Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I need some advice...

I have held off on posting this week (well last week) because I didn't want to turn my blog into a complaining place.

On the other hand I would like to get this off my chest.

I went to Desi's very first parent teacher conference this past monday. It was scheduled so I knew that he was not in trouble or anything, but I was most definantly not prepared for what I heard.

It strated off well. Desi can cut very precisly with scissors. He is the only 4-year-old in his class that can write his name (kindergarten classes are usually a mix of kids ages 3-7. Kids usually go for 3 years kind of like a preschool setting). He has lots of friends. His shyness is much less now. He works very precisly and concetrated when building or the like. He is very inteseted in technical things. On and on. She did say that during group time Desi tends to not pay attention, but to be honest I remember when I got in trouble for that in the 2nd grade. I still zone out during class for no reason.

The next point was the bad one. She said that Desi's German is not very good. He makes more grammatical mistakes than normal for his age group and she has to repeat instructions several times before he seems to understand them leading her to also think that he does not understand German that well.

This was like nail to my heart. I really didn't know what to say to her.

I think for this to make sense I should back track a little bit. Desi is not Maik's biological son. Come on look at the pictures. For us this is not a big deal. Maik has been in Desi's life since he was 6 months old. Desi was born in the USA. For the first year (and i mean exactuly 5 days after his first birthday we left) Desi heard only English. Maik only spoke English to him, because he did not want to confuse him (that is another story). Anyway after we got here Desi began be BILINGUALLY raised. I only speak English to him and Maik only speaks German. The Germany influence in his life is HUGE. I don't have any English speaking friends here and apart from speaking English to me and watching some English dvd's, Desi's English influence is very small.

So back to this conference. The teacher (who speaks VERY little English) thinks that Desi's English is much better than his German and that the English influence in his life is too much and that I (who can not even pass German at school) should stop speaking English (to my own child) and only speak German to him (so that i can no longer communicate and did i mention that grammar is awful!?!?) so that his German improves.

I still don't know how to respond to this. I read everything I can find on the topic of bilingualism. I read through all the methods, the different types of bilingualism, the effects, the problems, and what good can come of it. In our life it is nessacery that Desi (and all following children) be bilingual. My family cannot speak German, nor Maik's family English. Aside from that Desi is bilingual in the very sense of he has two native languages. From what I have read at this point it would most likely harm him more to take him out of the bilingual enviornment.

My main question is: did I do something wrong? I mean Desi's problem seems to be that the minority language (English) is better that the enviornment language (German). That is not common. I don't know why this is. I would like to point out though: I waited over 2 years to hear my child's first word. I had to wait almost another year to hear his first sentance. Yes Desi did not start to talk until he was 3. I think that what he learned speech wise in the past one and half years is increadable. On the other hand I really cannot say anything about his German. I really don't know if it is that bad, but i can say that his English needs work. He makes a lot of grammar mistakes that I know are from German and I can imagine vice versa.

We plan in March to (once all our testing is done) take him to a speech therapist and have his speech and all that jazz evaluated. Other than this I am at a loss. I could really use some advice. I don't think raising him bilingually is a bad thing, nor do think we should stop what we are doing. I just don't know how to explain that to anyone.

If you read this far, thank you. I would really value your imput. I promise next post will have pictures of fun in this snow!

lots of love,


3 Peanuts said...

I think you are doing the right thing. How old is Desi? Bilingual kids often take a little longer to become really fluent and communicative in language but they end up just fine. I would not stop speaking English to him. I suspect you know more than the teacher on this one:)

Sharon said...

I hope you can resolve it in your heart. YOU are his mom and you know what is best above everyone else. Including teachers. I think it is amazingly fantastic that he can speak two languages. I hear that is one of the very best things you can do for a child to stimulate brain activity, and other great benefits. Moms have to be strong because you find out fast enough that if you try to please one person's opinion you will disapoint someone else who has another. Raise your child the way you think best, be humble, think it through and think again then stay the course. At least unitl there comes a different circumstance that makes you decide to try something else. I can't imagine bilingual would ever be something you would need to change. You are obviously a very concerned, loving, amazing mother. Trust yourself!!

Unknown said...

Hi. I linked to your blog through 3 peanuts. This teacher has me fired up!! I grew up in a bilingual American home where English was not my first language. That said, I am doing just fine. I don't think it diminished my intelligence nor did it hinder my grammer. Your son has such an advantage at such a young age. I will certainly teach my children 2 languages if not more.

The running joke is that people speaking three languages are trilingual while people speaking two languages are bilingual and people speaking only one language are American. Not the best joke, but don't let this teacher categorize your son. He lives in Germany for Pete's sake. It's not like his German won't always improve or you don't want him to speak German.

Keep up the great work!!

Kristi said...

I think it makes perfect sense that he speaks better English since that is how he communicates with you -- his mother and the most important person in his life. I think it would be a huge mistake to stop speaking English to him.

Also, I think a German-speaking teacher is probably motivated to improve his German for her needs not your son's.

When you have a speech evaluation I would make sure that it's by someone who fluently speaks both English and German and understands bilingualism. An evaluation by someone who doesn't understand those things really won't be worth your time.

Also remember that kids develop at different rates and "typical" development is a very broad term.

Andrea said...

I can relate to your problem. I am German and raising two kids abroad. We speak German in our home and English everywhere else. I received a similar advice from my daughter's preschool teacher in the US years back because they thought her progress in English was inhibited by speaking German at home. Now my daughter's language and speech development had seemed delayed to me from the get-go, but everyone always said it is because of the two languages she had to deal with. And she is my first, so I really had no perspective. Turns out now, after several years, that she has actually a type of hearing loss that is not very obvious, but does impair speech development. She needs hearing aids. So my advice would be: do your speech evaluation soon and, very importantly, a hearing test at a good Hals-Nasen-Ohrenarzt (ENT-specialist). Then take it from there. And stick to your guns if you possibly can - speaking two languages from childhood is a big advantage in today's world, for sure.