Can a Swedish child speak English

Bilingual upbringing - although both parents speak German as their mother tongue


by Christoph Gollub

Many parents-to-be are concerned with the question of whether they can raise their child bilingually - even if both parents speak German as their mother tongue.
It is important to them that their child is given good foreign language skills from an early age.
This is intended to help the children find their way around later in a globalized society in which the knowledge of other languages ​​is of great importance.
As a world language, English in particular plays a key role.
Various studies have shown that children who have learned a second language early on, learn other languages ​​much more easily in later years.
However, learning a foreign language is not so easy, even at a young age, that it would be sufficient to speak a little English with the child every now and then - and the child already speaks this language.

Ask yourself: How well do you speak the foreign language yourself?

Above all, it depends on how well you master this language yourself, how often you speak to your child in the language and what other opportunities the child has to hear and try out the language.
It is rather counterproductive if you can speak the language - in our example English - only “more badly than right”. Your child will quickly lose the fun of the new language because he or she will notice that mum or dad are always so strained when they talk to them in English.
After all, both of them have to think because they always miss the right words. This gives your child the impression that learning, and especially learning languages, is difficult and not fun.
It is certainly also wrong to want to systematically teach the child the language - similar to later in school - and thus to anticipate school lessons.
But if, for example, you speak a lot of English at work and can therefore use it confidently, it will be (almost) problem-free if you want to raise your child in two languages.

Children learn through play

Especially with small children, however, it is also important when learning a language that learning is playful.
You should therefore create (play) situations in which you can speak to the child in the foreign language. Always use foreign language expressions for certain games (for example: “go”, “goal”, “stop”, “run” etc.). Or you read picture books to your child in the foreign language, listen to (simple) radio plays together or look for playmates for the child who speak this foreign language. In this way, the child will have fun learning the language and will not be put under unnecessary pressure.
In recent years, bilingual kindergartens and crèches have also been created in many places. Perhaps there is a corresponding offer in your city. There your child learns the foreign language from mother tongue teachers and playfully from other children who speak this language as their mother tongue.
Incidentally, it is usually not a problem if you speak the foreign language yourself with a slight accent. If your child comes into sufficient contact with native speakers outside the home, they will learn to speak without an accent. Small children can tune in to the sound of a foreign language much faster than adults and will achieve accent-free pronunciation through trial and error.
Think of the children from immigrant families in your neighborhood or your circle of friends: even if their parents speak with an accent, you will usually hear flawless German from the children, which they have copied from their playmates or in kindergarten.

Do not apply unnecessary pressure

But the most important thing remains, of course: Although early language skills are helpful for the future of your child, you should not put your child under unnecessary pressure.
If it doesn't work out with learning the new foreign language, that's not a big deal! Either way, give your child the space they need to play creatively.
On our blog you will find a whole series of articles that deal exclusively with bilingual education. We will certainly be able to answer your further questions on this exciting topic there.
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