Sunday 28 November 2010

English Really is the First Language

More and more often I find myself in this kind of situation with BK1: We are speaking about something or I'm telling a story and I use a word that BK1 doesn't know. Today it was "Abenteuer", "Adventure".

Not long ago I would have explained the word, but recently I found the easiest way is to say it in English.

Tonight I noticed I was doing it and I thought 'I'm being lazy, I really should explain this in German!'

The two main points are, of course: 1. her English vocabulary has passed German vocabulary in size. I'm guessing it is bigger than French and Arabic vocabulary, too. When did that happen? And 2. she grew that vocabulary entirely outside our house, it is truly foreign to me. This is very strong evidence that both OPOL and MLAH work and work very well.

One thing: I have this idea in my head that at some point, I will start wondering how well I know my children. I always thought that and I probably placed that time somewhere around puberty. But now I'm wondering just how unknown my daughters will be given their first language is not mine. The time might come a lot earlier than I thought!


All I can do is keep OPOL alive. Let's hope the little German part inside their heads will always be my home...


  1. Out and about my 5 year old has started translating for me. I don't necessarily need her to but she seems to know that her Swiss German is better than mine (which it is). Sometimes she uses a word about something that has happened in kindergarten, and I don't understand her, so I have to ask her to explain it in English. I can't even look it up as her informal language (Swiss German) doesn't exist in written form.
    But I still can't imagine depriving them of the chance to be multilingual!

  2. Heh, wanna arrange a playdate for the kids? We have the same problem :)

    Ever since I noticed this I have been making an effort to not just give her the English word, rather I painstakingly come up with definitions and explanations and she then gives me the translation back to make sure she got it. It's a pretty good exercise for all of us involved, though a bit of a pain at times :) Maybe you should train her to be the official translator for BKs 2 and 3?

    On the other hand, our 10 year old nephew (English, plus French in school) still remembers the first half of 'Oh Tannenbaum' we taught him last year. Almost makes me weep that my brain can no longer pick things up and retain them that easily....


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