Sunday, March 16, 2008

Do You Speak English?

All we've been speaking lately is English. It has just been easier. I decided to raise my children bilingually because I wanted them to have the advantages that brings and also so that I'd have someone to talk to in my select languages as I like to study foreign languages as a hobby. But raising a child bilingually when you aren't a native to the language is harder than I'd anticipated. I don't have the ingrained "baby language" that I would if I'd been raised speaking German. I don't know how to call a toilet anything but it's proper name (and a few names that I can't use with a baby!) and I don't know if a baby has an "owie" or "boo boo".

In a way this might be good. Everyone has read the numerous studies and articles about baby talk holding children back. The new trend is to speak to a child as if they are your forty-five year old colleague instead of a new soul trying to figure out a strange world. So the fact that I can't babble baby talk to my children is actually a plus in this department. But it holds me back when I want to coo sweet nothings into my baby's ear or softly soothe my toddler in "mommy" words.

So after I had the new baby and I was so tired I couldn't even bother dressing myself each day, it didn't seem like such a big issue to let German slide for awhile. I figured that it would be easy enough to pick back up once I could remember how to spell my own name. Now over a month has passed and a recent conversation with my oldest made me realize that we've hit a low point.

Fin: Mama, what are you doing?
Me: Feeding the baby. What are you doing?
Fin: I'm playing with my toys. (fidgets around) Can.... MAY I have a glass of water, please?
Me: Sure.

Now, this would normally be a nice conversation. He self-corrected to say "may" instead of "can" and he even said "please". However, after I handed him the glass of water and he thanked me, I realized that not one word of German passed his lips. I tried to think over our recent conversations and couldn't remember when we'd last spoken in German. All of our recent books and songs have been communicated in English. We haven't even watched any German DVDs.

I'm now having to expend more energy trying to get back into the groove of speaking German. I often forget to speak it myself, when I'm in a hurry English is just at the tip of my tongue while German is slower to surface.