In the past months Quentin has gained a lot of self-confidence in speaking Italian. He is chatting away at home, he talks a lot to his friends and he speaks more to adults. This is a big step ahead as Quentin has always been a shy boy and never talked much outside of the family. Last year he didn’t say a single word to his kindergarten teachers, this year he is still timid but he talks when there is the need. He also talks more to our neighbours and his friends’ parents.

I suppose Quentin’s new self-confidence has been boosted by his exploding language skills. Before, he simply couldn’t express what he wanted to say, but in the past months his language skills have greatly improved. His vocabulary has grown a lot, his grammar has become more complex and his pronunciation has become very clear.

In Italian Quentin is definitely on the right track, German however has almost completely disappeared. In our daily routine I speak German to him and he speaks Italian to me. Quentin hardly ever says anything spontaneously in German. Very rarely he comes up with a short phrase, for example when we were playing with Playmobil pirates and Scarlett and I spoke German,  he said “Piraten schiessen” (German for: pirates shoot) or “los, entern” (German for: ready to board).

Quentin’s passive understanding has become quite good. In everyday conversation he understands everything I say. In the evenings he listens with great interest to our bed time stories and I can tell by the questions he asks (in Italian) that he basically understands all of it.

I still try to stimulate Quentin’s active speaking, but in our daily routine I only manage to do it sporadically. In the car I point out objects to him: „Schild, Baum, Lastwagen, Strasse“ (German for: traffic sign, tree, lorry, street) and ask him to repeat, which he happily did. We sit down on the sofa, look at picture books and I ask him to tell me the words he knows. In the picture of a kitchen he came up with terms like „Messer, Gabel, Teller, Glas, Stuhl, Tisch“ (German for: knife, fork, plate, glass, chair, table), in the picture of a fire station he knew “Helm, Schlauch, Feuerwehrauto, Wasser, Feuer” (German for: helmet, hose, fire engine, water, fire). Before St. Martin’s day I tried to teach him traditional St. Martin’s songs like „Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne.“ (German for: Lantern, lantern, sun, moon and stars) and Quentin tuned in.

Quentin is rather good when I ask him to say nouns. When I ask him, however, to repeat longer phrases or even sentences, he struggles. He feels insecure and speaks with a low voice. He often replaces the German articles with an ‘a’ and uses the infinitive of verbs “A Junge spielen in Garten” (English-German for: A boy play in garden). He replaces functional words with Italian: “Henriette fuhr mai nach einem Plan“ (German-Italian for: Henriette never followed the time tables). And while Quentin happily plays the game of naming objects, he doesn’t like repeating whole sentences, so we stopped doing it.

My second strategy of pushing Quentin’s German was rephrasing what he says. When he asks “Ma dove andiamo questo pomeriggio?” (Italian for: Where do we go this afternoon?) I first reply: “Du willst wissen, wo wir heute nachmittag hingehen” and then answer. Again it seemed helpful, but I wasn’t able to do it regularly. When Quentin tells me something I want to keep the conversation flowing. It seems wrong to slow down our communication just for the sake of language learning. So usually I just listen to Quentin speaking Italian and then answer in German straight away.