language forgetting.
The issue at hand is that my daughters do not hear enough German to be able to develop a strong foundation, right?"/> InCultureParent | Language Forgetting

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Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Language Forgetting


I am still thinking about language forgetting.

The issue at hand is that my daughters do not hear enough German to be able to develop a strong foundation, right? I am the only constantly available source of German they have. Doesn’t that mean that I am the issue, really?

Well, part of it is the fact that one person alone cannot provide enough immersion. It’s almost like dipping your toe into a puddle and then claiming you took a bath. I also work during the day and my time with the girls is limited, a lot more limited than I’d like it to be.

But within the limits I could still do a better job if I didn’t experience language detachment myself. I think.

Expat Issues

A lot of people who leave their countries or cultures and settle somewhere else develop behaviour or beliefs that link them back. Could be a strong faith, strict adherence to tradition or close ties to fellow expats.

It’s a normal reaction. If you do not have the comfortable support of a whole society behind you, you can either forget about your roots or keep them alive alone. The latter is difficult at best and easily overdone.

Now I am fairly laid back and I don’t usually overdo a lot of things. But I find myself obsessing about my mother tongue. I worry about it. I talk about it with anyone who will listen or share. I read about it. I blog about it.

Sometimes I will address non-German children in German. I started doing it with our friends’ smaller children (planting seeds, I guess). That worked better than I anticipated. So I stepped it up and tried it with older kids. It still works a little bit, and the looks I get are just brilliant. Can’t really see myself stopping this anytime soon…

I guess language is my personal expat issue. Maybe I should accept it as such and go for it completely. From now on, people visiting my house will be expected to speak German! Or at least understand it. Jawohl!

© 2011 – 2013, Jan Petersen. All rights reserved.

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Jan, who is German, works mainly from home as a software engineer. His wife, who is Algerian, stays at home to look after their three girls aged 7, 4 and 1. They live in the U.K. and are raising their children multilingual in Arabic, French, German and English.

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1 Comment
  1. Commentssaill   |  Wednesday, 20 April 2011 at 5:36 am

    I wonder if speaking more than one language at the same time is as inefficient as other types of multi-tasking is being found to be.

    For myself, I feel stilted and awkward with a different language until I have been immersed in it for at least several weeks – to the point where I am beginning to dream in the second language. I would guess that even my native language would get “back-burnered” once I were sufficiently immersed in a new one.

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