Bilingual Nagging

I continue to navigate my way as a parent of bilingual children. We extol the joys and merits of having children grow up speaking two languages — the cognitive agility, the tendency towards more open-mindedness, and the acquisition of the language itself. The nuts and bolts of it however are not as straightforward as we might have thought they would be while the babes are in the womb. It’s not as simple as just committing yourself to one method such as the one language one parent method (OPOL). That was the easy part, and the key to making it work has been discipline. As the kids have grown, however the bumps in the road have been appearing: we’ve been battling Denglish, and I’ve been wary of Englisch in the German classrooms.

Recently however I’ve noticed that this bilingual parenting thing feels like an extra pain in the backside vs. gift I’m bestowing while parenting. It’s another thing to pick on my kids for. When children make mistakes in their grammar or their speech in general, the specialists such as the pediatrician and speech therapists all say to positively correct whatever they are saying, acknowledging whatever they are trying to say by repeating it in correct form. So for the past seven years or so, conversations with my children have been going something like this:

“I have scared!”

“You’re scared of something?”


“I’m not sure I want to get doctor since I’d have to touch blood.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t want to get doctor.”

“Oh, you mean you’re not sure you’d like to become a doctor?”


“I don’t need no blanket.”

“You don’t need any blanket?”

Charm and quirks aside as portrayed by Ruth’s post, reflecting conversations like these from the aspect of keeping her German straight, I feel that day after day of this grates on everyone’s nerves. I don’t really want to have another reason to nitpick at my kids and my kids don’t really want another reason for their mother to nag at them.

Having been educated in a high school with a Grammar Barrier test (meaning that you cannot proceed to the next grade unless you have passed this grammar test) and a college whose graduates adore posting memes that poke fun at rejecting the Oxford comma, and having edited a couple of manuscripts, it is like a bunch of unintended discordant chords to my sensitive ear to hear the above phrases on a daily basis (times three because I have three children). It’s hard to not register them as grammatical mistakes versus the process of learning, developing, and growing. You know. Stuff that kids need to do.

I’m not about to abandon what my husband and I have started in the way of raising our kids bilingually. I’m just going to have to take some deep breaths and resolve as the new year starts to continue to be patient and lovingly support my children’s acquisition of the English language while living in Germany.

Kids on the beach

My bilingual children, looking forward to a new year. Photo: Jane Park


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