Best of Both Worlds

Stacey Rusch Family Photo 1.JPG

Arabella’s nickname is mäuschen - which means little mouse in German. When she was born, we both agreed that she looked like a sweet little mouse with her button nose and tiny chin. And as soon as she started talking, she was obsessed with smelling things. If I offered her something new to eat, she wouldn’t even think about trying it until after she smelled it. So needless to say, the name mäuschen stuck! Haha! When we’re out and about and other Moms hear me call her by her nickname, they always ask what language I’m speaking and most often, start a conversation about my daughter being biracial and bilingual - and why speaking both languages is so important to our family. When my husband and I decided to start our family, it was a given that our child would speak English and German. And at three years old, our beautiful daughter is doing just that - #proudmama! There are so many reasons why we chose to teach Arabella both languages. For example, did you know that recent studies show that bilingual children tend to be smarter, more focused, have a better memory with a broader vocabulary and better problem solving skills? These skills stem from having to constantly switch from one language to another. And thinking ahead, research even shows that there is growing evidence that bilingualism can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. But honestly, before I was even aware of all that :) what was most important to me was that she appreciate and be proud of her family heritage from both of her parents. In the same way that she sits on the lap of my Mother and hears the stories about a little black girl growing up in a big city in America, I want her to hear the stories of her Oma growing up in a small village in Germany. I want her to be able to be fully immersed in both of our cultures, in a way that can only come from speaking the same language. So how did we do it? Repetition, repetition, repetition. Here are a few of my best tips! When she was just beginning to talk and learning words, we would teach her the English word for something and immediately repeat that word in German. For everything. I also used flash cards, which I found to be extremely helpful. We also made sure that we included English and German books for story time before bed. I still read the English books and her Dad reads the German books. Once she began speaking in phrases and sentences, whenever I asked a question in English, I made sure to repeat the same question in German. And when she answered, I’d ask her to repeat her answer in German. We still do this every day. And now that she is allowed screen time, we make sure that she watches programs that are available in both languages. We love Fireman Sam, Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig because the German versions are easy to find. It takes some effort and it is not easy but it’s totally worth it! Are your kids speaking a second language? Share your comments or questions below!