I'm Gareth, originally from the UK and living with my German wife and our five week old daughter Naomi in Düsseldorf, Germany.
We're enjoying getting used to life as parents and deciding how we want to go about giving Naomi the best possible chance of learning both English and German. As my wife is (initially) at home and I'm at work all day, I'm concerned that it won't be enough if I'm the only person speaking English, especially as we have a lot of German friends and visitors at home. My wife is thinking of speaking a mixture of English and German to "up" the English input...but we're not sure if that would confuse Naomi. Anyway, we're still experimenting and reading up on the best approach, so I'm delighted to have found this forum and the Bilingual Monkeys website, and am enjoying reading your questions, ideas and experiences. It's encouraging to read so many success stories, and see that many of you are in similar situations to us!
As a daughter of an English father and a German mother and having been born and raised in Germany, I can assure you: it can be done.
I am now passing on the gift I received from my parents to my own children - as are my brother and sisters!
Our father had to work a lot, but always took time to read and talk to us in English intensively for at least half an hour every day, and it was enough to get us to a point where we could top it off on our own with additional reading, talking to other native speakers, and watching films in English.
You have come to the right place - there is lots of encouragement among the zoo members, and there are several parents in similar situations (where the father is the ml speaker and less present at home). And the rest of us will give encouragement too.
What language do you speak together, your wife and you? If you do speak English, then maybe it makes sense to keep English as your family language. When your wife is alone with Naomi, maybe she'll switch to German, as it is probably more natural to her.
Frankly, your daughter will learn German very quickly, especially if she goes to German-speaking daycare. It's not about German that I would worry. Sam started daycare at 15 months, and he had no problem understanding and "speaking" with the staff, although we stopped talking German at home.
Gareth, welcome! I see you've already been greeted warmly at the gate by other keepers!
First, congratulations to you and your wife on the birth of your daughter! If you haven't already come across it, this resource page for new parents, at my blog, could be of special interest.
As for your situation, since you're the main minority language parent and yet not the main caregiver, the odds of success will be much higher if your wife is actively using English with little Naomi. In fact, I don't know whether or not this would be viable for your family, but you would probably experience the most success by adopting English as your home language (the "minority language at home" approach). In other words, English is used by both you and your wife at home, with your daughter and with each other. Outside the home, you could switch to German, stick to English, or try a blend of both (you continue speaking English while your wife uses German).
Ultimately, her acquisition of German won't be an issue (as Elodie mentioned); your essential challenge is making sure that she's receiving enough exposure to English on a daily basis.
Gareth, best wishes on your bilingual journey!
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, and the author of the popular non-fiction book Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability amzn.to/22XKuCt and the humorous novel How I Lost My Ear amzn.to/2EsjVRS, both available worldwide.
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Agnese: Thank you for the suggestion!
Jul 21, 2018 15:40:43 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter met some inversed ML/ml kids today who live in our ml country. Their parents probably weren't thrilled they found n ML (for them) friend in their ml country. I'm sorry...a little bit.
Aug 7, 2018 2:07:34 GMT 9
Amy: Looks like the 3 weeks in ml1 country paid off: my ML mother reports my youngest would only speak ml1 to her! Lol Not sure ML childminder will be so happy when she returns... loool!
Aug 25, 2018 0:38:50 GMT 9
Mayken: Sounds like fun times ahead, Amy! Keep us posted.
Aug 27, 2018 23:15:08 GMT 9
Adam Beck: NEW! Something Strange Happened 2 Days After We Moved into Our New House (And Its Significance to Change and Transformation on the Bilingual Journey)buff.ly/2ww8WDD
Aug 31, 2018 10:30:39 GMT 9
Amy: Happiest bilingual mum in the world : the new lady who conducts activities in ml2 with my eldest just assessed her level as pretty much equivalent to that of a native ml2 child! After that awful back-to-school start, this is like music to my ears.
Sept 6, 2018 0:00:13 GMT 9
Wojtek: I've been thinking for a long time to write an update and hopefully, I will do it one day. My brother married a Russian woman. That was nice to see that my 5-year-old daughter could play with her and speak English together!
Sept 7, 2018 21:37:25 GMT 9
Wojtek: After some time, she ran up and told me: "She is speaking English!"
Sept 7, 2018 21:38:31 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice to hear your happy news, Wojtek! And congratulations to your brother and his bride! It sounds like they may have a bilingual child in their future, too! Cheers to you all!
Sept 7, 2018 21:58:17 GMT 9
Mayken: Victor's flashcards look amazing! I hope I'll win the giveaway - if not, I'll purchase a set for Christmas for sure. Thanks Adam for sharing these gems with us!
Sept 26, 2018 23:32:30 GMT 9
Marisa: Adam, I second Mayken's enthusiasm and gratitude for your posting about Victor's flashcards, they look amazing, thank you so much for the post! I already bought one set
Sept 30, 2018 10:25:51 GMT 9