There are a lot of things we’re hoping to take from this experience of living abroad – memories of travel throughout Europe, the calm confidence that comes from having conquered a massive challenge, the perspective that comes from living out of your comfort zone. And, for the kids (if not also for us) hopefully a little bit of German speaking ability.
With Benjamin being in school, I imagine that he, at least, will leave here with a good working knowledge of German. As he gets more comfortable at school, they’ll be phasing the English out and the German in, and I’m confident that he’ll pick it up. It’s amazing to me how much he’s learning already.
As much as TV is maligned when it comes to toddlers and preschoolers, I actually have to give the shows we’ve been watching a lot of the credit so far. Probably about half of the TV that Benjamin watches in a day (and he probably averages about 3-4 hours per day — I know, that’s a lot) is in German. Much as I am sheepish about the amount that he watches, I can’t deny that he’s learning something from it. He will often recite words in German that I recognize solely from the TV he watches, and he’s now showing a preference for the shows that are in German — he’ll even ask me to change the soundtrack on many of his favorite English language shows to German.
In fact, he’s picking up a surprising variety of language from TV. In addition to the German, he’s learned several words of Chinese from “Ni Hao, Kai Lan” and he’s learning Spanish from “Diego”. So far, though, his mental categories of language include “English” and an “other” that can be called German, Spanish or Chinese but which consists of all the same words. In other words, he comfortably mixes words he’s learned from each language together, and even gets frustrated with the inconsistency – the other day, he sternly told Diego on TV that the word for “pull” isn’t “jala” (Spanish) it’s “la” (Chinese).
Just today, he was telling one of his toys, “Danke, Amigo!” Not only was it impossibly cute, but it makes me hopeful for his future linguistic understanding. He’s only 3, but with learning things like this, it’s an advantage. What a souvenir to take with him when we go home — not just the ability to speak and understand German, but the confidence that it will give him to go out in the world.