How can I help my child to learn German?

At home

  • Read stories – Spielwelt has a great children’s library, sorted by comprehension level, to help you.
  • The ACT Public Library also has German books for children and adults (click that link to search their collection, from the comfort of your chair. If you are a member of the ACT Public Library (it’s free), you can order books online, and then just collect them from the reserved shelving when you go to the library – which makes a visit to the library with young children MUCH easier!).  The ACT library has a selection of foreign language books and DVDs including titles suitable for young children.  The collection is based at Woden library.  The books are upstairs in the foreign language section, but the DVDs are downstairs – so if you make the trip, check both.  My kids were very enthusiastic about Bob the Builder in German.  You can request items to be delivered to your local library branch also.  To do this:
  • Login in your account; Go to Advanced Search; In the ‘Dewey Call Number Browse’ box type J GERM and it will give you a list of the kids titles they have in German.  Select those you want and then select the branch you wish them to be delivered to.
  • There are also German books for children and adults at
    Das Zentrum in Civic.
  • You can also order books, CDs and DVDs from eBay, or
    Amazon in Germany.
  • If you have a family member going to Europe it’s worth asking them to bring books/dvds home.
  • The foreign language bookshop in Melbourne is also a good resource – they have an online shop or they’re worth a visit if you’re headed to Melbourne.
  • Sign up for the free newsletters, order books, games, CDs or DVDs from the wonderfully inspiring German bilingual support agency, the Alphabet Garten.
  • Listen to CDs – music or stories. These are also available at the Spielwelt library.
  • Read German children’s books online at the World Children’s Library.
  • Watch German language videos / DVDs. Some families have a rule that they only watch TV or videos in German.
  • Download German children’s television programs (and a few for yourself!) using the German Online TV Recorder.
  • Listen to German radio online. A large web radio broadcaster, FFH offers a 24/7 Hits fuer Kids commercial-free station, with stories and music for preschoolers and lower primary aged children.
  • Talk to them in German as much as possible. You will find that speaking to your children in German outside the home will bring you in contact with other German speakers in the community – which will further help your children learn German.
  • Download Alphabet Garten’s excellent e-book called
    Parenting auf Deutsch, which lists a couple of hundred of the most common things you say to children throughout the day, in German (and English). We recommend you also join the
    Alphabet Garten, and get any updates to this wonderful resource, and get their free e-newsletters which will inspire and support you.
  • Put the German radio program on (Bretzelfunk Thursday mornings 7-9am on 91.1FM, or any of the other German radio shows) in the background, even if kids don’t understand it, they will get a feel for the language.
  • Play German CDs in the car and at home (even if they are adult oriented – just to give the children the lilt and feel of the language, which all helps).
  • Download the 3-10 minute long educational
    podcasts from Sendung mit der Maus.
  • Make signs for the furniture in your home, with the German names on them to remind yourselves:  Der Tisch (the table), der Kuehlschrank (the fridge) and so on. Kids can help to decorate the signs.
  • Hire a German speaking babysitter. Email the Spielwelt address for a list of German speaking babysitters in Canberra, including some of our wonderfully qualified teaching staff.
  • * Get a German speaking nanny. You can even get one with a wealth of knowledge, culture and childrearing experience, through an innovative program called Granny Aupair.
  • Sign up for Dr Susanne Doepke’s free newsletter
    Bilingual Snippets.
  • See Dr Doepke’s Bilingual Options website for information about supporting your child’s language learning at home. She is also a speech therapist, so if you have questions about bilingualism and language delay or other speech queries, her newsletters are a wonderful resource. Back issues are available on the website, too.
  • Book box:  This has animated stories in multiple languages including German.  You can access some for free.  They usually go for around 5 minutes or so.  Suitable for young children.
  • Attend the Spielwelt special events – for instance the story night, lantern walk etc, These are helpful for keeping up kids’ enthusiasm for the language.

How to further support children 5yrs plus in your bilingual home

  • Join Pfadfinder Scouts
    Continue to meet with German friends
  • Listen to German CDs
  • Watch German DVDs
  • Download German television, There are some great kids programs with highly educational themes, that are lots of fun: Try TanzAlarm, WOW Entdeckerzone, Loewenzahn, for starters. There is Pippi Langstrumpf, Bibi Bloxberg, Bibi und Tina, Clifford, Madeleine all for fun, too; and much more, of course. Thomas the Tank Engine in German is too complex for a learner, but Bob der Baumeister is sure to please. Lars der Eisbaer is also a lovely series of gentle, friendly episodes for young children. If you can catch little episodes of Sandmaennchen, you’ll really be feeling German, as that’s been running for years!
  • Find out which ACT primary schools, high schools or colleges teach German.  At primary school, languages are usually only taught for 40-60 minutes a week, but at high school and college there is more exposure.
  • Enrol at the ACT German Language School for Saturday morning classes (children and adults).
  • Download this fabulous German Immersion Family Plan, (which was designed by the wonderful folk at the Alphabet Garten), and plan to actively promote German at home.
  • Some families make sure that everything that’s fun for children is done in German, as much as possible:  TV, videos, computer games, electronic games, Scouts, friends….
  • Leapster makes a German version of this popular hand-held electronic game, with many popular games in German.  You need a German hand-held unit (look for one on or purchase one overseas) for the German game cartridges to work.  The games are reasonably educational.

 Is my own German up to it?

  • YES!  ANY exposure to German at home is beneficial.  All the research points to “use that language!”
  • Please do not worry about passing along poor grammar or pronunciation. Correct grammar and pronunciation is something easily fixed up by more exposure, and this will be provided by the native speaking teachers, leaders and families involved in our programs, as well as by following the many tips below.
  • You can support things further by having (your new?) German-speaking friends over, playing German language CDs, and reading German children’s books to your child.  Come to our playgroup.  Check out our rather impressive library!
  • The important things your child will gain from you are the vocabulary and the very concept that there is another language which can be used (ie more than one word to describe a given item – like ‘dog’ and ‘Hund’), called metalinguistic skills.  These are both valuable facets of bilingualism and will be beneficial in the development of your child’s cognitive and language skills as their brain grows.   Take heart, for example, from the number of new migrants who parents use excellent Farsi/Mandarin/Arabic/German/etc together with poor English at home, and have perfectly fluent children.
  • We have a number of children in our programs whose parents are second generation German, Swiss or Austrian.  Those parents who persevere with using German at home, albeit grammatically fraught, produce much better results for their children.   So go for it!!
  • Sing, read, learn poems, come to German playgroup and learn more rhymes and songs, borrow books and CDs, and immerse yourselves in as much German as you like!
  • Put on German CDs as background music, to help everyone along, and get your child (and you) thinking in the rhythms of the language.  We have some lovely CDs in our library, or purchase or download your own.
  • Enlist the help of German-speaking grandparents.  I often hear about grandparents who claim they have all but forgotten how to speak to a child in German… until you put a baby on their knee, and it all comes flooding back to them!   (The CDs and books can be used to help remind them, too.)  Encourage grandparents to speak as much German as they can (or even only German) with your children.
  • Forging ahead with using German, regardless of your own ability, will mean your child will reap the rewards of bilingualism throughout life; even if he or she chooses to go on and learn a totally different language to German, later in life.
  • So!  Be inspired!  You are not alone!  Follow the tips above to get more German into your child’s life and developing brain.