Around 100 languages circulate around school yards in Germany. We look at the push to recognize the value of multilingualism at home – and in the classroom.
Most people have only one. Seymen, age three, and Ensar, age seven, have two. They speak Turkish with their parents and grandparents and German in school and with their friends.
The children jump from one mother tongue to the other, and back, without any problem.
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“Sometimes we drive to Turkey to visit our grandma and grandpa,” explains Ensar in German, and then argues about something with his brother in Turkish.
Ensar, Seymen, and their mother Aslihan. Photo: DPA.
“I am already three and in Kindergarten,” says Seymen proudly, flipping through the pages in a German-language children’s book and then whining about something in Turkish. His mom is supposed to play with him now.
“Our method is: to speak Turkish as much as possible at home, German consistently outside of the house,” describes their mother Aslihan Bakkal, whose older son Ensar also attended an English-speaking preschool.
“To grow up speaking multiple languages is a benefit, an enrichment. The children will therefore also grow up in two cultures,” she said.
Even so, bilingualism is not always easy for Seymen and Ensar. They go through phases where Turkish is more popular, then German. Their mother Bakkal, fluent in Turkish and German, says:
“Linguistic demands are made of them in Kindergarten and at school. I don’t want to put them in a bind. Perfect German is the priority.”