Bilingual Nurseries - your experiences?

(10 Posts)
Tiss Fri 10-Sep-10 14:36:29

We're a trilingual family (DH French and me Chinese).
3 year old DD has been going to an excellent nursery round the corner from us since 13 months. She speaks English fairly well, her French is getting stronger and her chinese is poor sad. However, she does understand everything.
A bilingual french-english nursery is opening at the bottom of our road and we are seriously thinking about taking DD out of her excellent nursery to this new one.
I'm nervous, so wouldn't mind finding out what other parent's experiences are of bilingual nurseries, before we take the plunge.

TIA smile

natation Fri 10-Sep-10 18:41:55

Do you live in the UK? Would this mean only going to this new nursery for a year? Is it really worth it for just a year if your daughter is happy where she is? Is the only exposure your daughter currently gets in English at this nursery? Have you asked how the nursery is organised language wise? Is it is immersion in French one day, English the next? Is it 2 members of staff, one English and one French speaking, what language will the staff speak between themselves? Must admit I have had recounted some rather negative experiences of an environment where the 2 languages are mixed in the same room, one English teacher, one French teacher, children ignoring one language and only listening to the other. If your daughter is really happy where she is, I cannot see why she would benefit from a bilingual nursery, with French at home if she gets enough exposure there, can't see what the benefit of a few more hours would be to her with another French speaker, if she is already happy where she is.

RuthChan Fri 10-Sep-10 18:57:21

We are also a trilingual family. (I speak English, DH speaks Japanese and we live in French-speaking Belgium)
My DD goes to a bilingual French/English preschool.
There are two teachers in the class, one speaking each language.
The sports teacher, music teacher and other support staff all speak French.
DD loves it and has no problem with the mixed languages. The combination of languages have also been a big part of her life and she is interested rather than worried by them.
English is her first language. French is rapidly over-taking Japanese as her second.

Tiss Fri 10-Sep-10 20:23:48

Thanks for your answers. We're seeing the nursery tomorrow, so it's useful for us to know of negative and positive experiences, so we have an idea of what questions to ask.

We live in UK.
According to the nursery's website, french will be spoken in morning and english in afternoon of one week and vice versa week after. Good idea to ask what language the staff will speak amongst themselves.
DH is the french speaker, and DD only sees him mornings and weekends, so she would get substantially more exposure to French if she went to this nursery. Plus, she would be using the language in a social environment, as opposed to on a one-to-one basis with DH.

Thanks for your experiences. Anyone have anymore?

nesomja Sat 11-Sep-10 21:20:43

Whereabouts in the UK are you? I say lucky you! We are in east London but I don't think there is anything bilingual around at all, we are paying for a Spanish nanny instead to get some language exposure. I would go for it myself (always supposing you like the nursery) because her English is bound to overtake the French when she starts school unless you plan to send her to a French school, and an extra year of French exposure might make the difference between her French being native speaker standard or just a 'home language'.
On another note, do you know why her Chinese is poor? Does she know anyone else Chinese and is there anything you could do to up that exposure whilst she's still young?

natation Sun 12-Sep-10 14:55:13

Perhaps it is worth making a list of pros and cons :

Pro
More exposure to French than at the moment, makes French more than "dad's language"

At the end of the street

Languages not mixed in the same environment, always and English or always French

Con
Child happy where they are

Child will assume only be there a short time before starting school

Could be Pros or Cons
more / less expensive
bilingual nursery leads onto bilingual school yes / no

I do know there are several mums and tots groups in London for native speaking French children, if you are not already attending one, worth trying out, hopefully you will be welcomed as the speaker of the other language, doesn't always have to be the French speaking parent attending hopefully.

Wouldn't worry in the slightest about the poor Chinese, certainly not at 3 years old, 3 languages takes typically a bit longer to learn than 2 or 1, Chinese is always likely to stay weaker than English if you live in England. I'm sure there is a network of Chinese saturday and sunday schools for when your child is older, which you probably already know more about than anyone else reading this.

One last thought, since your child is already being brought up in a bilingual environment, let's hope the nursery would not see you as a "good catch" to help out a class full of monolingual English speakers whose parents wish their loved ones to pick up French, make sure you ask what the linguistic backgrounds of the other children likely to attend. I'm only adding this comment after hearing of comments from mums who have removed their loved ones from French / English envirnoments near me where their child have learned little English or French due to the class being full of German / Finnish / Swedish speakers - other languages are great but it's a fine line balancing the proportions in a class, when there is a large proportion of children speaking another language between themselves, it is hard to persuade the children to speak the target language. Our children's school has 30 nationalities in it and they spread the children out so there are never too many anglophones or hispanophones together for example to the detriment of the French target language.

Philippe Fri 09-Sep-11 15:09:05

Hi,

Not heard an update in a while Tiss. What did you decide - did you go to the bilingual nursery? What was your experience?

I always say the single most important thing is language consistency. So in your case the language you speak at home must be consistent - which it sounds as if you are already doing. If you consistently speak Chinese to your duaghter, and dad consistently speaks only French to your daughter - it would be ideal. It doesn't matter what your home language is between dad and yourself. If you speak English for example to each other, even in front of your child, that's absolutely fine. But the key is to be consistent with your interactions with your child in Chinese & French respectively.

Going to a bilingual nursery should help give relevance to French & English. a child notices the importance of language and will prioritise accordingly. If the primary care giver (usually mum) speaks Chinese, then usually that is given automatic priority (it's called a "mother tongue" for a reason!). However, you can increase the priority and find support for the minority language by increase third party interaction: a trip to China Town, some Chinese DVDs, Chinese internet radio in the background, perhaps a trip to China, or a playgroup in Chinese. The more alive and relevant each language is, the quick progress a child will make in learning each language.

Anyway, best of luck! Lucky girl having three languages from such a young age.

Philippe
www.bilingualnurseries.com

happysmellyfeet Fri 09-Sep-11 15:17:28

The most important thing is to find out about the language(s) the kids there speak as mother tongue. My son went to a bilingual nursery and although 2 of the staff in his group spoke only English, all the kids in the group spoke german (some spoke other languages too but this was the main language they all had in common) so they all conversed between themselves in german all the time and his English didn't advance at all! A 2 week holiday in England this summer was far more effective.
My advice would be to leave your daughter where she is settled and happy.

happysmellyfeet Fri 09-Sep-11 15:20:19

Oh - just seen how old this thread is! Oh well, hopefully the issue might be relevant to someone else one day!

Shivani18 Sat 15-Sep-12 00:08:43

Hi Tia hope u are doing well .i have a 2 month old girl and want her to learn both French and Chinese I need ur guidance in few things. Could u ps mail me so that we can meet up.

Regards

Shivani

Shivanimahajan18@gmail.com

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