Language acquisition for 5/6 year old

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My 5 and a half year old son is about to start German kindergarten. We’ve been here since June and he knows a small handful of words only. He’s a social guy who is pretty desperate to make friends and have a fulfilling life here so I’m wondering if any of you can share stories of your 5 or 6 (or older) year olds picking up German through kindergarten or early German schools. I’m a mom who has watched her child struggle all summer so any hopeful experiences will help!

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He sounds a brave little guy- good luck. Does he watch German children's shows on TV, and 

do you read German kiddies books with him? 

 

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7 minutes ago, RedMidge said:

do you read German kiddies books with him? 

 

 

According to her profile, she is American. Unless her German is exceptional (and by that I mean a high C2), she should stick to English and get the kid extra German help.

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I don’t speak German (yet) so I cannot pronounce frequent words in children’s books. I wasn’t planning on extra help, at first at least, as I had hoped he’d pick up the language in kindergarten this year. 

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He'll pick it up, and he'll pick it up a lot faster than you will.  That's what kids do.

If someone needs tutoring, it's you!  In the meantime, watch TV - news, talk shows, sit-coms, movies: diversify! - and do your best to use what little German you possess to talk with people at the park or wherever you take your little boy to play.
I found that, for some reason, reading books translated from English into German was helpful. A novel, Die Perfekte Lady (Rumer Godden), was enjoyable and useful; it was also interesting enough that I was willing to read it multiple times, gaining more knowledge each time.  

When you start learning German, remember to include the article (der / die / das) of a noun as you accumulate vocabulary.  And you might look on the internet for pronunciation tips.

Good luck to both you and your kiddo!

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35 minutes ago, katheliz said:

He'll pick it up, and he'll pick it up a lot faster than you will.  That's what kids do.

 

I know you mean well, however, your experiences over 40 years have very little relevance today. The increasing number of children in Germany who don't speak sufficient German when entering the first grade is alarming. 

 

Carsten Linnemann caused a huge uproar in Germany a few weeks ago when he openly suggested that children who can't speak sufficient German be held back from starting school until they improve their language skills.

 

Even those against his idea acknowledge that there are not sufficient resources to guarantee that children will learn sufficient German in kita.

 

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Stattdessen fordert der VBE von der Politik mehr Unterstützung für Kitas im Bereich der Sprachförderung. Fast alle Kinder gingen inzwischen vor der Einschulung dorthin. Aber trotz hohen Engagements der Erzieherinnen und Erzieher führten große Gruppen, unzureichende Personalschlüssel und fehlende Sprachexperten dazu, dass manche Kinder nicht angemessen gut Deutsch sprächen, so Beckmann.

 

https://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2019-08/carsten-linnemann-grundschule-integration-deutschkenntnisse-cdu

 

3 hours ago, Valerienellk said:

I don’t speak German (yet) so I cannot pronounce frequent words in children’s books.

 

If you don't speak German, don't try to teach him German. Read to him in English.

 

3 hours ago, Valerienellk said:

I wasn’t planning on extra help, at first at least, as I had hoped he’d pick up the language in kindergarten this year. 

 

He'll eventually pick it up, however, what he learns and whether or not he learns proper German will depend on the Kita he attends and the friends he makes. You can increase his chances of learning proper German by looking for a Kita with experience with foreign children and a good personnel ratio.

 

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54 minutes ago, katheliz said:

He'll pick it up, and he'll pick it up a lot faster than you will.  That's what kids do.

If someone needs tutoring, it's you!  In the meantime, watch TV - news, talk shows, sit-coms, movies: diversify! - and do your best to use what little German you possess to talk with people at the park or wherever you take your little boy to play.

 

 

Whilst I tend to agree that the kid will learn German at Kindergarten, it really is a very different one to that of thirty or forty years ago - with the mass immigration of asylum seekers only a few years ago, many of them are still struggling to integrate children from a totally different immigrant background.

 

I would suggest taking the kid along to Kinder Turnen or football or whatever is locally available for the little ones, and see if he can`t make contact with German-speaking kids there.

 

As Katheliz said, stick to your own language when reading books, etc - much better than bad German, which the little one would also pick up!

 

Whilst it`s true that the little one will pick up the language much quicker and easier than the OP, it is also important that he not forget his first language!

 

 

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33 minutes ago, engelchen said:

The increasing number of children in Germany who don't speak sufficient German when entering the first grade is alarming.

Alarming is that Germans close their eyes and change nothing about their educational system, preferring to blame foreign.

 

33 minutes ago, engelchen said:

Carsten Linnemann caused a huge uproar in Germany a few weeks ago when he openly suggested that children who can't speak sufficient German be held back from starting school until they improve their language skills.

Or a bit of "fuck you" to Carsten and send the kids to an international school.

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Children's acquisition of language is immutable.  Foreign children - and there were many, because we lived in a community with many foreigners were who were temporarily in the US - who came into my kids' California classrooms (before we moved to Germany) picked up English at a surprising speed.  Again, it's what kids do.

I know a lot of things have changed in (almost) fifty years, but children's ability to learn hasn't.

If there are problems in German schools - and I don't doubt it - it's due to the schools' inability to learn.

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Children are inquisitive and pick up things indiscriminately with rapid ease: colds, a rusty nail in the park, words that they hear around them. 

 

If the parent is not in a position to discriminate on bahalf of the child, then additional help may need to be found. 

 

 

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I am not a big supporter of placing children in front of tv but here I'd suggest to buy a few DVD ( or library) and let your  lill'un watch it. Reason is that in Kindergarten there are certain films/characters that all children do know and refer to. That way he picks up a little German and at least has an idea whats going in if he is beeing greeted by a töröö and will unterstand why so many kids here answer the question what noise an elephant makes with töröö. For a start let him watch a few Bob Builder or Caillou DVD he already knows in English now in German. Then checkout Benjamin Blümchen. Then maybe a few Conny DVDs. I also support the recommendation of putting him into sport. Kinderturnen, footie, whatever he likes. Gives him a chance to meet his classmates and pick up language en passant. 

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1 hour ago, katheliz said:

Children's acquisition of language is immutable.  Foreign children - and there were many, because we lived in a community with many foreigners were who were temporarily in the US - who came into my kids' California classrooms (before we moved to Germany) picked up English at a surprising speed. 

 

Now you are comparing apples and oranges. 

 

I had many classmates in Canada whose parents did not speak English well, but all of the kids ended up as native English speakers. On the other hand, there are many children of immigrants who were born and raised in Germany who don't speak proper German. 

 

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Again, it's what kids do.

 

Did you even bother to read the article to which I linked? There are many kids who actually don't. In Duisburg 16% of children who are supposed to be starting school don't speak and understand enough German.

 

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I know a lot of things have changed in (almost) fifty years, but children's ability to learn hasn't.

 

The issue is not a child's ability,  but rather the environment that has changed in the past 40 to 50 years. In certain areas the foreign children out number the German children, German parents then pull their kids out of the school, and it becomes a ghetto with only foreigners.

 

Children also don't spend as much time outside unsupervised playing with other children.

 

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If there are problems in German schools - and I don't doubt it - it's due to the schools' inability to learn.

 

It is not just the schools. It is also the Kitas and the system as a whole.

 

Germany has changed since you've lived here and telling a foreign parent they have nothing to worry about is ignorant and irresponsible. :angry:

 

@Valerienellk 

 

I think we can all agree that your child is at age where it is still possible to learn German, however, I disagree with katheliz's opinion that you don't need to be proactive. 

 

There are many activities in which your child can participate, you just need to find the right ones for him. Once he starts Kita you could also try to organise after school playdates with other children. 

 

 

 

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22 minutes ago, engelchen said:

I disagree with katheliz's opinion that you don't need to be proactive. 

 

@engelchen, I don't mind you speaking your mind.  I do mind you speaking mine.

Of course parents need to be proactive.

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4 hours ago, engelchen said:

 

Now you are comparing apples and oranges. 

 

I had many classmates in Canada whose parents did not speak English well, but all of the kids ended up as native English speakers. On the other hand, there are many children of immigrants who were born and raised in Germany who don't speak proper German. 

 

 

Did you even bother to read the article to which I linked? There are many kids who actually don't. In Duisburg 16% of children who are supposed to be starting school don't speak and understand enough German.

 

 

The issue is not a child's ability,  but rather the environment that has changed in the past 40 to 50 years. In certain areas the foreign children out number the German children, German parents then pull their kids out of the school, and it becomes a ghetto with only foreigners.

 

Children also don't spend as much time outside unsupervised playing with other children.

 

 

It is not just the schools. It is also the Kitas and the system as a whole.

 

Germany has changed since you've lived here and telling a foreign parent they have nothing to worry about is ignorant and irresponsible. :angry:

 

@Valerienellk 

 

I think we can all agree that your child is at age where it is still possible to learn German, however, I disagree with katheliz's opinion that you don't need to be proactive. 

 

There are many activities in which your child can participate, you just need to find the right ones for him. Once he starts Kita you could also try to organise after school playdates with other children. 

 

 

 

@engelchen you seem to have a lot of experience and knowledge in this area. What have you specifically been doing with your children here in Germany, or were they born here and just surrounded by the language already? 

 

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9 hours ago, Wherearewegoingto said:

I am not a big supporter of placing children in front of tv but here I'd suggest to buy a few DVD ( or library) and let your  lill'un watch it. Reason is that in Kindergarten there are certain films/characters that all children do know and refer to. That way he picks up a little German and at least has an idea whats going in if he is beeing greeted by a töröö and will unterstand why so many kids here answer the question what noise an elephant makes with töröö. For a start let him watch a few Bob Builder or Caillou DVD he already knows in English now in German. Then checkout Benjamin Blümchen. Then maybe a few Conny DVDs. I also support the recommendation of putting him into sport. Kinderturnen, footie, whatever he likes. Gives him a chance to meet his classmates and pick up language en passant. 

 

All of this. We also used song cds in the car, with classic German kid songs, and also fairytales.

 

Our local library took part in a thing called 'lesen macht spaß' where older people read books to age-sorted groups of kids. It was a great activity, replicating what you would have done at home if you could. I think in these days of smart phones which make recordings easily, that it would not be hard to get a German to record reading books for a kid, and then you can indeed sit together, pointing to the words whilst listening to the recording. 

 

The kiga also had a programme for the kids in their last year before school, where they had 45 minutes German with a teacher 4 days a week, which was a brilliant thing. All kids with a foreign parent had to join in. Mine got on very well with it. Yours may have something similar.

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Hi Valerie, my daughter was 12 when we arrived from Australia 2.5 years ago.  She had very little German.  She has picked up the language so quickly even at that age.  Her local Gymnasium had an a international Class program that taught them intensive German while integrating them into the German classes. She has been in the regular classes since January and has lots of German friends as well as International friends.  I think your son will also soak up the language really quickly too.

 

As you are in Cologne I can recommend a couple of Facebook pages for you if you haven’t discovered them already - Cologne International Mums and Expat Ladies Cologne. They are both really supportive pages and a great place to get advice.  There may even be Mums with experience of the Kindy you are hoping to send your son to.

 

Good luck with it all!

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My child picked up German in 4-8 weeks just before turning 4 years old at Kita.   None of the Kita Caretakers spoke anything but German.  

 

After 4 months, we noticed that when meeting with another non-German family, the kids spoke German together rather than the language the adults were speaking. 

 

If your boy has the temperament, coach him up on the miraculous capabilities of the human brain, reward him somehow if necessary for sticking with it (we didn't do this).   In other words, throw him into the water and he will be swimming in no time. 

 

I have met a few people (mostly native English speakers) who tried to ease their kids into German with lessons, movies, music, etc their kids viewed learning the language as optional and never developed their skills.   

 

 

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My son’s kindergarten is nearly 100% outside playing time with other kids, mostly from German families. Hopefully that’ll help!

 

i appreciate the replies but didn’t mean for this to become so antagonistic. I was just looking for some inspiring stories of how your kindergarten (or early school age) kids acquired language and assimilated. My son’s been a bit stressed and, in turn, so have I, so I was hoping for a little anecdotal hope!

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I think the issue with the assumption that Kindy will be enough is that this is only really true if both the caregivers and a critical number of kids are fluent German speakers. This was true for most Kindys until relatively recently. Nowadays not so much.

 

Depending on which Kindy in Köln the OP is going to take the kid to, more effort may be required. .

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1 hour ago, Valerienellk said:

My son’s kindergarten is nearly 100% outside playing time with other kids, mostly from German families. Hopefully that’ll help!

 

i appreciate the replies but didn’t mean for this to become so antagonistic. I was just looking for some inspiring stories of how your kindergarten (or early school age) kids acquired language and assimilated. My son’s been a bit stressed and, in turn, so have I, so I was hoping for a little anecdotal hope!

No antagonism, just normal TT advice, suggestions and banter!

Most suggest TV /audio kid's books, or some formal classes. As there are mainly local, German families, that should be great for your little guy.

Try and relax- maybe it is your stress causing his stress?

Good  luck.

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