Last summer, almost a year ago, Q. made a big step ahead in German and for the first time was able to have longer basic conversations. Against my expectations he then managed to keep this level for several months, before he finally fell back into speaking Italian to me on an everyday basis. But even then he showed an unwavering determination to try and use German when we had quality moments alone.

Some weeks ago, however, German disappeared completely. But to me surprise Q spoke German immediately when his grandparents came for Easter: “Ich habe gebaut das Haus, guck hier mit einer Rakete” (German for:  I built the house, look, with a rocket) he said to them or “Ich habe Yoga in der Schule gemacht.” (German for: I did yoga in school). I breathed a sigh of relief. Quentin is able to activate his German when it is needed.

In our daily routine German is not really needed. Italian dominates Quentin’s day. In September he started primary school. From 8.30 to 16.30 he gets Italian input from the teachers and interacts with them and his peers in Italian. After school Quentin often plays with friend, speaking Italian, and then he speaks Italian with his mom and his sister. I always speak German to him, but when there are friends or neighbours I also speak a lot of Italian. Quentin hears me speak Italian he speaks Italian to me and later on he simply continues, especially as there are often Penny and Scarlett. I don’t oblige him to speak German, as he is still not able to keep a longer conversation going and he is always so full of things he wants to tell me.

When Quentin and I are alone though, he always makes an effort to speak German. Until a couple of month ago he often said longer and grammatically correct sentences: “Ich muss mir die Zaehne putzen und dann bin ich fertig” (German for: I have to brush my teeth and then I am ready). Sometimes he got an article wrong: “der Auto” or his sentences followed Italian grammar rules, for example when asking question: “Wir gehen in die gruene Rutsche?” (German for: Shall we go to the green slide?) or when he left out the subject: “Ist schoen hier.” (German for: is nice here.) In the past two months Quentin started speaking less German and he was using shorter phrases, but generally he seems on the right path.

What Quentin needs now is some systematic exercising in German. The problem is to find time for it. We need a calm moment when there is just the two of us. Not easy in nowadays busy family lives. School days are long, sometimes Quentin does sports or he plays with friends, sometimes he wants to play with his sister or just have some time for himself. When we have dinner as a family, Penny and I speak English, while the children speak Italian. There is usually not so much time that Quentin and I spend alone.

In the past months German quality time was even further reduced. In the Christmas break we realized that Quentin struggled learning how to read in Italian. So I needed to sit down with Quentin in the evenings to do some extra reading exercises. The training paid off quickly but it took away time for German. Unfortunately at about the same time Quentin’s German class finished, so another source of German input dried up.