Bilingual Familes – Bedtime Stories

A few of you will now that we are a “Bilingual Family” – I am half Austrian and my better half is British. So the kids speak English and understand German.

That really pains me to write. I would love for them to SPEAK German too. But as many biligual families will tell you it is a struggle (or at least I hope they say that, else I am a complete and utter failure).

It all started off so well. I found some fellow German mums and we had regular German playdates. It helped ME above all to “Get back into German” (English has been my dominant language for a long time). And I was doing well. German with the Kids. English when the English speakers were around.

And then somewhere I lost my way. And we spoke more and more English. Argh.

We have an upcoming “interview” at the local(ish) German School coming. And really, I am beginning to worry about it. The kids do understand a lot, and the Boy (almost 6) is starting to try and use some German more and more. But it is very basic. So I am making an effort.

And my main effort right now ist to increase the understanding and use of vocabulary.

The focus will be on our bedtime reading books – out with the English books, in with the German Books. Reading and bedtime stories are a great opportunity to introduce more complex gramma and vocabulary not in every day use.

I am going to start with some of the books from my childhood:

Yesterday we started with Suchen Und Finden

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Great for increasing vocabulary as you seek out the words highlighted in the “frame of the page”.

We also started on a Chapter Book “Das Kleine Gespenst

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But it amde me realise, quite how behind we are in our vocabulary. But we battle on.

And I have some great books about a little girl called Arnie, who lives on a light house island off the coast of Australia…

71Sc+mWIOKL._SL500_It is text heavy, but also has a good amount of pictures, so I think this will help us on our German Book Bedtime reading.

Wish us luck!

 

Bilingual Christmas Traditions

Many of you will know that we are a Bilingual household. Well, trying to be. We haven’t QUITE succeeded yet, but the kids have a good understanding of German (I am Austrian) and of course fluent in English. The Boy is starting to speak more and more German and taking an interest in the language – and I have is VERY multi cultural school to thank for that. Almost EVERY child has a second language in the family. So speaking two languages is “cool”. I digress.

For me being bilingual, is not just about language, but about culture too. You can’t call yourself Austrian AND British and not follow some of the traditions in both countries. Every year we have our very own St Martin’s Laterne, we celebrate Three Kings Day – though that is more part of the Spanish “bit in me” and have Santa Stockings. We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and then Santa visits us to fill the Stockings on Christmas night. We eat Goose with Knoedl and have Christmas Puddings for after. I bake Austrian Christmas Cookies and we eat them with Mince Pies.

Yep. How we love to mix our traditions and have our children enjoy a bit of both!

The lovely people from Rosetta Stone kindly sent us some Christmas Crackers to make – warms my crafty heart indeed and the kids adored making them and they are the perfect “British Addition” to our Bilingual Christmas. So glad they sent them, else I would have probably forgotten them!

Bilingual Family Christmas (2)

Ahem, I am so keeping the box afterwards for “storage of crafty things”.

Bilingual Family Christmas (3)

Love the addition of some multi lingual fun!

Bilingual Family Christmas (4)

The details such as the pom pom hat “had” the girl. She couldn’t get enough of it!

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Belt stickers added by 4 year old.

Bilingual Family Christmas (6) We added some choc coins and the girls loved adding the stickers.

How I love being part of a bilingual family with the opportunity to pick and choose our favourite traditions! Thanks for reminding us of this Rosetta Stone and for sending us such lovely crackers to play with.

Have you got any country specific favourite Christmas traditions?

Halloween Traditions

Halloween is has never really very big for “me”, as an Austrian in the UK it often passed us by. But as mentioned before, the best thing about being in a multi cultural home, is that we can pick and choose our traditions. Last year, The Boy’s friends asked to join them trick or treating. We did. And it was much nicer than I had expected, mainly due to a very “nice” road in our area that had a real Halloween Party atmosphere. After experiencing that I wanted to check out Halloween Traditions like dressing like a mascot or pumpkin carving, but not limit ourselves to that.

This year we embraced Halloween from the beginning and I decided to try and make it not just about sweets (and ahem begging). We made our own Halloween costumes and… we booked in a day with The Uncle!

And what a lovely day we had. I hoping that this day will form the focus of our Halloween for years to come – a day all about family, spending time together, being creative and eating some yummy Halloween food.

The idea of the day was simple:

1) Visit The Uncle (including Granny, Grandpa, The Auntie and a cousin)

2) Scoop our pumpkins (The Uncle had bought no less than 8 pumpkins, one big and 7 small ons!)

3) Daddy to cook with the pumpkins (using some of these pumpkin recipes) – he ended up making a delicious mild curry pumpkin soup and a pumpkin risotto. The Boy slurped two whole bowls full!

4) The kids to help design the pumpkins and for The Uncle to carve them

So we did.

We had the best Halloween day ever. Hooray for Halloween Traditions and I am looking forward to next year already! Thank Uncle for a fabulous day!

1st Day of School Traditions

This month has been a very special month for us (and many other families, I know)… The Boy STARTED SCHOOL! All very exciting and emotional and fabulous all at once. Being in the UK, compulsory school starts after the 4th Birthday, as the children start Reception. Luckily, Reception is still very much about playful learning and The Boy LOVED going to pre school and couldn’t wait to be in “Big School”.

As a good Austrian mother does, I decided that The Boy HAD to have a “Schultuete”. Schultuete is a germanic tradition – where children who first start school, get a big “school cone” of goodies to help sweeten the day. I remember mine from when I first started school and I wanted The Boy to have one too.

Living in the UK, we can’t actually buy one, so I made one for him (check out how “How to Make a Schultuete” post). The key being that they are BIG and filled with LOTS of stuff.

We had already been counting down the days to school startings. The Boy being so excited. The uniform was ready and we talked about the friends we would see again from preschool. We talked about how exciting it would be to eat lunch at school and how it may be a little tiring at first with the long hours (9am – 3:30pm).

The day arrived. And The Boy got his cone:

Such a VERY happy boy. He loved all he received – a Spiderman Pencilcase, a Spiderman Drinks bottle.. a special 10 colour biro (a huge hit) and some Superhero notebooks I made for him. Off he walked to school. Bursting with pride at being a BIG BOY. And in he waltzed. Daddy took the day off, so we all got wave him off. A big hug. And he was gone. After school, we all collected him and went of for a celebratory meal. The Boy talked all the way to the restaurants. Told me about the TWO new friends he had made (but I can’t remember their names). How he had lasagna at lunchtime (I was only allowed one, Mummy, not all the food – which I interpreted as, that the children got a meal choice and he wanted a bit of everything). He told us about the THREE playgrounds and about how the boys and the girls have their own toilets (we have robots on the all, Mummy). At the restaurant he did lots of drawing in his new notebooks with his new pen. Ate some Bangers & Mash (what a good Brit), followed by Ice cream. An exciting day indeed.

On the phone to Opapa, telling him all about the day.

My boy is growing up!! Sigh.

Lovely to come from a multi cultural household – we are able to pick and choose the best of traditions and hopefully give our children ever lasting special memories of growing up!

The “funny bit” is… in  2 years, The Boy will go to The German School (yes, I have finally decided it is the only choice for us). And when he changes, it will be The German School “Year 1″ (German School starts around the 6th Birthday)… and he will get a Schultuete ALL OVER AGAIN. You are only supposed to get a Schultuete ONCE in your life, but if the rest of the class is getting for “starting school for the first time”, so will The Boy! Lucky him. I am hoping the second Schultuete will ease the pain of changing schools and make settling in over there easier!

A bit about us:

About our bilingual Family: I am a third culture Austrian (Austrian by nationality, but grew up in the UK going to a German School), married to a Brit (who only speaks English, but is trying to learn German). We have two children – a boy aged 4 and a girl aged 2. Though German is my mother tongue, English dominated for a long time (since leaving school). So I have had to get “back into” German when the children were born. I was lucky to find some German friends in my local area and we meet regularly. I tend to speak German to the children when we are alone or with German speakers, but use English the rest of the time.The children currently understand German but speak English. (PS I will replace that photo with a family photograph… tsk tsk).