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Achtung Baby: Celebrate Bilingual Child Month? Not Yet!

06/12/2013 11:14 | Updated 22 May 2015

Achtung Baby: Celebrate Bilingual Child Month? Not yet!Rex Features

If, like me, you had the impression that there is only one event worthy of celebration in Germany in October you are mistaken.

It appears that the beer-quaffing, Lederhosen-slapping, Sauerkraut-gorging, heaving-cleavage which encompasses Oktoberfest has some competition. Given that this competition comes bearing the title "Celebrate The Bilingual Child Month" however, I'm guessing the beer-vendors are unlikely to be losing any sleep.

I delight in any excuse for a shindig as much was the next person, but I'm not entirely sure what we should be celebrating. Whilst Finje understands English and German perfectly well, suitably encompassing the "bi" section of the word, the "lingual" part remains under negotiation.

The dictionary definition of bilingual is "able to speak two languages with the facility of a native speaker". Biaudial (were it an actual word) would be a more accurate description of Finje. She hears and understands both languages but speaks only one.

Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of Finje and her bi-audio-lingual abilities, but until she can converse with me in intelligible English sentences the cork is staying firmly in that bottle of celebratory bubbly.

One can find consolation on the Internet. 'It's not unknown for a child brought up with two languages to favour the language of the country in which it resides. Many children will suddenly start to speak their second language suddenly, perfectly and without warning, when they are ready. As long as they understand a language the spoken word will come in time.' Yadda yadda yadda...

Seems to me like there is a lot of patience involved in this gig, a virtue with which I'm not blessed.

As I have discovered on many occasions, you can lead a German speaking horse to the English Malvern Water but you can't make it drink. Any forceable attempt to get Finje to speak English affords one of two possible results; Either I get the sad, blinky, donkey eyes and a "Do I really have to?" (in German, obviously) or she'll eek out a sentence after such a laborious battle it's like the effort (I imagine) dragging a woolly mammoth through a quagmire of honey would entail.

"I want not English to speak because you Germany understand"

"I like it Germany to speak"

"Must I really English speaking?"

And my own personal favourite, of which I'm secretly proud,

"I think I can English much better speaking when I firstly chocolate eating can!"

It's a work in progress and I remain (mostly) optimistic. As for the celebration? Maybe next year.

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