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 book "Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability", praised worldwide by parents and experts in the field. Available at Amazon amzn.to/22XKuCt, the global Amazon sites, and other booksellers.
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Raquel: I love it, Mayken! What a sweet lady. I would have listened in and not asked, hehe. Did you use it to show your daughter how useful the ml can be?
Dec 21, 2017 20:35:38 GMT 9
Mayken: Raquel, my daughter loved it - both the coincidence, and that this lady was learning our language!
Dec 24, 2017 22:25:47 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Happy New Year to you all! Let's make 2018 a really good year!
Dec 31, 2017 7:04:50 GMT 9
Joanna: Packing to go home from Canada...luggage scale reading 23 kg of minority language books!
Dec 31, 2017 23:48:06 GMT 9
Amy: Happy new year to all! . May 2018 bring you every success in your bilingual endeavours!
Jan 1, 2018 23:08:58 GMT 9
Mayken: Happy new year to everyone! I shared a little New Year's Eve story in the Snack Bar.
Jan 5, 2018 5:08:21 GMT 9
Mayken: 7yo wrote her Christmas letter in the ml and sent it to Santa's address in our ml country. This week she received his reply - and was somewhat offended that he replied in the ML
Jan 5, 2018 21:47:21 GMT 9
Adam Beck: That's very cute, Mayken!
Jan 6, 2018 7:57:09 GMT 9
Amy: Oh no Mayken!! I'd also feel very gutted in her shoes! Hope he made up for it by spoiling her on Xmas!
Jan 7, 2018 1:12:53 GMT 9
Mayken: He totally did, Amy! Especially her most important wish - the second illustrated Harry Potter (in ml, of course).
Jan 9, 2018 0:06:05 GMT 9
Raquel: Happy 2018!! How come Santa replied in the wrong language? That's weird.
Jan 9, 2018 19:26:41 GMT 9
Mayken: Raquel, he gets letters from all over the world at that German address, and I guess the reply is in the language that matches the country fo the child's return address. Next time she'll use my mom's address (if she still wants to write to Santa then).
Jan 10, 2018 0:38:19 GMT 9
Raquel: Mayken, I just was surprised that, reading a letter in a certain language, they would reply in a different one. But if it's an standarized letter, then it makes total sense.
Jan 10, 2018 21:42:23 GMT 9
Mayken: It is. Our local ML Santa, to whom my daughter wrote the year before (in ml) replied in ML too but started the letter with her name. But then he's serving a town of 37,000 people only.
Jan 10, 2018 23:18:32 GMT 9
Raquel: Makes sense, Mayken. Thanks for explaining.
Jan 11, 2018 22:31:51 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter called me out twice this week for using the wrong language with her. The second time it was only one work (number of a métro line).
Jan 12, 2018 0:16:39 GMT 9