This is a response to The New Yorker article by Keith Gessen called “Why did I teach my son to speak Russian?“. It’s not a controversial response, mind you, because I face similar dilemmas and want to air those out here, just as Keith did so articulately in his article.

Why am I teaching my son to speak German?

Another language would have been easier. Spanish is an option for nearly every kids’ Netflix show or movie. There are Korean churches of every denomination in Dallas. I have colleagues and friends from India who are raising their children to speak Hindi.

We are fortunate to have access to an incredible German immersion preschool not too far from where we live and work. But beyond that, the German community in Dallas, at least for families with young children, isn’t particularly active. The 125 members in the local Facebook group “Deutsche Spielgruppe” rarely post within the group, and they don’t seem to be making plans to get their kids together to speak German. I don’t fault them. We’re all busy and, living in such a large metroplex, it can be a long trip for a potentially short playdate.

I chose German for myself first.

In 2015, I decided to start learning a language as a way to cope with postpartum depression (more about that in my eBook). I remember liking the one semester I took while I was a freshman in college. Then I changed my major to one that didn’t have a foreign language requirement, so I didn’t invest any more time in German.

German, unlike French (which I took three years of in high school but didn’t have the best experience), is what I like to call an “enunciated language.” I was drawn to it because I can actually hear it. I can identify the start and the end of words and sentences. When learning French, I struggled with this.

Also, German is part of my family heritage, and although I hear (rumors or no?) that native Germans don’t like when people from the United States say that, connecting to something older, something deeper, is meaningful for me. To hear that my Catholic great-grandfather would Pray the Rosary in German is sweet and special and obviously part of a family tradition or observance that was lost through the generations.

“Why German?” they all asked.

When I announced I was going to learn German and then started buying and borrowing German language learning resources, the questions of practicality started rolling in. “Why…German?” For my husband, the one saving grace to my embarking on a German language learning journey was that his all-time favorite basketball player, Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, is German.

Still, he thought I could be doing something more useful with my time. If I was set on language learning, he and many others verbalized, then I should at least learn a language I was bound to encounter more frequently.

Am I doing my son a disservice by teaching him to speak German at the expense of any other language?

All this time, all this effort. Money spent on German immersion preschool when there are also Spanish immersion preschools in the area. Trying to source German children’s books wherever and however I can, on a limited budget, while our public libraries have shelves filled with Spanish children’s books.

My son is only three years old, though. He has his entire life to learn all the languages if he chooses to. I fell in love with German (and the culture, food, and people) and, for that reason, decided to build an English-German bilingual home.

There’s no better or worse, bad or good language to learn. They’re all valuable, all beautiful in their own way.

Even if he has only two more years of full-day German immersion before he begins public, English kindergarten, the benefits of my son having attended an immersion preschool–of any minority language–will last a lifetime.

So one last time: Why am I teaching my son to speak German?

Because learning any language is a good thing.

As a monolingual mom, I just happened to choose German. And the rest is history!

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