How do you maintain your DC(s) written and spoken english if they go to a native school?

(40 Posts)
SquidgyMummy Mon 31-Mar-14 10:40:15

We are in France, 3.5 yo DS is in the first year of maternelle (pre-school).
he doesn't speak much french (although he was born here in France.) DP and I are both British so outside school DS is in an anglophone environment.

I am not too worried about him picking up French, as he will go at his own pace through school.

However, we met some friends yesterday and their daughter has been the french system since Grande section (age 5) and she cannot read or write in english, (she writes english phonetically as a french person would.)

I read to DS in english and I know he is too young to be reading (and writing) just yet, however, in order to be prepared so that his written English doesn't suffer and of course in later years has the option to study in Anglophone countries should he want to.)

I am probably over thinking it at this early stage, but what should I be introducing DS to at the moment in terms of English early years schooling? TIA!

Rosa Mon 31-Mar-14 10:48:01

I stopped with writing when dd was in 1 st year of elementary so she could learn the local language ( written and read) . We have just started again with reading out aloud and writing in English , very gently and slowly, activity books, computer . She gallops through reading books in both languages , makes slight pronunciation errors in English but she is improving. I am taking it slowly as I want her to enjoy it.

NaturalBaby Mon 31-Mar-14 12:06:21

I'm wondering about this as well, but am very lucky to have an English centre near by that runs reading and writing classes. We're in Switzerland now but my dc's have just left Year 1 and Reception in England so can read and write. Ds3 will not learn to read and write in English though but we have a few basic books and are planning on buying more like the Oxford reading tree and Usborne workbooks when we're back in England. There seem to be a lot of resources online and there's a website with free e-books here

SquidgyMummy Tue 01-Apr-14 06:55:11

Thanks for the replies and link, I have also posted on the Home Ed board, as perhaps they can point me to more specific resources. Natural Baby you are lucky to have the english centre near you.
There is an english class on a wednesday but it is a about and hour and half drive away. May consider it though when DS gets older

NomDeClavier Tue 01-Apr-14 07:38:21

DS is also in maternelle and I don't plan to do formal reading/writing until he's in CE1, because CP is very intense and he needs to learn the horrific French cursive which I can't do.

Twinkl has good resources. I found paying the membership worth it, particularly for the phonics stuff.

I teach English and run classes for primary aged children. I'm always pleasantly surprised how easily they pick up reading in English once we've done the English phonics.

heather1 Tue 01-Apr-14 07:42:06

As I understand it the current research shows ( we had a talk about this at my children's school) it is better for a child to master one language before learning to read and write in another. So at my child's school (it's and english speaking international school) they do not learn to read and write in a German until their English reading and writing is well established. So in their German classes the activities are more play based - reading stories, lots kpof picture clues etc.

NomDeClavier Tue 01-Apr-14 07:44:38

If you're going to stay in the French system it's far more important that he learns their way to start. You can accelerate English later with lots of reading/creative writing/comprehension.

The physical act of writing is transferable, as is the ability to form coherent thoughts to put on paper. The spelling and so on comes from reading, producing written work which is corrected and learning the tricky words by rote, spelling bee style. As long as you keep on top of it and his spoken language is advanced, encouraging him to read and write in English with gentle correction will be enough. It's still time intensive but unless you have a class aimed at anglophones or a native teacher with primary experience you may as well do it yourself.

SquidgyMummy Tue 01-Apr-14 10:57:06

Yes, DS is going to stay in the french system. I was thinking about doing phonics, but not sure at what age. It would appear that CE1 onwards would be a good time.
I have no clue about what is taught when in the french system. (I hadn't even considered the handwriting.)
DS's teacher is very flexible as she knows he doesn't understand too much french, (and FWIW he was late in speaking (in english)).

I see that it is best for him to to concentrate on the french. I just don't want him to be in the situation of our friends 11 yo DD who speaks perfect english but can barely read and write it.

Rosa Tue 01-Apr-14 11:51:09

I did phonics with DD1 before she started elementary . I agree with stopping until they master the local language . It has worked with DD and now is is ready for the next stage in written English . She is fluently spoken . I am finding fun reading / games sites as well as crosswords , missing letters in words etc works better than the comprehension books. Some of the Learning books - gold stars for example are obviously mentally aimed at younger Uk children so the material is too easy for her .
I am now in a position with dd2 to start learning phonics but to be honest I think I will try a different route as doing it before with dd1 hasn't helped at all.
There is an older child in dd1s school whose mother insisted on maintaining English as she was learning to read and write in the local language. She has insisted on continuing. This child still has serious comprehension issues, mixes words and spellings and is generally behind. Not saying this is all children but certainly something to bear in mind,
We did continue reading stories in English at bed time and also English cartoons / TV.

pinkhousesarebest Tue 01-Apr-14 12:10:15

I taught mine to read in ms (Oxford reading tree and Starfall for phonics. Hard on the ear but worked a treat), to avoid confusion in gs. Worked very well and they transferred the skills they had when they began reading in CP.

Weegiemum Tue 01-Apr-14 12:18:47

I'm not overseas, but my dc are bilingually educated in Scottish Gaelic (Ghaidlig) and English.

At primary school everything was in Ghaidlig until midway through the 3rd year at school (starting at age 4.6-5.6) then English reading/writing was introduced. My dd1 (now 14) reads and writes the two languages to the same standard, ds (12 - in his last year at primary school) is roughly the same, dd2 (10) still reads Ghaidlig better than English - but she's currently reading The Hunger Games in English!

LadyInDisguise Tue 01-Apr-14 12:42:34

I am the other way around, French living in the uk.
My experience is that I have tried to teach dc1 to read when he was in Y1 as his reading in English was strong. Tbh we didn't really get anywhere. Now dc1 is 10yo and is ready fluently, maybe be not as easily as in English but he didn't really 'need' to learn to read in French iyswim?
Dc2 is 8yo and is struggling a bit more.

Bonsoir Tue 01-Apr-14 17:12:26

heather1 - IME schools love to tell parents that "current research" favours hold back theory (learning to read and write sequentially rather than simultaneously) but this is not supported by any recent research I have read and it is most definitely not supported by the very many bilingual children around me - those who do best by the end of primary in all areas are always the ones who learned to read/write according to their home country's schedule.

Personally I think hold back theory is quite dangerous - I have seen quite a few DC with real problems learning to spell in English because they didn't start reading/writing in English until their French was so established that the only way they could approach English was by guessing so-called "transfer".

PortofinoRevisited Tue 01-Apr-14 19:42:45

I never pushed reading and writing in English at all until after dd had covered it in French. Though I had a lot of early readers and she enjoyed the phonics programmes on Cbeebies. She mostly transferred her French reading technique to English, though I make sure to buy lots of books in English. Part of how she learnt to read in French was whole word recognition so this works fine with those odd unphonetic words that the English language is full of.

She is 10 now and her English spelling is pretty good but not perfect. She can send a great text message wink If we planned to move back to UK anytime soon I would maybe make some extra efforts, but otherwise, I will keep supplying English books and keep encouraging some UK tv watching - CBBC has some fab programmes that are much better than the foreign offerings for this age group.

LillianGish Tue 01-Apr-14 19:56:48

I really worried about this and in fact got lots of phonics stuff to try with the dcs. In fact once dd started learning to read (and they do learn with phonics in France) she just worked it out for herself. When I asked her how she knew certain letters and groups of letters were pronounced differently in English and French looked at me as if I were an idiot saying it was obvious (if you could speak both languages). I would make sure you have some easy to read English books at the ready and take it from there - your ds will probably surprise you.

I taught each of mine to read over the summer before they went into CP. We used a book called 'teaching your child to read in 100 easy lessons.' We spent about 20 mins a day and the kids loved it. They could read pretty well by the end of the summer.

I gave it a break in September and didn't pick up again until the following summer (all of them could read in French by about December of CP). Not sure we ever completed the book but they had the basics.

I did read books in English with them for a good few years. They're all capable but they find it easier and more enjoyable* to read in French (sob!) They're 13, 11 and 9 now.

* in reality they prefer tablet/computer to books no matter what the language

schokolade Wed 02-Apr-14 08:40:23

Not my DC, but I used to go to a native school and my mum taught me to read and write in English at home. Some things she did that might be useful (ages 5-10 ish):

- wrote weekly letters (emails/gmail chat these days!) to grandparents/aunties/friends, who also wrote back
- when older we had spellings every week, with a test set by mum. sometimes we also wrote a story for her. we did this grudgingly but it certainly helped.
- played lots and lots of hangman. i bloody hate hangman now.
- played spelling games in the car on journeys. we also played a lot of I spy, with mum focussing on really remote objects that we might not have come across the English word for otherwise.
- mum got us a boggle game for christmas one year and we played that a lot. and scrabble.

schokolade Wed 02-Apr-14 08:44:29

Oh and I just remembered Mum had a friend who used to write us short English letters every now and then with, say, 10 mistakes in (grammar, spelling, etc) that we had to find, correct and send back for a prize. That was fun!

vikinglights Wed 02-Apr-14 09:21:56

I've made sure they have plenty of access to english language tv/dvd/computer games/books/magazines/Comics/early readers/games just to keep language exposure up. Their bedtime story is in english at least every other night for example.

On top of that I've made an effort to do some basic phonics type stuff, firstly listening to the different sounds in words, finding words with certain sounds and then linking that to letters/ letter combinations. I've followed their lead to a large degree (although I certainly haven't held back about suggesting phonics/readling type activities to them...)

DD1 is 8 and in third grade in the local school, she reads and writes fluently in the local language and reads english fluently but doesn't write much in english. She prefers to fall back to using the phonics of the local language to spell. School english lessons are I think more of a hinderance than a help at least for spelling because her weekly english spellings are 'themed' rather than having any common phonics/spelling patterns and are learned 'whole word style'. We'll probably do some work on english phonics again over the summer without the complication of school....

DD2 is 6 and in kindergarten. She is reading pretty well in english tackling early reader type books and oxford reading tree level 6 (I' don't have any higher levels) and also reading early readers in the local language (which is very phonetically regular). She's had more exposure to phonics in english although her spoken local laguage is the stronger, so when she writes she tends to write the local language with a good dollop of english phonics!

DS is 3, and has suddenly developed an interest in letters, and a current favourite DVD is a BBC letters and sounds one.

I think some grounding in english phonics has helped make written english more accessible to them but probably the biggest driver is having lots of english stuff (books/magazines/comics/games) that they want to read

We moved to Germany when my eldest was 1.5 - she has only ever been to all German Kindergarten (from age 3) and is now in Year 3 at a local all German school, no other English speakers locally (as in we have to drive to visit other English speakers and don't do it often).

We speak English at home and all 3 kids sound exactly like native English speakers, I'd challenge anyone to pick the "German" kids from any group of "English" kids. DD gets good drages in German and writes stories in both English and German at home and reads novels at about her appropriate reading age in English and a bit above in German - she will read in either language, whichever she can get her hands on the book she wants in. Her class started learning English this year (songs, colours, introducing themselves type stuff) - this is dull for her, but sometimes her teacher lets her help teach the class, and sometimes she is allowed to read in English in the corner.

DD's spelling in English IS a bit German - but she writes "high frequency" non phonetic words correctly (she can spell things like "light" and "the" etc.) due to lots of reading - but she sometimes uses sch instead of ch and k instead of c if she is not concentrating and just writing a story - if she proof reads her work for spellings she can self correct at least 50% of those types of mistakes.

I read to the kids in English (even the oldest despite her being able to read perfectly well) 5 nights a week, a book/ chapter of a book each (which now takes a while as there are 3 of them) which I think is invaluable for passive vocabulary and pronunciation of less frequently heard words.

DD did ask to learn to read before she started school here so we did do a bit in English when she was 4 or so, just when she felt like it - we did some Jolly Phonics together. DS1 is 6 now but still at KiGa and only just interested in reading for himself - he is less interested in doing the Jolly Phonics books, though we do work on them together occassionally, but when he wants to he uses www.readingeggs.com - often he'll have a phase of being interested for a week and doing lots, then no interest at all for a few weeks, when he'd rather play football all day - fine with me. Like DD at 4-5, DS1 at 6 has got to grips with basic English phonics and can blend and read by "sounding out". DD started school at nearly 6, DS1 will be nearly 7 - looks as though they will be at similar levels on starting and it seems to have worked well for DD, hopefully will for DS1 too...

I don't think classes are remotely necessary! In the end in both France and Germany I think English classes at secondary will iron out the spelling, whilst minority language at home should keep the spoken English up to scratch - we also have cbeebies ;)

Bonsoir Wed 02-Apr-14 13:21:15

I don't think classes are remotely necessary! In the end in both France and Germany I think English classes at secondary will iron out the spelling.

I cannot agree with this - I see the written English of DC from English-speaking homes who have never had proper English classes for native speakers every year and I have never encountered a single one who writes as well as they should. Their expression is always limited and childish.

Bonsoir I think my 8 year old's written English is better than a lot of her peers in the UK - its not remarkable or amazing, but it is above average for 8. I was an English teacher in the UK. I'll post a link to her blog (where she writes stories in Englaterand German when the moid takes her) when I'm on the laptop later.

My written English on a smartphone whilst in the playground keeping one eye on a nearly 3 year old leaves a lot to be desired though! Sorry about the typos and odd word merging!

BertieBotts Wed 02-Apr-14 13:38:24

We're in Germany so DS won't start school until almost 7. He's 5.5 now and I'm working through the phonics stages with him for reading, using an Andrew Brodie book to tell me what to do and Songbirds books for him to progress through. He loves them so thumbs up there. I have to say they seem more interesting than Chip and Kipper. I find myself getting quite involved with the recurring characters blush You could probably get the Andrew Brodie book and do some of the pre-phonics exercises which is basically practising differentiating between shapes and also sounds.

Then for writing I was just getting him to write things down that he wanted to, like a birthday card to a friend, a caption on a picture, we write little notes to each other, he types a message to someone on skype, etc, but he kept getting frustrated because he wanted to write more than he was capable of. So instead I got him some Collins Easy Learning workbooks, started with the "Writing" books (which pretty much just cover letter shapes and pen control, we should have done them earlier, you could probably start those at 3 or 4) and moving on to the "English" books which start off with vvv simple spelling like finding the missing sound of c_t.

MrTumbles that sounds good! Do you think DS might like to read the stories? I've just bought him some books in German so it would be nice to have a source of something written by someone not too much older than him.

Bonsoir Wed 02-Apr-14 14:04:44

At eight the difference is often less marked - try 18 when DC have been spending all their time working in the language of the country.

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