Four months have passed since the summer and Q.’s German has remained surprisingly stable. „Es hat geschneit.“ he said, when we were in Germany and he looked into the snow-covered garden one morning: „Ein Vogel hat draussen gegraben.“ (German for: It snowed. A bird has dug outside). Usually Q. does not go beyond saying single sentences and what he says is quite simple, but he is still able to bring across what is needed: „Ich habe ein Haus und eine Strasse“, he says playing Monopoly, or: „Ist schneller der Schiff oder der Auto?“, he asked when he looked at a book.

Keeping Q.’s German alive is a great success as usually our children’s German speaking slowly withers away when they return to their Italian surrounding. Also this year Q. seemed to take this path. After the summer he initially continued speaking a lot of German to me, but then he started changing to Italian or he mixed German and Italian: „E poi i Kinder incontrano i ladri. Diese Personen vogliono lanciare die Steine. Sono die Böesen“ (Italian-German for: And then the children meet the thiefs. These people want to throw stones. They are evil). It looked as if German was about to disappear when two things happened.

Firstly, we managed to go to Germany in October for some days. We did not only have four days of full immersion with the German grandparents, but Q. also played a lot with German children. At the beginning he was rather quiet, but soon he started speaking German again. Our visit took place exactly when Q. needed an additional injection of German. Back in Italy he spoke a lot of German to me again.

Secondly, we registered Q. to a German language class. Every Monday Q. went to a course called „Il Tedesco a colori“ (Italian for: German in colours) where he played and did art activities supervised by a native German teacher. In former years I had never considered sending my children to a language school as I thought 45 minutes a week can’t make a real difference in the learning process. This year we gave it a try as also his older sister did a course in the same school where she was supposed to learn how to write in German and doing some art activities would do Q. good anyway.

When the course started I became even more sceptical. There were three children in the class, one of them spoke hardly any German and the other one was just about Q.’s level. Not much quality input from his classmates to be expected. Once more Q.’s sister S. seemed more fortunate. In her class there were four other girls who all spoke German really well.

Looking back, however, I have the feeling the course was really helpful. The first weeks I couldn’t see any positive effects. Q. went to his lesson, he liked the games they played and the activities they did, but he neither spoke more German nor could I notice any qualitative changes. After our German break though I had the feeling that the course helped Q. to keep his German. He got German input from the teacher who did an excellent job. He exercised his German when talking to her. And maybe most importantly, the course seemed to give a boost of confidence to Q. He managed to communicate and realised that the other children struggled as much or even more than he did. A new experience as Q. is usually confronted with his sister or native German children who speak much better German than he does.

It is obviously hard to say which role the course played in Q.’s positive language development, but it was an additional ingredient to the mix of learning that maybe helped to make the difference. When you bring up multilingual children, every additional German input can become important. Obviously you shouldn’t force too many extra activities on the children as they also need to have enough time for playing and meeting friends. In Q.’s case, though, the extra 45 minutes of German seem to have been time well spent.

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