “Give me five,” he used to always do it regardless of language, but I think that’s because it is a visual game and he knows to hit your hand when he sees a palm facing upwards. Plus, we’ve already established he likes to hit.

We haven’t been playing “Gibt mir fünf” lately, so he’s forgotten what to do and unfortunately just started screaming when the neighbor tried to play with him a few weeks ago.

Before Fynn started walking on his feet, he was walking on his knees, hence the nickname, Luke Knee-Walker. (Here is a short video of him walking on his knees although he is going slow because he is also on the phone with my mom.)YouTube Preview Image


Here is another video just for fun. Kay was jumping and Fynn was trying to mimic him.

YouTube Preview ImageTo date, Fynn walks on his feet, but when he falls, he then runs around on his knees until he finds something to grab on to and lift himself up. Well, if he wants to stand up at all.

I am constantly telling him, “Fynn, stand up,” but he never listens and I have to chase after him and lift him onto his feet. (He’s pretty fast on his knees. It’s a little crazy-looking and I can’t help but laugh with everyone else when we are in public. Sorry, baby.)

And then one day, while visiting Oma and Opa (Grandma and Grandpa) I figured out why he doesn’t listen to me.

Fynn and I go to Oma and Opa’s house every Tuesday so they can see the baby (I still refuse to refer to him as a toddler. Mommy needs to learn to let go.) and so I can practice my German (Deutsch Dienstags translates to German Tuesdays). We call them Oma and Opa but they are really Fynn’s great-grandparents.

And the great-grandparents live just downstairs from the grandparents.

A few weeks ago, Opa told Fynn to “Steht auf” (Stand up) in German. And Fynn listened.

So the next time he was cruising around on his knees, I tried it, “Steht auf” and the little bugger listened. Grrrrr! Are you kidding me?

This also explains why when I tell him, “Look,” he doesn’t turn his head. But if you say, “Guckmal,” which is “look” in German, he looks.

Ok, so apparently I need to speak more English with him? But I’m with him all day, every day.

The final punch in the gut happened today. I was speaking German to him and I said, “Ok, are you ready to go upstairs to see Oma and Opa?” And little Luke Knee-Walker started waving to Oma and Opa. Then as I was packing up his toys, he walked out of the living room, through the hall, and proceeded to stand at the front door screaming for me to come.

Great-grandma started laughing because he obviously understood my German and was ready to go upstairs. This is not good. Or is this good? He understands me. But I’m speaking GERMAN. Crap. What have I done?

Based on what I’ve read about bilingual children, it is suggested that either each parent speaks their native tongue all the time to the child or you can also use location as a language differentiator. So at home everyone speaks English and out of the house everyone speaks German.

We had planned to use the former. But the problem is, when we are at the Grandparents’ houses, they don’t speak any English. So I end up speaking German to Fynn.

This also means that our daughter should only speak German to Fynn, and when my husband reminded her of that this weekend, she was upset because she likes practicing her English with Fynn.

I guess the plan now is for me to invest some time into researching a bit more on bilingual children and perhaps convincing Kay that we should find some English flash cards and games for him.

I have also read that children most times prefer their mother’s native language because they have heard it since they were in the womb. That research can be tossed out the window.

I have to admit, I’m not too worried because if he is understanding everything, than I am happy… and he is still fairly young.

But I am amazed, excited, and surprised at how much he already understands at 16 months. I’m not saying I think he is advanced or anything, I’m just saying that babies in general are phenomena.

I also want to feel like I’m doing everything in my power to give him the best chance for success in both languages. I have significantly cut down his TV time (maybe only 10 minutes per day, if that) and so I thought most of his language exposure was English… Well, think again, Mommy. I guess not.

  1. Carolee Rausch03-21-12

    The bilingual “plan” doesn’t quite work out in the real world I must admit.
    All I know is it’s a breeze teaching other people’s kids English in comparison to my own.
    BUT if they REALLY want something I’m not willing to give them it is amazing how bilingual they can be. :-)

    • Mommy03-21-12

      LOL And then add on top of it that every child is different. I guess we just do what works best in our own situations. :)

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