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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The non-skiing holiday

Well, what a week. In many respects not quite what I was expecting. For a start, there was a distinct lack of skiing, given that it was supposed to be a skiing holiday. Plenty of snow, unlike here, but decidedly amateurish hotel child-care put paid to my dreams of white powder freedom and relaxation. But Annabelle amazed me by asking to ski (until now she's insisted she was too little) and loving it. Once.

And so much for bathing in Bavarian German - there was the odd "gel" and "Gruss Gott", and lots of "sh" sounds where neutral German has an "s", but it was all emminently comprehensible. Not like when I went to a German friend's wedding in rural Bavaria and found it practically impossible to understand the bridegroom's family (the celebrations took place on their pig farm). Though I was reassured when I confessed to the bride that I could barely make out a word her future father-in-law was saying, and she quietly told me in her accentless German that she had the same problem.

If anything the children picked up more Saxon German than Bavarian, as we spent a lot of time with the friends from Leipzig whom we met there. Although it was noticeable that particularly the mother toned down her accent when talking to us compared to when speaking to her son.

The most interesting turn-around though was that the week turned out to be quite long enough to boost the children's use of German. For the first time I think they were old enough to realise that they were in a largely monolingual environment (although I was amazed at how many multilingual families were staying in this hotel - are we a magnet, do we attract them somehow??). The children asked me in fact why I was speaking German (they must have meant to everybody rather than just to selected individuals), so I explained to them that we were in Germany where nearly everyone speaks German (I guess this is familiar to others out there, that you have to introduce your kids to the whole concept of monolingualism). And from then on there was no looking back. 

The other great thing they got out of the holiday was spending time with other German-speaking children in the day-care at the hotel (with us, unfortunately). Because of course while they play, tease each other, laugh together, kids speak differently to adults. So our children picked up how that works in German. They can do it in French through school/creche - next challenge is to get the English sorted. Hey ho, no rest for the wicked....  


  1. Oh I am so looking forward to the point when my son gets that sort of boost out of going to Russia. Not sure if he had realised we have two languages when we were there last.

    (He he for the bride. I must say I find the good thing about not being fluent in Russian is that sometimes I can just choose not to understand my mother in law).

  2. I know what you mean about the children not getting much out of trips to the country where the other language is spoken. Christmas 2009 we went to my parents-in-law (so the older two were 2 and 3 years old) and because previous trips there hadn't seemed to have much impact on their use of German, I even tried speaking German to them while we were there, to see if complete immersion would make any difference. It didn't. There is likely to be a blog post on this at some time, so I guess this is a sneak preview! Whether this was to do with their age or other factors is something I'll put into that post...


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