Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Family Language Layout

After writing at length about my experience with German and why we chose the German over Spanish, I realized that I had yet to go into detail about our language situation as a family. I find that I enjoy reading about what others do, so maybe by sharing our situation here, I can offer some insight to others as well, or perhaps just serve as another example out there in the world of multilingual families.

As I briefly address in my profile, we use the One Parent, One Language (OPOL) method in our family. Geoff, my husband, speaks English with Kaya all the time while 99% of my communication with her is in German. Geoff and I communicate with each other in English, and the language of our community, Portland, Oregon, is English as well. So, German is the minority language of our family as well as in our community.

As I've addressed in older posts, when I am completely overwhelmed and beside myself with frustration or anger, I allow myself to speak English with Kaya. When I first came to terms with this need of mine, I would allow myself to speak to her at length in English, until I felt more calm. This would often be 3-5 minutes in English, with a minimum of 4 sentences or utterances at a time in English. After a conversation with another non-native German speaker who is also raising her daughter bilingually, however, I have gone back to focusing on staying in German 100% of the time, including those challenging moments. Soon, I will write just about that concept alone, but in the meantime, I'll say that I've gone from saying 4-5 sentences or more to Kaya in English when I'm overwhelmed to maybe one or none. I'm finding that it's enough, lately, to get out one frustrated comment in English in the most challenging moments and then immediately move back to German. I've also noticed that I'm better able to express frustration in German lately, so that I don't even need to move to English to express myself in those hard moments. That feels relieving and promising, for sure!

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I LOVE reading your comments, they make such a difference! Thanks for sharing!