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Old 01.10.2015, 21:48
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Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

We're moving to London in a couple of weeks, having lived in Zürich for five years.

I've found a German Saturday School in London, and we're going to have a trial lesson for my two kids.

I wondered how realistic it is to expect my kids, aged nearly 7 and 4.5, to continue speaking German / Swiss German, after they move to London. We are an English-speaking family at home. The nearly 7 year old speaks Swiss German well and is now speaking High German at school.

It just feels like it would be such a shame if they were to lose their German skills. But is two hours a week at German Saturday School really enough to keep language skills going? They also offer an adult class at the same time that I could go to.

Anyone had experience of this, particularly in relation to the kids?

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Old 01.10.2015, 22:36
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Re: Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

You could always get a German speaking Au-pair to speak German with them every day?
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Old 01.10.2015, 22:41
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Re: Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

hmmm no- that would be very unfair on the Au Pair- and against the regualtions, actually ... as was made very clear to us when we had Swiss Au Pairs in the UK when kids were small. They were there to learn English- that is the whole point. We've been through the Au Pair regs on EF so many times before.

Classes will be great, and you could all decide to speak German on a certain day- watch German telly and films. Mainly keep in touch with friends here and organise holidays and camps for the kids here with local kids. However, it is not easy to artificially keep a language going for long- unless you all make the effort to do so as a family. Viel Glück dabei.

Last edited by Odile; 01.10.2015 at 22:56.
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Old 01.10.2015, 22:55
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Re: Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

You could try and make the effort to speak at least High German at home? That helps a lot. I kept my mothertounge after I left the country at age 8 just through speaking it at home and reading in it.

I can't write at all but can read and speak nearly perfectly 20 years later.
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Old 01.10.2015, 23:22
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Re: Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

Yeah, I think I'm going to have to accept that our German won't be the same as here. But maybe if we try using a mixture of methods like classes, talking books, TV, reading etc, we can at least keep it going to a certain extent.

On a personal level, I've found it so challenging learning German, I really don't want to just stop. It would feel like a huge waste of time.
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Old 01.10.2015, 23:26
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Re: Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

The au pair rules are pretty strict, but there's no reason you can't hire a German-speaking nanny. Perhaps there's a trailing spouse from a German-speaking country who's moved to London and is looking for some part-time work. Why not advertise or ask around?

I once worked here as a nanny for a Swiss family who had just returned from a few years in the states. The kids were 6 and 4, so the parents were keen to have them keep up their English. I was a trailing spouse freshly arrived from Canada with a work permit but no firm career plans. So it wasn't an au pair situation, it was just a regular, perfectly legal job.

Regarding the how the kids have maintained their language skills over time, they've always had English-speaking childminders, supplemented with private lessons once a week, English books, English films, and the occasional holiday to an English-speaking place. Now the girls are 13 and 15 and speak English quite well, although the younger one has a definite accent and can struggle to find words. They will both certainly speak the language almost as well as a native when they are adults, but it has taken a lot of effort.
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Old 01.10.2015, 23:33
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Re: Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

Holidays to German-speaking countries, even back to Switzerland (!), are a great idea! Something to look forward to as well. The kids are already looking forward to coming on holiday to Switzerland, instead of always having to go to England on holiday!!!
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Old 01.10.2015, 23:47
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Re: Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

I can understand your wish that the children keep up their German. Many families on here are confronted with language challenges in one form or another.
I am British, my husband Swiss. Our children were born here and started school here. We moved from Switzerland to England (children aged 8 and 10) and just over two years later came back. Both times the children had a lot of catching up to do. Not just the language itself but things like Geography, History and Literature are 'different'. We tried to practice a bit more English before we went. They understood English and could read it, but didn't speak it or write it. After about a year of English school, they had caught up with the others in their class. We would have liked to spend time on German while in England (we knew that we would be returning to CH), but felt that the youngsters had enough pressure and needed time to do fun things peculiar to the country they were living in at the time. When they started school again here, they had great gaps in their knowledge but again, after about a year, they had more or less caught up.
The elder child kept her English going when we returned. The younger one seemed to have forgotten it but has picked it up again since. (They are now adults and need their English for professional literature.)

The problem with 'keeping up' language is that the vocabulary should increase at that age. It isn't enough to remember the words you know and 4.5 is really quite young. However, if they can have holidays here and retain contacts, it could be possible to stop them losing everything. Email, Skype, SMS and WhatsApp would have made it much easier for ours to keep in touch with their Swiss friends while in England and their English friends when they got back here.
Hope it all goes well.
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Old 02.10.2015, 09:32
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Re: Speaking German in the UK - how realistic?

There must be 10s possibly 100s of thousands of Germans in London.

I am sure there are various German social clubs and so on.
There is a german school in Richmond

Maybe try asking on the "Deutshe Forum"
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