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A DAD is so determined his two daughters will be bi-lingual that he speaks to them only in German - despite being a native Brit himself.

And sometimes even Bryson Wood's wife Sarah, also a native English speaker, gets a little confused at what is being said.

Mr Wood, who is head of languages at St Christopher's School, said: "Speaking German is every bit as natural to me as English and the girls' German is as good as that of native speakers."

There is no German connection whatsoever in the Wood family but when Mr Wood was introduced to the language at the age of 11, he took to it immediately.

He said: "I adored both French and German and also play the piano and violen. I still have a newspaper article from when I was about 17 and was made leader of Shropshire Symphony Orchestra and was doing musical exams at the same time as A' Levels.

"I was asked if I was considering music as a career and even back then I said that languages were my real passion."

But, after studying languages at university, he did not go straight into teaching instead choosing to work in business for around eight years, living in Germany and learning, as wife Sarah says, to even dream in his adopted tongue.

Eventually though, he decided he wanted to pass on his love for languages and it was while teaching at a boarding school in England that he met Sarah, who is also a teacher.

The couple married 13 years ago and older daughter Isabelle will be 11 in a few days. And, since birth, her father has spoken to her and her eight-year-old sister Hannah in German at all times.

Head of languages at St Christopher's School Bryson Wood insists that his two daughters, Isabelle and Hannah, talk to him in German and waits for them to switch languages if they speak in English!

Mr Wood said: "I vowed a long time ago, when I was studying German and discovered how natural it was for me, that, if I ever had children, I would try my best to bring them up bi-lingual."

Mrs Wood added: "We discussed it when I became pregnant with Isabelle and Bryson told me what he wanted to do. I wanted to encourage it as I wanted the girls to have as good an education as possible and this is another step towards that.

"I actually took a German course myself when I was pregnant but I don't really speak to the girls in German very much because my pronunciation is not spot on and Bryson is very particular about that."

The situation has led to some funny times in the home with Mr Wood talking to Isabelle and Hannah in German and then the girls translating for their mother.

And the couple discovered the limits of even Mr Wood's exceptional command of the language when it came to learning baby-talk.

Mrs Wood said: "We had to research to learn things like nursery rhymes and baby-talk, not something you even think about when you start learning a language at school but something you take completely naturally when you learn it as a first language."

Her husband added: "Even little things like animal sounds are different. For example in English we would say the dog sound is woof woof but in German it's vow vow so that was a bit of a learning curve.

"And for every children's book we have in English we also have one in German so that the girls do it very naturally.

"Obviously we're not the only family where children speak two languages but I frequenly see cases where parents will speak to the children in one language and they will answer in English, simply because it's a language that we use all the time here. So although the children understand their parents' native tongue, they may not speak it very well because they have never had to.

"For us consistency is the key, I simply do not speak to the girls in English and they don't expect me to, even when I was listening to them do their English reading for school, if they encountered a problem word I would explain it in German and then they would carry on reading in English. It's something we are all very comfortable with."

The girls' two sets of English grandparents approve seeing their somewhat unusual upbringing as a way to gain a useful language skill.

And the girls themselves do not even find it unusual.

Isabelle said: "It's just something we have always done, our friends completely accept it and it will be useful for us in the future. I can't wait to go to Germany to try it out."

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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