Monday, June 22, 2015

Toddler German Class in America

Toddler M is taking German class once a week, as of last Friday. The Frau is not sure if it will be effective or not (is three hours once a week enough to learn a language?), but she had to at least try one session for the sake of her daughter, since she knows first-hand how painful it is to try to learn a language when you’re old.

Toddler M’s summer German class is held in a park near a beautiful brick building with a clock tower. If the setting didn’t come complete with parking spaces the size of some small European countries, it could almost pass as Swiss.

Anyway, The Frau sat in on the first 20 minutes of the class because Toddler M didn’t want her to leave. While the teacher spoke German most of the time, she would still switch to English to discipline or tell the children to be quiet when someone else was speaking.

The Frau found all of this English unnecessary, but maybe this is because she is used to the real-deal-throw-your-daughter-into-a-Swiss-German-world-at-six-months-old-and wish-her-the-best-while-you-go-to-work method. And she has to say, this method works.

Because after class, the teacher reported that Toddler M knew a lot of German already and had a lot of potential. It was good to hear that her first three years in Switzerland had some impact and also that the YouTube videos in German that The Frau makes her watch are most likely helping too.

But in general, The Frau still wonders: How does an average American child learn a foreign language? The answer: They don’t.

American culture still seems to believe that learning a second language is either for poor immigrants in an ESL program or a luxurious pastime for rich kids. Language learning is not a serious undertaking supported by American tax dollars nor are there many programs for complete immersion even if you are willing to spend half your salary on them. It’s too bad because The Frau believes a second language for all Americans could be the key to a better understanding of the world for our citizens.

Not to mention, language learning is fun, at least if you ask Toddler M. After the class she said in a very happy English, “Mommy, I really love German!”

So needless to say, it was all worth it.


Anonymous said...

I think your statement about children learning foreign language in America was an uneducated claim. Majority of American public and private schools require or offer some form of foreign language to students. It's not just for poor immigrants or rich kids. Many people embrace different languages and cultures, despite being American. As an American citizen yourself, who seems to enjoy other nations and their customs, you of all people should understand that learning a foreign language is not just for poor immigrants or wealthy children. I hope this comment will make you rethink your privileged and close minded perspective of American culture and the people who make up this country.

Dominik said...

I can really recommend you to watch the videos of Julia Graf. She was/is in a similar situation like your toddler is. She's originally from Germany but moved to Canada as a child and grew up there. She spoke in German with her mother (since she's German) and now she lives in the Bern area in Switzerland with her Swiss husband. In her videos she often saya how glad she is that her mother forced her to speak German because now in life it was became extremely helpful for her - especially living in Switzerland now.
Here are her two channels (mostly makeup stuff but also fitness and nutrition videos).
Channel in English:
And her channel in German:

Hattie said...

Mainstream Americans seldom speak a second language. That's a fact. And it's too bad. I think it's great that your daughter can have that exposure to German.

Kate Prinsloo said...

I absolutely agree. As an American, living in Switzerland, and married to a South African, the USA is far behind in teaching any second language. In school I only needed 2 years of a foreign language to graduate and to get into University. At age 16, 2 years of any language will not do much in terms of being fluent and proficient. I also believe a second language needs to be taught in the early years and not wait until high school.

Experience Jamaique said...

I think other parts of the Americas share the same issue of second languages. I remember my public high school days in Jamaica having to learn Latin (amo, amas, amat) and Spanish and thought they were both irrelevant. Now I am struggling with French here in Geneva, where it's easy to retreat into an English speaking community.

Denise - Experience Jamaique

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I also recommend for German zdf/tivi ( and the ard mediathek as well. Löwenzähnchen is for sure somewhat for a 3 year old. For older kids the news LOGO, Löwenzahn, Pur, TerraMax and so on is a very nice educating approach of German televison. My kids love it!

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