Thursday, June 16, 2011

Baby Steps Towards Success

Our house is a disastrous pit. I'm not sure it's ever been messier, honestly.
And here I sit, actually preferring to go clean, but knowing that it will make me happy to share the latest progress about our newest little method: insistence.

So, since we've come home from the park two days ago (with the exception of this morning because we were with a group of English speakers), I have been 'insisting' on German from Kaya. 'Insist' isn't really the word I prefer to use here, because it definitely comes with a negative connotation. But it succeeds in conveying the message that I am no longer simply responding back to her in German as she speaks to me in English. Nor am I simply telling her what to say to me in German, either, as I had been doing for the past month or so. Now, like I said on Tuesday, I am responding 95% of the time as if I either don't understand her or expect her to tell me, in German, whatever it is that she wants to share.

She's definitely been growing more frustrated over the past 2 days, as I continue this method with her. My tendency is to respond with "Bitte?"[What?] after she speaks to me in English (which is still 95% of the time), though I'm finding that "Was ist das?" [What is that?] tends to cause an almost immediate switch for her to German. When I tell her that I don't understand, or if ask her what she said, she has a tendency to raise her voice when she repeats herself the first time (as opposed to the 15th, as on Tuesday). She has mixed responses when I tell her, "Von dir, verstehe ich nur Deutsch." [From you I understand only German]

I am noticing a CLEAR improvement in how quickly she is beginning to switch languages, though, especially after my responses to her. Yesterday morning, for example, she was asking me repeatedly, "What is that?" as we were sitting at the table. I was responding as I just explained, and towards the end of our 5-minute interaction, she finally caught on by asking, "Was ist das?" As we pulled up to the gym 20 minutes later, and she wanted to know what it was that she was seeing on the street, she asked me, in German, the first time! This happened again this afternoon when she wanted me to get her out of the bouncy seat, and another time at the table during dinner. At times, though, it's definitely like pulling teeth. Tonight, for example, while we were getting her ready for bed, she came out into the living room saying, "I want ta read a book wif you, Mama." SO cute, it's hard for me not to eat her up in those moments and just do whatever she wants me to do, in whatever language she may be speaking! But, heeding the Austrian, I stood my ground and asked her what it was that she was wanting to do. I tried all the responses in my repertoire, and none of them were working to create the pause and the German response that follows her spinning wheels. It is getting easier, though, to just let those moments go, and to make no meaning out of them, especially as I watch this process create a greater tendency for Kaya to use the German that is so clearly behind her big brown eyes.

It's 11:40pm.
Will the kitchen get cleaned? Will the living room get tidied?
Or will my friend come over tomorrow night and see the trash pit that is our house in these days of rampant English?

I tend to think it's a good life skill for me to practice, accepting that our house simply is the way it is right now, until it isn't. Carpenter ants and all...


  1. I finally have a moment to sit down and read another post or two.
    It's obviously a challenge for you to go through this process with Kaya. I've been trying to think of another word instead of "insisting" for you to use... (Sometimes that simple shift can bring such relief!) How about "persist"? Or being emphatic or resolute? Hmm...
    Well, it's also just like training or teaching, the same way you've probably trained her to stay away from dangerous things in your house or help her to learn table manners. There are so many things you've already taught her, and you probably haven't thought twice about them. Sometimes it feels mean to teach our children what they need to learn, but it's always with their best interests at heart!
    And it sounds like Kaya is responding beautifully and learning quickly. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thank you so much for offering this perspective on this...the first few days were def. hard for me, but with the amount that she is speaking to me in German now (post to follow soon), it's hard for me to remember feeling bad. Funny, how the 'trauma' gets pushed to the back--like with childbirth! But your points are well-taken...and as I see it now, I'm simply teaching her how to speak German, and more specifically, giving her an actual need to know.
    Thank you, once again!


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