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Old 26.09.2011, 16:51
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Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

We want to get my 4 year old more interested in Swiss German. We're still in the US, so his only exposure is with my husband. When spoken to in Swiss German, he complains and gets aggravated. I'm looking for ways of making it more fun. Do any of you know any language games we can play with him to increase his interest??
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Old 26.09.2011, 16:56
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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We want to get my 4 year old more interested in Swiss German. We're still in the US, so his only exposure is with my husband. When spoken to in Swiss German, he complains and gets aggravated. I'm looking for ways of making it more fun. Do any of you know any language games we can play with him to increase his interest??
To be honest, I wouldn't bother. What you will struggle to teach him in a couple of painful months, he'll pick up in a couple of weeks here at Krippe or Kindergarten.
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Old 26.09.2011, 17:35
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

True... and then in no time after he has started day care or Kindergarten, he will only speak Swiss German with you and look very annoyed when you try to speak English with him.

...don't ask why, that's the way it is.
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Old 26.09.2011, 17:41
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

Most kids hate being different...
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Old 26.09.2011, 18:19
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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To be honest, I wouldn't bother. What you will struggle to teach him in a couple of painful months, he'll pick up in a couple of weeks here at Krippe or Kindergarten.
so true! my boys speak 4 languages. they picked some at home, some at school. don't worry about it, he will go to Krippe until he's 5 and will it up in no time.
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Old 26.09.2011, 18:49
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

How about at 6? Our current plan is to move in 18 months. He'll be out of kindergarten by then. I know its harder to learn, the older they get. We're concerned about him getting behind while his language skills catch up.
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Old 26.09.2011, 18:59
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I agree my 5 year old daughter was speaking Swiss German within months after moving from England. That's just from kindergarten and Hort, now 10 months after moving she is virtually fluent with her friends and teachers. Just a little insight, and hope it helps.
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Old 26.09.2011, 19:01
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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How about at 6? Our current plan is to move in 18 months. He'll be out of kindergarten by then. I know its harder to learn, the older they get. We're concerned about him getting behind while his language skills catch up.
Assuming your husband is Swiss (of the first kind, i.e. grew up here, speaks natively), what's wrong with forcing your child to speak only Swiss German with your husband? My husband only speaks his native language to my daughter and, though she speaks mostly English, the second we land in my husband's country and hang with the grands, it's mostly 'the language that never gets spoken'....fluently

Kids are lazy like we are. We do what we do when we need to do it because we have to do it. Sponges. Just wait until they swear in another language out of the blue in the appropriate context. That...is a rather head turning moment.
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Old 26.09.2011, 19:04
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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I agree my 5 year old daughter was speaking Swiss German within months after moving from England. That's just from kindergarten and Hort, now 10 months after moving she is virtually fluent with her friends and teachers. Just a little insight, and hope it helps.
Interesting as, since my daughter is at a bilingual school, I've rarely heard a peep out of her in German (they teach Hochdeutsch). I'm curious as I know she is absorbing it but, wondering if it's a 3rd language in her short time on the planet Earth that has her somewhat less than chatty in the third.
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Old 26.09.2011, 19:09
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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How about at 6? Our current plan is to move in 18 months. He'll be out of kindergarten by then. I know its harder to learn, the older they get. We're concerned about him getting behind while his language skills catch up.
I think the cut off for absorbing another language as a mother tongue is around 9 years old (possibly a bit older), so I wouldn't worry too much about it if your child will be 6 when you get here.
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Old 26.09.2011, 20:32
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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How about at 6? Our current plan is to move in 18 months. He'll be out of kindergarten by then. I know its harder to learn, the older they get. We're concerned about him getting behind while his language skills catch up.
Relax. 6 years of age is early enough still. Primary School generally starts at age 7 or 7,5, and children learn the local language very swiftly also in early primary school.

You however might purchase some "GLOBI" books in German which may come in helpfully.
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Old 26.09.2011, 20:36
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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Interesting as, since my daughter is at a bilingual school, I've rarely heard a peep out of her in German (they teach Hochdeutsch). I'm curious as I know she is absorbing it but, wondering if it's a 3rd language in her short time on the planet Earth that has her somewhat less than chatty in the third.
"they teach Hochdeutsch" ?? What else ? ALL schools teach Standard-German here. And in the Canton of Zürich, the regulation in favour of the Standard-Language have been stiffened recently quite considerably.
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Old 26.09.2011, 21:23
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

Hi Tammie - I think you were looking for games to play with your little boy. So these are some games we have played, both as German homework and also in speech therapy.

Get a picture of a rocket, its zooming to the moon carrying a picture of your choice (that you want your son to learn)via three planets. As you land on each planet say the word.

Playing pairs with pictures. Each time a picture is picked up say the name of the object.

Nursery rhymes also can appeal. I am wondering if you can get DVDs or speaking books in Swiss German. They have them in our local library.
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Old 27.09.2011, 01:21
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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Assuming your husband is Swiss (of the first kind, i.e. grew up here, speaks natively), what's wrong with forcing your child to speak only Swiss German with your husband? My husband only speaks his native language to my daughter and, though she speaks mostly English, the second we land in my husband's country and hang with the grands, it's mostly 'the language that never gets spoken'....fluently

Kids are lazy like we are. We do what we do when we need to do it because we have to do it. Sponges. Just wait until they swear in another language out of the blue in the appropriate context. That...is a rather head turning moment.
Yes, he's actually Swiss (not an American with Swiss heritage <G>). He's trying to speak with him, but it's awkward for him since I only speak English and the little guy isn't interested... so we're trying to find ways to get his interest peaked some more before we push it harder. He's very determined and will do his best to fight it. Better to get him to ask for it
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Old 27.09.2011, 07:19
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

If your husband can get over the 'awkward', then things will go smoother. I would not encourage you to speak a foreign language to your child - far better that you stick to your 'heart' language - your mother tongue - and your husband to do the same. Spoken language ('expressive' language) is about 2 years behind what they understand 'receptive' language - so long before you hear him outstrip you verbally in the other language, he will already have more than you do...

I work with babies and toddlers, in a bilingual childcare, and we have 'one-sided' conversations for basically the first 2-3 years that the kids are in our care...That's normal. They are aged from 4 months to 3 plus...the learning curve for older kids is steeper - but within 1 month we certainly can tell they understand us, and within 6 months they are starting to talk to us in both languages. Even kids who come in with zero German and Zero english (and I'm talking about kids who have just arrived from Russia or Spain and have not been immersed locally at the shops, in the park or whatever)...

There's plenty of info out there about bilingual families, and the main thing is persistence - your husband should speak 100% swiss-German to his child....if he speaks back in English, Dad must persist with the swiss-German...otherwise it's a lost opportunity. That takes a big commitment from Dad.

At work:

Me: "Oh, I can see a ball there in the picture "
Child: "Nein, Ball (pronounced in German) "
Me: "Oh, yes, it's a Ball (pronounced in English"
Child: "Nein, Ball (insists on his pronounciation)
Me: "Do you have a Ball at your house? I know you love to kick the ball"
Child: "Nein, Ball....

This child was 2.5 He speaks Austrian German, English and French. No problem! We got past the stage where he needed to correct my pronunciation ;-)


On the other hand, as others have said, come over for a holiday and stay with the local people, or come longer-term and immerse him at school and he will learn 1000 times more than what you try to do with a one-sided parent conversation where there is absolutely no incentive to learn this strange tongue that Dad uses just occasionally when he is in the mood...
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Old 27.09.2011, 07:49
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

you could get a cd with some songs in swiss german, play them to your child and dad can sing along. our home is bilingual and hubby got my daughter interested in SG through singing to her.
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Old 27.09.2011, 08:08
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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"they teach Hochdeutsch" ?? What else ? ALL schools teach Standard-German here. And in the Canton of Zürich, the regulation in favour of the Standard-Language have been stiffened recently quite considerably.
Really, are you sure about that?...they speak Swiss German for the most part. I remember there being some memo at the end of last year that proclaimed that the school would remain all hochdeutsch as it's a private school and outside the bounds of the new law. Maybe I'm just confused.
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Old 27.09.2011, 08:48
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

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Really, are you sure about that?...they speak Swiss German for the most part. I remember there being some memo at the end of last year that proclaimed that the school would remain all hochdeutsch as it's a private school and outside the bounds of the new law. Maybe I'm just confused.
School teach in standard high-German.

What the children speak to each other in the playground is most probably Swiss-German.
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Old 27.09.2011, 10:47
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

I was going to suggest singing, but that seems to have been done, so my second suggestion would be: are you learning it yourself? If you are (or already speak some), get your little one involved in helping Mommy to learn Daddy's language. Then speak SG with your husband to the extent of your ability whenever you can, so he sees it's something interesting. Much easier to motivate a little one to do something Mommy is doing too.

My mother teaches her students numbers by throwing a ball back and forth. As you throw you count throws. If the child gets the number wrong you can just fill in for them, or start again. If one of you drops the ball you definitely start again. Could also be used for colours of the rainbow, months, days of the week - anything that has a specific order (as long as your kid doesn't start saying "yellow" or "March" when he means "three"! )
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Old 19.11.2011, 13:36
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Re: Teaching a 4 year old Swiss German

We own The Bilingual Edge: Why, When, and How to Teach Your Child a Second Language. I found it to be a useful resource and read it before the birth of our first.

We choose to operate as a OPOL (One Parent, One Language) household. No matter where we live or where we are, I speak exclusively in English with our children and my husband speaks exclusively in Swiss German. As a matter of politeness, when guests are at the table with us, we speak predominantly in the least common denominator language. However, when telling my daughter to, "sit down properly" or other manners things, I'll still speak to her in English.

Before we moved to Switzerland when she was just shy of 2.5, she was fluent with her understanding, but spoke back almost always in English. Personally, I wanted my husband to push her more to speak back, but he didn't think it was necessary and her Swiss German is not under my control.

When we moved here, it took about six weeks before she was fluent in both speaking and listening. The real turning point was when we went on a week long vacation with another Swiss German family. The intensity of that experience really helped her spoken language blossom.

Then in October, we went back to the US and it worked the same way in reverse. The intensity of two weeks in an English speaking environment resulted in yet another language explosion in English.

My daughter has always been extremely very verbal in English and she began early. I found that as she started speaking more and more Swiss German, she followed the same path in regards to the extent of her vocabulary and ways that she uses it.

*****

I have put a lot of thought into how to do bilingualism in my household and have considered a lot of methods. I always ask other bilingual families how they do it and bilingual adults what they did and didn't like about the experience growing up. I've come to the conclusion that there are many, MANY ways to raise bilingual children. You have to figure out what makes most sense for YOUR family. It also very much depends on the child. My daughter loves to talk and loves to express herself. I am not at all shocked by her fluency and how long it took. It's just the way she is. Other children are shy or some don't want to say a word until they know it's perfect. What works for one, may not work or simply may not make sense for your family. In the book that I linked above, there are many examples as well.

*****

Direct to your question, I once read on the forum about a family who introduced a doll to their child during bathtime or something like this. This doll could only understand Swiss German. Apparently this was a non-threatening way for the child to practice and during a limited period of time so it wasn't overwhelming. I liked that idea and have put it in my toolbox if I ever need it.

Hope that helps!
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