Four Foundations,  Parenting,  Special Topics

Family Stories

Today’s guest author is my 16-year-old “bonus son” who has spent another summer with us, creating more new “family stories and legends.”

My name is Luis. I am half-German and half-American. I grew up in Berlin, Germany and, of course, spoke only German. Even though my Dad speaks only English, we had good visits when I was growing up: I got to see his world in the U.S. and he got to see some of Berlin. We had a strong connection but no direct, untranslated verbal communication.

Like all kids in Berlin, I started learning English in the 3rd grade. I never felt like being lazy about it. I wanted to communicate directly with my Dad. Even though I had not yet met all of them, knowing that I had a large, extended American family gave me even more motivation and discipline.


[Tweet “My desire to know my American family has been important in developing my love of language.”]

Learning a new language meant — and still means — entering a whole new world. All the experiences that come with being immersed in another culture become both easier and more intense.

My extended American family did not know me either and they did not help with my actual studies but the desire to know them has been important in developing my love of language. I am in the 11th grade and, in addition to English, am learning three more languages.

Languages are the doors to new cultures and their people… vacations and their unique experiences and special moments. These things can become knowledge and wisdom… family stories and legends.  Coming to America each summer improves my English and deepens my connection to this part of my family and my American roots.

Now when we spend time together I’m as likely as anyone to start the flood of family stories by saying, “Remember the time….”


[Tweet “These things can become knowledge & wisdom,  family stories & legends.”]

Let’s connect on social media.


  • Dawn Hafner

    I loved this story! So true about how the language was the catalyst to opening up the relationships. We are running into this more and more as world wide communication becomes the norm. As Americans most of us only speak English and we are finding that to be limiting as we connect with the world. Thank you for sharing!

    • Andrea Patten

      Thanks, Dawn. I’m like Luis — I like learning languages. I’m having trouble decided which one I want to study next time.

  • Nadia

    Love it!!! Beautifully written from the heart. I myself love immersing myself in opening up and understanding different cultures

  • Peggy Nolan

    Aw! This is so awesome. I hope Luis has had a marvelous time visiting his American family this summer! Have you guys gone to Germany to create family memories with him there?

    • Andrea Patten

      Yes, Peggy, we have…I really like Berlin. But he gets “more bang for his extended family” buck when he comes here.

  • Caryn

    Love this! We’ve hosted foreign exchange students and the rewards were always so great for our family. So glad you are all having this same experience. Best.

  • Laurie Seymour

    This post is so meaningful to me. I have been “learning” French for decades, motivated by something I cannot quite explain. The more fluent I become, the more that opens up for me as I travel. Learning languages is not easy for me, but I want so much to be able to communicate and connect. That keeps me going. My daughter lived abroad two different times (so far!) and became fluent in her new languages both times. What extraordinary experiences opened for her!

    I loved reading about your motivation, Luis! Thank you for sharing this!!

  • Chara

    Luis, your article reminds us Americans of the importance of learning other languages! My French and Italian are rusty, but still precious to me. Bravo to you for taking language and communication so seriously.

  • Debra Oakland

    Luis is a delight! Language can be a powerful motivator as Luis used it to communicate with his dad and extended American family! This story is very heartfelt and sweet.