Bilingual.....starting (Too) Late ?!?!?!? and How to Do It ?????

Updated on May 02, 2010
D.C. asks from Plano, TX
11 answers


I'm German and am married to an American.....

We've been living in the US for a total of 6 years now and both our sons speak only English....

My fault....clearly !!!!!!!

My English is too good.....I have no one to speak German with me and I hear and speak English 24/7....

I've tried with my oldest (almost 9) but failed...every time I tried I fell back to speaking English after the 2nd sentence....

I even think and dream in English....

My oldest is asking me now to learn German....and I'm happy about it, but I don't know how to do it !!!!!!!

To only speak German to them at home.....they will have no idea what I'm saying.....

Saying something in English and then in German too is kind of awkward....especially for the 3-year old.....don't you think ???

Any advise ???

Anyone with the same experience and a positive outcome ????

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answers from Jacksonville on

Start speaking German to them. Especially things like Let's go!! Dinner!
Bath time.

Get books in English, like Go Dog Go and translate while you read to him.
Do it with all his little books until you can get a hold of German books.

Say a German grace before dinner.

Just start.

I have a German student in the house and she learned English and Italian this way. She can actually old a conversation in Italian after only having it for two years. THe teacher stands up in front and speaks in Italian and repeats herself a lot. She does not use German.

Start with little things.
Meine Tshirt ist gelb. Meine hosen ist blau. Heute ist ______. Danke, Bitte
The more you make an effort the more they will learn it.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi D. -

I don't think it's ever too late. If you think about it, adults often time will take language immersion courses, etc. to learn a language. Speak to them in German as much as possible, even if you feel silly or awkward since you're accustomed to speaking English. And I wouldn't worry about the little one - their minds catch on much quicker than we think, and he may actually have an easier time pronouncing the words than his brother.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Join culture clubs. German culture clubs in your area....

My kids are bi-lingual- European and American... and we used to go to a culture club in our area for that language.

Just start talking to them in German all the time... get German videos for kids, German music for kids, German comic books for kids,

My kids, were spoken to in my husband's native language and English, ever since they were born. It is not too late.
My kids, are now fluent in speaking and hearing... my son now at 3.5 years old, is even correcting me with both languages. My daughter can now read in both languages.

Kids are sponges... just go ahead and talk to them in your language and of course, teach them about the culture too.... it goes hand in hand.

All the best,


answers from St. Louis on

Hi D., it is never too late, don't worry...
My kids both are bilingual. I started to speak to them both languages at once at the age of two. I would suggest that you start with the youngest right now. You may want to do it in two ways: you speak in your language and your husband speaks English the whole day and for everything; the little one will grasp immediately both languages or speak to him just in German until he gets the maternal language, and then teach him English to prepare him for school later (shapes, numbers, letters, greetings, days of the week, short sentences....)
With your older kid, you may want to speak to him German half of the day, and the other half English, put signs in German everywhere for him to learn vocabulary (good morning, drawer, kitchen, pet, table, chair..etc....) Get lots of videos and books in your language.
Just be consistent and do not give up. Both of them will be bilingual soon.
Good Luck



answers from Dallas on

why don't you host a German foreign exchange student? then you will have someone to converse with in German. Since they are here to experience American culture and education and use their English speaking skills, you won't want to do this everyday. But maybe do it at home two or three days a week. The student could help you teach the children. start by naming objects like you do when they are babies, teach them easy rhyming german songs. good luck!



answers from Amarillo on

Do it now while at the age of 3 & interested in's not awkward to say somethings in English & some in German. Start with small words or phrases like....dinner time, bath time, good-night, good-morning, good-bye, love you, counting to ten, days of the week.



answers from New York on

I had the same issue, hubby is also in the Army and I am German as well. I didn't speak to my older one (now 8) german, as everybody around me (ft irwin) spoke english. We were lucky enough to get orders to Germany again, and within 1 month I had her in german Kindergarten (she was 4.5 at that time) Within 6 weeks she was plappering in germarican and a month after that she spoke with a hessian accent (we were in Darmstadt - I am from Nuernberg though - much to my families amusement she spoke a different accent then all of her cousins) We moved again in 08 (she was nearly 6) to Schweinfurt and now she is in 2nd grade of a german elementary school. Hubby will retire next year and we plan to stay in Germany.
My little one (1 year old in middle of April) I speak with in German during the day and when Daddy is home we mostly speak english but also some german mixed in.

Does your husband speak any german? If so, decide on 1 meal each day where everybody only speaks german, the kids will pick up fairly easy. Also if you have a DVD player/VCR that plays german DVDs/VHS tapes have your family send german movies (ones the kids know already!) if not, stories on CD/Tape work well too! I had "the little witch" and "the little ghost" on CD german with some english mixed in!
If you have any more questions or if you just want to hook up, you can also send me a private email to [email protected] (put in the subject line mamapedia...)
Oh, in Kindergarten the teachers asked my daughter first in german (a few times) and if she still didn't understand the translated it into english then repeated it in german again!
At that age the kids will soak it up like a sponge, most likely the smaller one faster than the bigger one! Explain to them that when they speak to their Oma and Opa it will be better if they know some german!

Hope I was able to help you!



answers from Chicago on

It is never too late to learn another language. My husband came to this country and learned English many years later and I in turn learned his language. We are both bilingual now. I do have some grammar problems but can make myself clear with a little work. Just go for it!



answers from Dallas on

I have two friends that have taught their children their native languages. I wished I was fluent or my husband was so we could do the same. Anyway, one friend is from France and only speaks French to his son (now 4) while his wife, who is American, speaks English to him. The 4 year old is fluent in both. My other friends do the same. The husband, who is American, only speaks English to their two children and the wife, who is from Brazil, only speaks Portugese to her children. As a result, the 2 year old and 3.5 year old are fluent in both. Both the French speaking 4 year old and Portugese speaking 3 yr old have had some minor issues in their preschool class (little trouble with numbers and a few other things) but I have always heard that is to be expected in the beginning. Then, in a few years they have an edge on the other kids.....which is why kids with parents from two different backgrounds are SO LUCKY!!!! I want my kids to pick up another language, but it is so expensive. Good luck! I hope you are able to teach German to your children to help keep their heritage alive.



answers from Tyler on

Hi D.!
I am German, too, married to an American. My son is 1 1/2 and I only speak German with him. My husband speaks some German, but also speaks to our son in English, and he has English at daycare. He understands everything in both languages, and says words in both languages. I am determined to only ever speak German with him, even if he decides (like my brother did years ago with my mother), that he would prefer me to speak English. That being said, I know you didn't start with your kids right from the start. I think the best way is full-immersion; this is how I learned English when we moved to the States shortly before I turned 8. Just start speaking to them. It may be more discipline for you than for them for you to not switch back to English. Even your 9 year old will start to understand very quickly, and your 3 year old will be super fast. When they say words in English, you repeat in German; get some German children's books, videos, etc. See if there is any kind of German program they can attend, even if it's just once a week. And if you can ever take them to Germany to visit, that could be tremendously helpful, because they'll be surrounded by it.
Viel Glueck! :)



answers from Dallas on

I do it with both my kids. They are slowly learning and they even ask for more. I have confidence they will be completely bilingual in due time. As for the older one. Start with a few things and keep growing. Teach him to say things like Hi, My name is .... Show him colors, numbers, and especially letters. We teach our kids the letters then sounds then blended letter like sp in spill, pl in play, etc. Think the same concept. And then do everyday things like can you get me the cup? when you are washing dishes or serving. Have I confused you? Hope this helps. Feel free to email me.

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