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.
What's on your mind right now? Just type and hit "Enter" to share it here!
Wojtek: Adam, will you be watching in a few hours the football match between our national teams?
Jun 28, 2018 20:27:10 GMT 9
Mayken: Happy birthday to two bilingual monkeys: Adam Beck's daughter Lulu (14) and mine (8).🎂
Jun 29, 2018 23:10:16 GMT 9
Amy: Happy birthday to your 2 bilingual monkeys Mayken and Adam Beck !
Jun 30, 2018 5:15:05 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken, that's true, but in our case, the U.S. didn't make it to the World Cup this time! Japan has gone through, but they'll probably get knocked out very soon...
Jun 30, 2018 7:22:16 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Wojtek, Poland won! I was disappointed, though, to see Japan hold the ball at the end of the game because they only wanted to go through to the next round. I understand why they did that but I wish they had played harder...
Jun 30, 2018 7:24:42 GMT 9
Wojtek: Well, it suited both teams to slow down the ball. However, it was really unexpected and peculiar
Jul 1, 2018 1:16:27 GMT 9
Mayken: On the train from Cologne to my hometown, I saw a boy about 9/10 and his older sister. She was fluent in German but spoke French with a slight accent, he spoke only French. They were visiting their grandparents. I was intrigued but didn't ask.
Jul 1, 2018 22:06:55 GMT 9
Wojtek: Does anyone know an online English speech language therapist? I thought that it could be a good idea to get my girl evaluated in her ml...
Jul 6, 2018 4:02:38 GMT 9
Mayken: Yay! My 8-year-old daughter passed her ml swim test today! After swimming & diving, the pool attendant asked her to recite the swimming/safety rules (our recent captive reading), and she knew them all!
Jul 6, 2018 21:28:23 GMT 9
Adam Beck: NEW! Bilingual Lives: Ana Cristina Gluck, Author and Publisher of Multilingual Books for Children (with a Book Giveaway!) buff.ly/2ziSQ4J
Jul 7, 2018 11:28:32 GMT 9
Agnese: First words. What to expect? My son is 10 months old. He's still babbling, but I've noticed some different sounds depending on the situation. I wonder if he'll start saying his first words in the next weeks (or months, who knows?). What should I expect?
Jul 11, 2018 0:30:24 GMT 9
Amy: Don't expect anything Agnese. Just let it happen, and then what he says will hit you like a train. It's an amazing moment. Just live it and don't overthink it. Whatever he says, in whatever language it is, it is a magical moment.
Jul 11, 2018 5:11:14 GMT 9
Agnese: I've recently found a further (annoying) challenge: when I speak ml (Italian) to my child (10m) in front of ML acquaintances, they are making jokes about what I said (mostly accent, similar unrelated words...). What do you think is the best way to act?
Jul 15, 2018 13:04:11 GMT 9
Amy: Agnese, it is simply because they never had the opportunity to be acquainted so closely to that language. Just smile and keep going. Over time (even if this may seem long), the comments will fade. Don't show your son you are embarrassed by your ml.
Jul 16, 2018 3:56:41 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Agnese, I strongly second Amy's advice! Stay strong and continue speaking Italian!
Jul 18, 2018 6:22:37 GMT 9
Adam Beck: And Agnese, keep in mind that, above all, the highest priority is your bilingual aim, not the other passing concerns that are part of this experience (for us all). Don't let these distract you from the greater goal.
Jul 18, 2018 6:24:49 GMT 9
Agnese: Thank you! After this setback I feel stronger than ever! The same day of the incident I ordered plenty of books in the ml on Amazon and I'm reading every day new research on bilingualism and bilingual education. I'm ready to defend my goal! Thanks
Jul 19, 2018 18:37:58 GMT 9