how to keep my 6yo bilingual - looking for native english speaking meetups, clubs, events

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Hello wise ones, I hope some of you that have lived in the region longer can help me.

Me and my daughter are dual US/German and have lived in the US until 3 months ago. She is bilingual as it was easy for me to speak German to her at home and have her learn English in school, but her English is diminishing fast now that she goes to a german Kindergarten.

 

I'm looking for options of where to meet English speaking families, join clubs or even take courses. We live in the Malsch/St.Leon-Rot/Wiesloch area. Everything I find is pretty far. Both bilingual schools are in HD and expensive an it would take me 1h+ to bring her and go to work, so I don't think it's practical... Ideally I would love to find her a native speaking friend or even babysitter, but I don't know where to look... I tried betreut.de and even paid to sign up and not one of the 5 people I contacted answered me even.

 

How do you make sure your kids keep up their English? (I guess I#m kind of in a special situation since my mother tongue is German. I work full time and only see my daughter 2-3h a day in the evening and do not want to talk English with her all the time :(

If you know of any club or someone with a teenager who would like to babysit or families with kids in my area, can you get me in touch?

 

Thanks for all advice!

Janine

 

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Given the circumstances you described, if you really want her to keep up and improve her English, you're going to have to switch to speaking English at home. Since you spoke German with her when you were in an English-speaking environment, it shouldn't be that difficult for you or her.

 

I also recommend English-language movies and TV shows - age-appropriate, of course.

 

 

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30 minutes ago, janinejaninejanine said:

...and do not want to talk English with her all the time :(

...

 

 

I think that you need to change this.

If you don't put the effort in, then why should she?

 

Maybe not the whole time, but you could maybe have English days/weekends.  Maybe plan it around watching a movie/Tv-Show in English as suggested by Jeffo and then discuss it afterwards and maybe even get her to write something about it as well so that she also works on her written english.

 

 

 

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I can only agree with the others; if maintaining your child's English is a priority, speaking English with your child might be the price you have to pay.  Occasional playmates, playgroups or even other activities will only go so far in any case. Have you tried groups on social media for English speakers in the region? There may be families with English-speaking kids (potential playmates) for your child right in your area (Malsch, Wiesloch, St. L-Rot), and you can probably find them via meetup.com, Facebook, and so on. Although I understand distance to Heidelberg being a problem, you could make the investment on an occasional basis (once a quarter, perhaps) to go to the DAI's English-language storytime you might be able to do some good networking with other families there. The same is true with other English-language offerings in/around HD, as they tend to draw people from the larger region (esp. many Anglophone SAP families, who are likely to live near you). The more you talk to English-speaking parents, the more likely you are to meet folks in your area and who can share info and suggestions with you.  If you are a churchy type you could consider going to one of the English-speaking churches in the region (including Sunday schools for kids).  Assuming you don't work on Sundays, that might be a way to make Sundays English-speaking day for your and your daughter, including a trip into HD. You might consider putting an ad up on the bulletin board of the DAI library, asking for English-speaking playmates and/or babysitters in your area. Another option would be to contact the Uni HD Studentenwerk's Jobbörse for students; you could put up an ad there asking for an English-speaking sitter (whether native or not) and see what comes back.  Welcome back to Germany, and good luck!

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Another idea to build comprehension is books in English accompanied by the audiobook, or reading the book together, with you reading aloud.  With these, her job would be to listen and simply read along silently, or just listen.  There are online English instruction companies that are pretty good (I work for one), but they tend to be based in China, so that's probably not an option.  I would be happy to help out but I live too far away.  I've been wanting to do a "Fun with English" and "Intro to English" sort of thing in local Kindergartens and Horts.  I just need to get it all together and while I good at teaching English and a professional storyteller (and a former school counselor, for that matter), I'm a rotten business/marketing person.
But, listening to audio books is an option, as well as reading aloud and talking about the book for a short time after in English would be a way to speak English in a designated place and time.

Susan

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Ok I'm going to go with a different tack and say that from what I've seen, speaking a non German language at home (in Germany) to keep those skills alive just does not seem to work in the end.

 

I say this based on first hand, ongoing, observation of several immigrant families/friends who have tried very hard to keep their native language alive with their kids. Yeah the kids understand the non German language but they rarely speak it in return...hell, I know one couple that has only English in common, so they speak that with each other exclusively, mom speaks Japanese "at" the kids but the kids only speak German in return. In spite of them hearing English constantly spoken between their parents, they don't seem to understand a word, and while they seem to still understand Japanese, as they've grown they speak less and less, to the point they now only speak it after they've been in Japan for some time, and have no choice as no one aside from Mom knows any German at all. Once home they revert quickly to German only. 

 

Language at home only does not seem to be a slam dunk when up against the language of the land, so I do think the op's idea for getting the kids into a variety of English speaking environments is a good idea, if English is the second language in question. My Japanese friend has seen some improvement after her kids started attending a weekly Japanese playgroup over the last year but she is still frustrated with the situation. Still, it's an improvement over her efforts to speak Japanese with them at home only.

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My kid (7) is tri-lingual. Portuguese, English and German. He is proficient in 2 of them and improving a lot on the other (German).

School is English, with 5h per week of German. We have separate Portuguese language class.

 

At home we only accept speaking in Portuguese and we are very, very, very strict on that. We will not accept neither English nor German communications at home, except of course if we have guests. This is for us very important. One language inside the house, other(s) outside! I learned this trick with other Portuguese parents that live abroad. Otherwise you will get lazy and at some point it is 100% German. Then there is no way back.

 

Regarding cartoons, he watches them in the 3 languages. Computer operating system and games in English. Books in 3 languages, but most in English and German.

 

Besides that, as he knows Portuguese, he can easily understand Spanish and Italian.

Socially, most of his friends speak English, but also a few speak only German. Then he spends more than 3 months per year in Portugal and has his friends here too.

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10 minutes ago, MikeMelga said:

At home we only accept speaking in Portuguese and we are very, very, very strict on that. We will not accept neither English nor German communications at home, except of course if we have guests. This is for us very important. One language inside the house, other(s) outside! I learned this trick with other Portuguese parents that live abroad. Otherwise you will get lazy and at some point it is 100% German. Then there is no way back.

 

I totally agree with that method.  My sister and her husband spent 10 years living in Sweden and they had a strict rule of speaking Icelandic to their kids and only accepting Icelandic back.  The kids would however speak Swedish to each other.  Kids seem to gravitate to using only one language if they are allowed to.

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Apart from the speaking tips, I would plead for read, read, read. To her and with her. You will naturally fall into conversing about the stories, ideas and information in the books. This way you will grow her vocabulary and enable the development of more abstract, academic English usage. In totally play/social settings she will naturally keep up the day-to-day language of social interaction, the "kitchen" language. And I would urge keeping English spelling drills up - I regretted not doing this with mine, mistakingly assuming they'd get enough in school English lessons and picking it up naturally through reading, as I did as a child. As totally competent bilinguals their spelling is appalling.

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Super advice offered here, with a wide variety of input options.  I agree with others about being strict; it requires a lot of discipline from parents and children to demand and stick to the minority language at home (or in general), but with that (self-)discipline it really does work well.  

 

I speak English (only) to my kids and vice versa, though we all could just as easily speak German. My kids had phases in their kindergarten and early primary years where they slipped into German at home (with each other or with me) and/or insisted on responding to me in German. I refused to accept it, insisting (gently but relentlessly) that they speak/write/ingest media in English. I ignored all German-language entreaties and explained (in English) why I was doing so. The kids found this extremely frustrating at times (individual kids at different times), but they came to understand it was a hill I was willing to die on. Now that all are in Gymnasium, their English is terrific.  Classmates often remark with apparent envy how English seems to 'come naturally' to them, and I have to remind everyone involved that there's nothing natural about it - I have systematically and strictly been modelling and correcting and insisting upon their English, day in and day out, for the last 12+ years (though, to be fair, the insisting was only needed some of the time; the rest of the time they happily followed my linguistic lead). 

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liebling, your experience and success matches that of a close friend of mine.  He brought up three children with the policy of only speaking English with them when in the house.  If they spoke German to him at home he would feign deafness.  Outside the house he would speak German with them (he is fluent in German).  Now all three of those kids are adults with two first languages (and two of them now live in the States).

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I know a kid whose French father speaks French with him, his mother speaks Tagalog (Philippines) with him. At kindergarten he speaks German only and he picks up English from his parents which they speak to each other. Now, he skipped a class at kindergarten and goes to primary school at age 5.

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There are Girl Scouts in Heidelberg. The DAI does programs.  The is also International Woman's Group that might have events and a place to find play dates. English as a second/first language, it will be come easier as she grows than other languages. They will have it in school. Social media, games, entertainment all circle around English.

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My son Vierling has always spoken to his daughters in English. The Girlies only responded in German - their environment is totally German.  But when the older daughter started studying English in Gymnasium things began to work out, and it's clear that by persisting, Vierling instilled vocabulary and the sound of spoken English in their stubborn heads.  After years of absorbing English, they're now using it.  I don't know whether teachers insist on British spelling, usage, and pronunciation the way @sarabyrd's teachers did almost fifty years ago.

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On 22/12/2019, 01:02:14, MikeMelga said:

My kid (7) is tri-lingual. Portuguese, English and German. He is proficient in 2 of them and improving a lot on the other (German).

School is English, with 5h per week of German. We have separate Portuguese language class.

 

At home we only accept speaking in Portuguese and we are very, very, very strict on that. We will not accept neither English nor German communications at home, except of course if we have guests. This is for us very important. One language inside the house, other(s) outside! I learned this trick with other Portuguese parents that live abroad. Otherwise you will get lazy and at some point it is 100% German. Then there is no way back.

 

Regarding cartoons, he watches them in the 3 languages. Computer operating system and games in English. Books in 3 languages, but most in English and German.

 

Besides that, as he knows Portuguese, he can easily understand Spanish and Italian.

Socially, most of his friends speak English, but also a few speak only German. Then he spends more than 3 months per year in Portugal and has his friends here too.

 

I am with Mike here, we have used a similar approach, but with two languages at home, the kids speak English to the mother and Spanish to me.  We do not accept any other language and we are strict about it.  They are truly fluent in German and English (they go to German-English school) and they are very proficient in Spanish but it is the weaker language out of the three.   The girl (elder) is more proficient in Spanish than the boy and he has been lately trying to sneak English when he is supposed to speak Spanish but I am constantly fighting that.  However I can understand why he does that, he can explain himself much better in English than in Spanish.

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Being home for Xmas I had a chance to ask my oldest niece about her dual language experience as a child. She said her Icelandic as she learned from her parents at home was very basic and her vocabulary, grammar and spelling were not good. Moving back age 16 she had to buckle down and study hard to keep up. So I guess for someone doing this it would make sense to talk to the kids about a variety of topics, watch news programs, read etc.

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On 12/4/2019, 3:17:01, janinejaninejanine said:

How do you make sure your kids keep up their English?

 

There's no magic about it. Speak English. If your English is not native, make an effort to improve your own English. There are some good books of "false friends" out there e.g. on Amazon to help you brush up the bad English most people learn here.

 

15 hours ago, cherry_moon39 said:

There are Girl Scouts in Heidelberg.

 

The GS are really good!

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On 12/27/2019, 7:44:22, katheliz said:

My son Vierling has always spoken to his daughters in English. The Girlies only responded in German - their environment is totally German.  But when the older daughter started studying English in Gymnasium things began to work out, and it's clear that by persisting, Vierling instilled vocabulary and the sound of spoken English in their stubborn heads.  After years of absorbing English, they're now using it.  I don't know whether teachers insist on British spelling, usage, and pronunciation the way @sarabyrd's teachers did almost fifty years ago.

Yes, school insist on British English. My daughter did an oral presentation on Football and had to keep reminding herself to call it football and not soccer. I think it changes after 10th grade.

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I wish it would. My kid had 5th grade British English and then 6th grade American English then 7th grade both depending on chapter of book. So confused by boot/trunk, rubber (ahem), er/re ( e.g. theater/theatre) football/soccer writing word with s or z , film/movie....

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