5 reasons I’m glad my kids speak English and German

Since before we arrived in Austria, nearly 3 years ago, we have been determined that learning German (reasonably well, at least) would be an important piece of our time spent abroad.  We chose to enroll our kids in a Viennese, German-only preschool when they each reached 3 years of age.  For my older son, this means that he has had 2 1/2 years of school entirely in German, while my younger son is most of the way through his first year.  It’s been a great experience.  They’ve learned a tremendous amount of German, and having them enrolled in an Austrian school has provided most of my motivation for continuing to learn German, as well (B’s main teacher does not speak any English, and I need to be able to communicate with her).

Participating in Amanda’s blog link up again this week, here are 5 reasons I’m glad my kids speak English and German.

1.  They have the knowledge that they CAN learn another language, so hopefully the next one will be easier and less intimidating.  If there is one skill I wish I had that I don’t, it is the ability to learn languages easily.  I studied French for 7 years in school and learned a fair bit, but it was ways a struggle.  I’ve lived here for nearly 3 years and my German is just becoming passable.  Throughout my life, I’ve been so intimidated by the struggle of learning a new langauge that I don’t really try to (even when I have the opportunity).  I sincerely hope that having learned German at such a young age, my kids will have a lifelong confidence with which to tackle other languages.

2.  Confidence moving through the world.  I don’t think anything is more off-putting about the thought of travel than not being able to speak the local language.  Whether it’s the fear of getting lost and being helpless, or just worry over looking foolish for not being able to communicate, lack of language skills makes travel intimidating when it should be exciting.  German is spoken in wide areas of Europe, and I hope that their skills in speaking it will give my kids a sense of freedom to travel within those areas (at least) without any worry throughout their lives.

3.  German is less likely to be taught on their American schools later, so now may be the only chance.  When I was growing up, we were required to study a foreign language in school, and the choices were French, Spanish and German.  I have no idea if my children will take compulsory foreign language in school, but I do know that the German programs were on the verge of being cut when I was in high school (20 years ago) so I don’t imagine that many of them have survived the past 2 decades.  One day, my kids will be in American schools, and I will encourage them to learn a language (even if they don’t have to).  But that will be the time to pick up French or Spanish — this may be their only chance to learn German.

4.  German is really cool.  As with any language, there are particular words and idioms that are uniquely perfect within a language, and I love some of the ones I’ve learned in German.  I love that the German word for strawberry (Erdbeere) literally means “earth berry” or “ground berry” (because they grow so close to the ground).  I love the word “raunen”, which is the word for the sound the wind makes.  I love that the root of the word for speed (geschwindigkeit) is the word for windy (windig) so that it literally translates to something like wind-making-ness.  I just found out yesterday that the word for staple remover is the same as the word for mother-in-law … because both separate things that are together.  (Ha!)  Besides, nothing beats telling someone off in German for sheer intimidation factor.  German is cool.

5.  A common language is not required to make a connection to others (but it helps).  As they get older and more confident (and as they accumulate more miles travelled around Europe) I see my kids reach out to other children that they encounter, regardless of whether or not they can communicate well with them.  My boys have attempted French and Spanish when German and English have failed them.  But certainly, they have the easiest time (and the most luck) making friends when they can communicate together well.  Watching them chat and be silly with their friends and teachers at school is heartwarming and inspiring.  They simply could not have done that 3 years ago.  Learning the language has made the difference.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

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