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Are your language goals sinking in the swamp of lost opportunity?

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by Sarah Mueller

This year I fully intended to grow a vegetable garden.

Visions of juicy ripe tomatoes, crisp green beans and cool cucumbers filled my head. I perused the seed catalogs and checked out the large inventory of gardening paraphernalia in the garage. Winter turned to spring and spring turned to summer; before I knew it July had arrived!

Where had the first half of the year gone? And, you guessed, it, I was no closer to a vegetable garden than a lone potted tomato plant.

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It's not hard to see where I went wrong.

I neglected to plan out my garden. All the dreams in the world won't plant a garden. It takes a little planning, preparation and timing to make it happen. The same is true when raising a bilingual family. If you don't plan your way to bilingualism, you may find time has slipped through your fingers and it's a lot harder to accomplish your goals than you expected.

Why should I plan?

To articulate your expectations, hopes and dreams.

When you say you're raising a bilingual family, what does that mean to you? Do you want your child to be able to converse as a tourist in a German-speaking country? Do you want him to be comfortable with German friends and family? Do you expect to move back to Germany in the future? Should he be able to read and write in German? Bilingualism has different levels and each family will have it's own set of goals. If you haven't thought about your goals, you may realize you're on a path that won't satisfy your expectations.

To get each parent's goals on the table.

If you haven't thought out and planned for your family's bilingualism, than how can your spouse know what you're working toward? When each parent participates in the planning process, you can work together to find the best expectations for your family. When everyone is on the same page, it's much easier to prioritize and budget for any materials you need, make decisions about schooling and plan overseas trips.

To see any gaps and fill them in.

It's a lot of work to raise a bilingual child and the more support you have the better. If there isn't a local community, you can plan upfront to substitute trips, German lessons or extra German language books. If you're not planning, you're just hoping that things will work out and you may be missing important work that you'll need to help your child progress toward your goal.