Monday, April 17, 2017

Brains and Sponges

Ellie's first day of kindergarten
This is a photo of Ellie on her first day of Kindergarten back in early January. In Austria, Kindergarten is the name of the pre-school/child care programs provided from birth through age 5, up until they start first grade around age 6. Ellie started attending kindergarten in German 5 days/week from 8:30 - 12:30 the day after she turned 3 on January 7.

Word cannot express how proud we have been of her for jumping in to this new experience with very little fear. Although she started the program not knowing any German and not knowing any of the kids in her class, she was excited and eager to play and learn. When Ellie was younger, she was very attached and struggled with separation anxiety for a long time. She was also very shy. But we have seen a lot of change in her in the last year, as she has learned to be apart from us and come out of her shell. She is really blossoming into an outgoing, sweet and friendly little girl who brings joy to many!

Sitting at the lego table
It has been so interesting and neat to watch her language acquisition begin. Her teachers at school both speak a little English, so they spoke quite a bit of English to her at the beginning when it was important that she understood what was going on. But they are doing this less and less, and it has become clear that she understands more and more simple sentences and commands in German, even after just a few months.

Ellie's English language skills have always been ahead of the curve, and she started speaking English so well so early, because she has always repeated almost everything we say. She was like a little parrot starting around 18 months old, and her vocabulary in English has continued to increase for this reason. (If you know Nate and I, this probably isn't a surprise. Knowing our personalities, we always assumed our kids would be bookish and very verbal but probably not very good athletes!)

Playing a game with her teacher
So far, her German learning seems to be progressing very similarly. She has started throwing around German phrases at home, even when she has no idea what they mean. She repeats German words and phrases that we say and is eager to experiment with the language. Unlike many adults learning a foreign language, Ellie is not afraid of making mistakes or saying things perfectly. She just tries and experiments and repeats. Her brain is truly like a sponge, soaking in and learning a lot of information very rapidly, and it's incredible to watch. I can already hear her pronouncing German words with correct sounds that are hard even for me to reproduce properly. Within a few years, she'll be speaking fluently with absolutely no American English accent, and I'll be jealous of her language skills!

We are so thankful for how God has blessed us through this kindergarten transition, a change that could have been difficult. We are praying that she not only acquires the language, but also friendships with the kids in her class. These friendships could lead to play dates, which could lead to relationships between us and the other parents. We are praying that Ellie will be a light for Jesus at her school and that God will use these connections to help us find community and share our faith with the families in our neighborhood. Please pray with us!