Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dissension in the Rank(s)

I feel old. We went to bed at 2am last night, after a nice, relaxing evening of enchiladas and Cranium, and I can barely keep my eyes open right now, at just past 10:15pm. 

So, once again, I'll keep this short. But the words that were flying around our house tonight, and the sentiments that I felt in response...I think they're worth sharing. 

I was lying on my bed, half asleep from a mid-afternoon nap (see, I am old!), when I heard Kaya tell Geoff, "I don't wanna seak German with Estella at home. I only wanna seak Engrish with her!"

Part of me so wanted to go back to sleep and bury my head in the pillow. The other part won out, however, and was a bit dejected when it couldn't catch anything else. Naturally, I had to bring it up at dinner again to dive a bit deeper.

"Ich habe gehoert, du willst nicht mit Estella auf Deutsch sprechen?" [I heard you don't want to speak with Estella in German?] I asked her, well aware of the answer I was going to receive. 

"Ja. Ich will nicht mit ihr Deutsch sechen. Ich will nur Engrish mit ihr sechen." [Yeah, I don't want to speak German with her. I only want to speak English with her.]

For those just catching us in this story, Estella is our 16-year-old German host daughter who's been with us since the beginning of September. Wanting opportunity for both Estella and Kaya (and myself, possibly, down the road), we created an arrangement where the two of them communicated in German at home, and in English everywhere else. 

Quite curious, I probed a bit more. "Ist Englisch leichter fuer dich?" [Is English easier for you?]

"Nein," she said, a bit to my surprise. 

"Magst du nicht Deutsch sprechen?" I asked, despite my fear of the response I was going to get in return. 

"Ja. Ich mag Engrisch besser." [Yeah. I like English better.] My heart sank, and admittedly, I fought back the tears enough to keep them from rolling down my face. Four years of busting ass to communicate in this non-native language of mine, so that she could be fluent and bilingual, and now she doesn't like it. Ugh. Fortunately, for my emotional state, the conversation turned a bit, and it began to appear that she was referring to the languages in the context of speaking them with Estella. "Ich will Deutsch nur mit du sprechen, Mama. Warum muss ich mit ihr Deutsch sprechen?" [I only want to speak German with you, Mama. Why do I have to speak German with her?]

Feeling a little more hopeful, and even connected to Kaya, I asked her if she wanted to be able to speak to me about complicated, meaningful stuff. "Ja," she replied, sounding curious as to where this was headed. "Wenn du mit Estella auf Deutsch sprichst, dann wirst du mit mir leichter und besser sprechen koennen, damit wir ueber alles sprechen koennen." [If you speak German with Estella, then it will be easier for you to speak German with me so that we can speak about all sorts of stuff.] That seemed to do it, for as I rounded up for a furthering of my explanation, she was off and running with an inquiry about the sticker residue on her chair. 

So, despite the little emotional kiddie-coaster, in the end I feel better again. What I told her seemed to make a difference, and despite the sentiments, for both of us, I know that my efforts are making a difference. 

Happy New Year, y'all, and Guten Rutsch ins Neujahr!


  1. Ouch !

    I know that must have really hurt and its a day I am certainly dreading.

    I do wonder and hope though that its just a case of Kaya expressing her independence and testing her ability to make choices as little ones love to do. One week they love sausages the next week they are offended by the mere site of one ... Then when ur freezer is devoid of sausages it's the only thing your little angel wants for dinner... Yup... I'm talking from experience :D

    And it's so great that Kaya still loves talking German with Mama... Even after having rumbled you as an anglophone!!!!

    Keep us posted.

    1. Bonne Mamacita,
      ALWAYS so good to hear from you, and have your support, thank you! I agree, there is independence being demonstrated here, for sure. I see it more and more as she gets more into four...which I still love (aside from those moments where she dips back into 3.5!).

      Eager to dip into your world soon when I have a minute!!

  2. Hello Tamara,

    I have just found your blog and you can't imagine how happy I am... I started thinking I was the only "silly" one trying to rise up a boy in a language which is not my mothertongue..
    I come from Spain and I decided to speak just German to my son. He is now nearly 4 years old (next month) and I have been talking to him in German since the very beginning... (OPOL)
    "Unfortunately", it looks like he became a passive bilingual and well.. he understands everything but he talks just as he wishes... (fifty-fifty) or I could even say more Spanish als German.
    I try to get as much input as I can but I am quite limited with this, and well.. I haven´t been very lucky either but... I am doing my best :-)
    When I read what Kaya talks and how she expresses herself in German is like.. wow.. I do admire you... I really do...
    But I don´t give up :-)
    Irgendwann wird es passieren :-)

    Thanks very much for all the information you give us..
    I wish I had found your blog before
    Greetings from Spain


    1. Hi Yolanda,

      I couldn't be happier to hear from you. YOU, and others like you and me, are the REASON that I started and continue to maintain this blog--that, and the fact that I do love to write. Knowing that maybe I can make a difference for someone else, like others made a difference for me, whoohoo. Sweet. Thank you so much for dropping me a note...it really is comments like yours that keep me motivated, keep me coming back to share our little stories.

      First of all, I applaud you for your efforts and am impressed that you've lasted this long...esp. with your little guy being a passive bilingual. That phase was SOOO hard for me, I couldn't imagine lasting there for too much longer. I don't know how it's going for you...I know I rode on the coattails of hope that it would one day 'it would happen'. And it's true, it may, one day happen. And at the same time, I honestly believe that, without doing what I did when she was 2 1/2, it wouldn't have happened. I don't know if you have read about that phase of our life in this blog, but if not, I highly recommend it, and would also suggest, that if you really do want him to be an active bilingual, you consider a similar experiment for a week--our kids need a reason to use the language, without that, they'll just do what is easiest, which for your little guy, and for Kaya back then, was to use both, and mostly the community language. All of the posts I wrote in June, 2011, would be helpful or if nothing else, insightful for you to read, for that was the turning point for us:
      That's the first of 6 or so posts, with the last one being a recap of the first 5.
      LEmme know what you think, how it goes...I dont think it's too late to try something like that, either. It's just a matter of what you really want for him, and for you...

      Can't wait to hear how things go!!!!
      Gracias por escribir!!

  3. Hola Tamara,

    Thanks very much for answering sooo fast…
    Suddenly I have the feeling that I need to express everything that I keep inside since years now…
    I have the feeling that someone understand my fears and my doubts..
    I do appreciate that Tamara.. Thank you very much…

    As I mentioned yesterday, I just found out your blog so I am kind of catching everything up :-)
    I escape a few posts (until I get the time to follow everything) just to find out what you were talking about when you said about your decision…
    Jorge (my son) is nearly four.. but I always have to think that he is a boy.. Boys are usually much slower when it comes to speak..
    He did speak a lot but never sooo clear… Even now, and even in Spanish he doesn´t speak as good as our neighbor girl the same age…
    If we then think that he has to deal with two languages… I supposed it´s normal that he goes slower…

    The “Wie bitte?” “was meinst du genau?” Ich habe dich nicht so verstanden” thing has been going on now for a long long time 
    And the matter is that he does speak German but he is not able to speak a whole sentence… and he know how it works.. He is tired of listening to me.. and television and radio and so on…
    But.. he still doesn’t…
    I can write examples to you (since you also understand Spanish :-):

    “Ahora hay Sonne, schau!
    Später, cuando estoy fertig con la Schule, entonces regnet”
    (there is sun now, look! Later, when I finish school then it will rain)

    “Mama, no quiero gehen.. Yo quiero spielen!!
    (mum, I don´t want to go… I want to play)

    You see what I mean? And it goes like this all the time :-)

    The thing is that I work from 8 until 5.. so I actually see him just a few hours a day and of course, the whole weekend which I am entirely for him..
    Now I have a German girl who comes every morning from 8 to 9 and help him out to get up, get dress and go to school..
    He speaks to her the same way he speaks to me…
    He understands everything but he found out that this girl speaks also perfect Spanish.. so, there is no need to force the German language…

    Oh dear.. this is so frustrating sometimes…
    I think so often if this is the right thing that I am doing and if this is affecting in a bad way to his Spanish and maybe, that’s why he learn so slow…
    And the worst thing.. if I push him “too much”.. he crosses his arms and go: “pues no cuento nada” (so, I don´t tell you anything now) and then doesn´t speak anymore… :-(

    Ufff… what am I supposed to do? I want to talk to him and I don´t want him to stop talking to me because he doesn´t like the “way” I speak..
    Luckyly everybody who cares for us is on my side and tells me to cheer up and carry on… but I certainly have doubts if this is the right thing that I am doing…

    Thanks for listening and if it gets boring because this is more my private case, please, let me know, ok?

    Saludos desde España!!


    1. Yolanda...I feel so bad, and even a good bit sad, that I didn't write back sooner. I've had your comment highlighted in my inbox since you wrote, eager to return your comment and answer your question--unfortunately, your comment came at a time when I got slammed, and I'm FINally cleaning out my inbox and getting back to comments written months ago. I hope you can forgive me. I LOVE that you've found us here, and want to do whatever I can to support you in your journey--there were certainly others who supported me, and I'd love to do the same.

      So, I def. DO understand your fears and doubts and I'm very glad you shared them. It always makes it easier when we can connect with others on that which overwhelms us most. It also makes a big difference to name it. Partly for this reason that I'm so sad that I didn't write back sooner...you go and share your fears and doubts and concerns, and I leave you hanging. i'm so sorry.

      Regarding Jorge, I agree with what you said. It is def. normal for those who are learning two languages to go slower. And yes, with boys, too.

      It makes complete sense to me that he is mixing a lot, particularly when you mention how much you work during the week. Kaya, lately, has been starting to mix, too, now that she is more immersed in an English environment. There are even times that she'll mix part of her word in German and part in English. And from what I've read, this is pretty normal, too. SO...the good news: our kids are normal. YAY! =)

      As for what to do about it, I don't believe there's a hard and fast answer. At least that's what i'm learning. I'm committed to my relationship with Kaya, and that comes first. So I can understand the concern that you feel when he crosses his arms and tells you he won't tell you anymore. SO heartbreaking, huh? Naturally, so much time has gone by since your comment, i'm wondering what he's doing now? So, I say, follow your heart, push through your fear and listen to what your heart is saying. Maybe he needs a little Spanish love? Maybe he needs you to stick with German? Maybe one day you'll need one thing and he, something different. This process is definitely a roller coaster, with no manual or right way to do it. I kept looking for the answer and I'm realizing that everything is so different, what works for one may not work for another. I think it's important to know what is true for YOU and for Gorge and for your family and go from there. If they turn out bilingual, awesome. If they don't, awesome. As long as he knows you love him, and feels that love, he'll be great. and that's what you want, right?

      Keep writing, please! I'll do my best to respond a lot sooner next time.
      Much love from across the world,


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