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Bilingual Education

In my last set of Christopher pictures, hans asks whether we are raising Christopher bilingually. The answer is more complicated than just yes or no (although this quick answer is I don't speak English with Christopher as much as I should).

In theory, my wife would speak German with Christopher and I would speak English. In practice, I find it difficult to consistently speak English with him. Unlike most of the Anglo-German couples we know, we speak German rather than English at home. Actually, we agreed to speak the language of whatever country we're in, so when we're in the States we speak (mostly) English, and when we are in France or Italy... then we are in trouble. Anyway, while this was good for my German, it means I am totally out of the habit of speaking English around the house. I have to remember to make the effort, and Christopher answers in German anyway.

Most bilingual kids we know are like that. They understand the English-speaking parent perfectly, but will answer in German. Only when visiting with relatives that speak no German at all are they willing to speak English. Only later (around 10 or 12) are they willing to speak the second language on their own. The exception is when the parent pretends not to understand German at all... and I'm not willing to do that.

We're also a bit reluctant to push English on Christopher right now, since we're concerned about his speech skills in general. He speaks somewhat unclearly, and our day care provider has recommended a speech therapist. Our initial appointment is this month.

This is a local organization that offers English classes for kids as young as 3. We even took Christopher to a couple of classes, but he wasn't ready to be left alone and it wasn't worth my taking 3 hours off work to drive him to a 45 minute class where he didn't want to be. So, I'm sure that Christopher will someday be bilingual, but he isn't yet.

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