Is 6 too old to put a child into a non-English speaking school when that is her only language?(92 Posts)
Will they cope, because kids just do?
I have 3 kids and want them all to go into the French system. They are currently 3.5, 2.5 and 7 months.
Due to a lot of boring policy / bureacracy, the children are likely to only enter a full French education when they are 6, 5 and 3. We are going to try to do it earlier, but we're unlikely to get them in to any Lycees in the UK because we are not French nationals, etc etc. We will apply, but I don't think it will work out.
However in 2015, when DD1 is 6, we will move abroad and will definitely be able to put her into a French school. Is this too old for her to go in - it is cruel to just expect her to pick it up, or am I underestimating childrens' abilities for languages? She would then stay in the French system until she finished her education...
If you think she could pick it up, how long would it take for her to be comfortable in French? A few months? A year? Or would she never sound properly native because of the late start?
Both DH and I are English speaking only (well, DH might say he has passable conversational French) and obviously this will be the only language spoken at home.
I was almost 8 when my family moved abroad to Germany. I struggled, a lot at first. Due to differences in the starting age of school I was placed up a year due to m schooling in England which was. Big mistake, although fo every German lesson I had a lesson with two Russians and a Polish boy to learn German. I got it, but it took a long time and I was constantly learning. We left when I was 14 and I am now 27. I can understand German still, but I've lost my fluency.
My sister, OTOH, was almost 6 when we went. She was not bumped up a year and instead put in Kindergarten. She was totally mute at school for the entire first year, but changed the moment the next year started and was fluent from then. She has kept most of her fluency and managed to learn others to a high standard.
"totally mute at school for the first year"
Anecdotally, it seems this is not uncommon. I know of two children in France, brought up with an Australian mother, French father, but with English very much the majority language at home, due to the father's work pattern. When these two children started Petite Section, aged 3.3, they understood some French. Their teacher said she did not hear either of them say a woed for the entire year.
The admissions criteria for the church schools are openly published. The Anglican schools "ring fence" places for children of active Christian background, roughly 50% of places, the other roughly 50% go to people of other faiths or none. The Catholic schools have a more complex criteria, from practising Catholics in X parish, practising Catholics in another parish, non practising Catholics, practising Christians, etc down to "other", so without doubt it is harder to get in to a Catholic school in the area than an Anglican one. So it's clear, you do not need a letter from a vicar saying you go to church, it just means you are higher priority. If you live a few metres from an Anglican school, then there's a pretty good chance you'll be near the top of the list for the non faith "ring fenced" places.
I know several mute children who speak English as a second language, though I'm sure language is just a factor, as first language children do this too, it's just second language children seem to do it more, so it seems the chances increase if you speak a language as a second language. A minority of children I know around that age start repeating words in English immediately, the majority take around 3 months to be able to understand and repeat back or answer back appropriately, then again a minority are silent for at least a year, many of them willingly speak to their peers (of whom many are learning English as a second language) but not the adults from whom they hear the target English from. Most of the mute children are the quieter type, those who follow rather than lead in class, always a shock when it's a child who loses their muteness and then suddenly talks and does it loudly too, to the point you can't quite believe it.
My (extremely gregarious) son was mute for his first year at school. We spoke English at home, he went to a German childminder then started at a French school! Poor boy probably thought his entire life was due to be conducted in a language he couldn't understand - he'd no sooner grasped one than he was shunted into a new environment. It was very funny when we moved back to the UK he was genuinely astonished that everyone was speaking English - he couldn't understand why we hadn't lived here all along "Much easier for your mummy!" (my German was woeful). I didn't have a place for him straightaway in the French school so he went into a bilingual nursery. After a few weeks I asked how he was getting on only to be told:"He's fine, but he doesn't speak much English." They couldn't believe it when I told them he was English! He couldn't understand why he would speak English at school (for a similar reason he couldn't understand why our neighbour's children only spoke English and went to an English school).
My DD refused to speak French at school for the first half of Petite Section in her bilingual school. I only found out when her French class teacher pulled me over one day and told me that she was beginning to speak in French. I queried her and the teacher genuinely hadn't realised DD was fluent in French - she thought she was a beginner.
I would say, don't underestimate the difficulty of getting your kids into any of the French schools in London. A friend of ours, who was a British Ambassador, and whose kids had been educated exclusively in the French system, was unable to get one of his three kids into the Lycee (two got in at the last minute, but it was all horribly stressful). Unfortunately, this was the eldest, and having had nothing but the French system all her life, at age 14 she had to transfer to the UK system. They don't give any priority to the children of diplomats, not even if you say to them "Do you know who I am?"
I also think if you don't speak fluent French yourselves, then you may struggle with helping the kids with the homework when they are older.
Quick update: against all odds, DH aced his interview for Italy and DD1 will be starting at the Lycee in Rome in September. We'll be there for 3 years so returning to the UK when the kids are 6, 5 and 3.
So relieved! And excited to be going to Rome!
ooh boobz, we can have a meet up, there are a few of us there, well I am an hour North of central Rome, how exciting . My dd is 7
This might out me now but my ds attends an Irish speaking school. Two sister from Lithuania joined the school age 6 last year. They had not a word of English or Irish so doubly difficult. They are now thriving. Immersion works!!
My dc's entered the french system aged 6 and 3 and 2.5 . They had no french language at all.
It was definitely hardest on the 6 year old as by that age the language becomes a more important part of play. At 6 they are entering school in CP so will be expected to be able to sit still and learn in what compared to the uk system is an incredibly dull an uncreative environment and far more academic. It took my dc a good 6 months to learn french and for the 6 year old it was tough, Now 10 years on they are totally bilingual.
Yes Delgirl - let's keep in touch!
No regrets brighter future?
None at all. They've had a wonderful childhood that I could never have given them in the Uk . They can now choose to live in either country when they are adults and all the French colonies too. We go back to the Uk often and they have kept in touch with the Uk friends they had when they were little. I believe it has opened their horizons.
Great, I hope to be able to give them those things too.
Delgirl, does your daughter go to Lycée Chateaubriand de Rome? What's your experience of it?
ciao boobz, no she doesn't, she goes to the local Italian scuola. I take it you want them to learn french in preparation for your future spell in France then?
Oh yes, sorry, I'd forgotten your advice was about her transition to Italian! Learning French primarily to be bilingual and to avoid state school in the UK, but we'll see how we go. Keep in touch - it would be lovely to meet a few MNers when I get there.
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