We recently moved to another country (Germany).

My daughter is currently learning to speak in our native tongue (Dutch). She doesn't go to school yet, and kindergarten is also still half a year away. So, in all, she doesn't get a lot of exposure yet to German-speaking people.

We do try; we go to these get-togethers for kids ("Krabbelgruppen", as they are called here, a sort of play group for preschoolers, organized by parents), so she has at least some exposure to kids here. She's too young to really interact with them though (she mostly plays with us or alone), so the few words of German she knows, come from the songs they sing collectively there :)

Now I know everything will work out just fine once she goes to kindergarten; I know she'll suck it up like a sponge. However, we often visit people in our village, and of course, she wants to ask for a cookie politely, as she was taught. She asks this in Dutch, of course, which is sadly often not understood by the person she asks it to.

So I feel we should teach her at least some German at this stage. However, my wife and I are definitely not proficient in German yet (actively learning!), so I've been really reluctant to teach my daughter this little bit of poor German I know. We also don't know enough people here well enough to ask this sort of thing from them...

So, we're in a bit of a bind. What best to do in such a situation?

  • I've made a change to the title of your question, but feel free to edit it further if you feel that I've missed the point, or if there are other improvements you feel could be made.
    – user420
    May 30, 2013 at 15:21
  • @Beofett: no, this is better. Actually I was struggling a bit to come up with a good title (which you noticed :), so thanks May 30, 2013 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


Make it a game is my advice, make it fun. You have a ready-made reward system as well, break a cookie into pieces and give her one every time she asks for it right in German. Get her to learn the german for "yes you may" or the equivalent, so she can give you a piece when you say it right. As soon as it sounds like work you might lose her.

  • +1 for encouraging her to learn both sides of the manners equation -- it's good for her to know what the other person in a conversation is trying to convey but I wouldn't have thought of that!
    – Acire
    May 30, 2013 at 21:18
  • -1 for suggesting cookies, for two reasons: 1. rewards and punishment are known to REDUCE the child's natural desire to perform the given activity, and 2. using food, particularly junk food, sets the child up for dietary trouble in the future.
    – Kricket
    Jun 3, 2013 at 15:55

You have mentioned that school is only a half-year away, and that you're confident (rightly so, I'd say) that she'll pick it up when she's there. Beside exposing her as much as you can to other German speakers, I don't think there's much you can do. At this age, she is imitating her parents, and since you're not speaking German with her, she's not going to start on her own. Be patient and praise her for wanting to be polite, and the rest will come in due time.

(Side note: I speak English exclusively to my daughter, but since we live in France and her mother is French, I'm the only one. She understands me but doesn't want to speak English. Focus on the Dutch now, because once she loses interest in it, it may be hard to get it back.)

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