Transfer DC who are happy at school to bilingual school?

(18 Posts)
FreddoFrog Thu 31-Mar-16 03:53:03

My two eldest DC (ages 4 & 6) attend a British curriculum international school in the Asian city we live in. They are very happy there. They receive half an hour of Mandarin tuition each day, lessons are in English the rest of the day.

Learning a second language is important to me and I have spoken to the principal about increasing the language tuition at the school. Have been advised there is no room in the curriculum and many parents do not want this.

So I have found another school for my 4 year old where there is bilingual (German/English) instruction. The school seems lovely, I think my child would be very happy there. I would also send my 2 year old there when a bit older. For various reasons, my 6 year old needs to stay at the present school.

Am I mad to be considering uprooting the 4 year old when she is happy where she is? Is a second language worth it? The cons as I see it are the logistics of having kids on different schools, the chance that my kids don't like the new school. Pros are the benefit of learning a second language and culture!

Also, would your answer be any different if the second language was Mandarin?

christinarossetti Thu 31-Mar-16 04:29:03

What language (s) do you speak at home?

DessertOrDesert Thu 31-Mar-16 04:35:36

I wouldn't for German, given where you live, unless there is someone at home who can support the language.
If you are planning on staying long term in current country, I'd be tempted for Mandarin if you can move them all. Double school drop offs are a pest!

ShanghaiDiva Thu 31-Mar-16 04:50:40

Why not increase their mandarin lessons outside school then Mandarin will be the second language?
I would not send them to a German school unless you speak German and can support the dc at home. Is there the opportunity to learn another language in the upper years of their current school?

FreddoFrog Thu 31-Mar-16 05:08:56

Just to add, my DD age 4 is only just in nursery now. So would be starting the equivalent of reception at the new school. Plus she is a very confident child, finds it easy to make friends etc so I think would adapt well, even if the language of the playground is German.

FreddoFrog Thu 31-Mar-16 05:24:58

Thanks for the advice.

We speak English at home. I'm happy to learn German but that's right, I wouldn't be able to support at home.

Yes, there is an option to go to a bilingual mandarin/English school but it's a big school, more expensive and I'm not sure it's as strong academically.

Yes, there is the opportunity to learn French in the later years of current primary school.

Yes, agree re double drop offs though would stick someone on the school bus grin.

I agree learning Mandarin makes more sense given where we are living but I thought a European language would be easier to learn and master. You don't see value in learning another language just for the sake of it?

DessertOrDesert Thu 31-Mar-16 05:34:26

We are a bilingual household, living in a third country. All three places have different alphabets. We cannot support the local language school work. We may have some spoken ability, but our reading and writing is non existent. Yes, I know. We are at an international school, so most schooling is in English. The local language lessons and homework rely on the 6 year old remembering the instructions, or DH taking the book into work to get a translation blush

European languages are much simpler to pick up. Go for the tonal Mandarin while you have local, native level, support.
At this age, any language is a benifit. But go for one that is useful to current conditions!

DessertOrDesert Thu 31-Mar-16 05:35:46

Oh, and would different schools match holidays??? Crazy situation here that families with kids in different schools can have very limited overlapping holidays, so someone is always removed from school for trips home!

Yakari Thu 31-Mar-16 05:40:05

So caveat I may be in the same city as you or at least very similar

Our kids go to the French equivalent but my DH is French so the language is important for family and we speak both languages at home. We've got many friends like you - not French but keen kids learn a second language so they are at the school.

As a general view i'd say they find the early years frustrating as the kids don't make much progress compared to their peers who are French, but they all catch up in the end (all be it usually with tutors if they have no French at home) and by the end of school they are fluent. So if you're here for the long haul I'd say it's worth it. If you're only really here for 3 years (ages 4 to say 7) before going somewhere they can't continue the language then I'd say they'd probably lose most of it before they get to secondary and perhaps pick it up again.

Many others I know move kids to schools with more mandarin as this is probably a more useful second language. The bilingual
Schools are usually quite vocal that mandarin is only dealt with on a very limited basis as three languages can be tough at primary.

So a few things to think of ...
- Different school hours and school holidays - this can be a major pain to juggle around and for many is why they stick to one school for all kids. The German school where I am has very short hours, basically just the morning so this may be a big impact on your household.
- Extra expense of tutors - or you could learn the language to stay ahead of them
- Longer term plans for keeping up the language -,especially if this is just a short expat stay so they won't be at the school for long
- For all the effort is German really that important to you or if the school works for other reasons can you just see any language they pick up as a bonus versus trying to be fluent?

VinceNoirLovesHowardMoon Thu 31-Mar-16 05:43:29

I can't see any value in moving a happy child just to learn German, when you don't live in Germany, you aren't German and don't speak German.
Assuming you live in China then mandarin is far more useful. Even if you live elsewhere in Asia then mandarin is still useful. 30 minutes a day is quite a lot! You could engage a tutor do do some supplementary teaching after school/weekends?

FreddoFrog Thu 31-Mar-16 05:53:55

It's a good point re school holidays but they are largely the same. Maybe a day here and there or an extra week over the summer but that was something I was considering if sent DC3 to a local preschool.

We will likely be here for the long term. Which I guess means Mandarin makes more sense.

Yakari, I suspect we may well be in the same place wink. Hope you are enjoying your time here. You're right about shorter hours but they increase until 3 or 3.30pm from age 6 (or so) onwards. I also looked at the French school as I at least speak some French but the location of the German speaking schools is better for us.

Your last point is exactly it - I'd love them to learn another language but really is it worth this extra stress. Maybe an extra hour or two of Mandarin each week to supplement school learning is the best way forward for our family.

Thanks all for the thoughtful thoughts

Yakari Thu 31-Mar-16 06:03:33

Well at least it's starting to warm up eh!
Obviously I don't know which school you are it now, but for what it's worth if it wasn't for our French connections I would have picked a school that focused more on mandarin and had tutors in. I'm in awe of friends' kids who are now pretty good in mandarin and would love my kids to speak it better.
Good luck with what ever you decide

FreddoFrog Thu 31-Mar-16 06:04:57

Yes Vince, when you put it that way, it does seem pretty mad! grin I am just speaking to so many clever people here who just swap effortlessly from one language into the next. I think it's wonderful and wanted my kids to have the opportunity to do that.

This particular school seems very good so I figured why not just swap to another school that's the same money, same level of academics, plus she gets to pick up another language?

My DH learnt Mandarin at university and really struggled with it. His vote was for a European language and the kids may well end up back over there one day. But maybe Mandarin would be easier for the kids as they are kids and it is much more accessible now that we are here.

BoboChic Thu 31-Mar-16 06:11:54

If you do not speak German at home and you do not live in aGerman-speaking country there is little point in your DC attending a bilingual German school. It will be a huge struggle for little return. Stick to English and Mandarin.

dreame Thu 31-Mar-16 06:48:27

I also vote for Mandarin. It's the hardest language for native English speakers to learn (according to the FCO). As someone who studied a language at uni that appears very near the top of the FCO list, I'd say that the exposure to a totally different language structure (ie not Latin related) will make learning other languages easier in the future, because the brain has already made its gymnastics in (relatively effortlessly - compared to your DH with an older brain at uni) language learning.

German is not a difficult language to learn in comparison to mandarin so if they need it later, it'll be easier to learn later having mandarin already than learning mandarin on the back of German.

Are there mandarin-speaking children yours can play with, or mandarin speaking play groups/clubs? You might need a mandarin speaker to take them, but additional FUN support of the language at an early age helps a lot!

FreddoFrog Thu 31-Mar-16 07:00:49

Bobochic, but WOULD it be so difficult to pick up? Would it be a struggle? The first year, her year group would do 4 days a week English classes, one day German, the following year (when she's 5 going on 6), they flip it to 4 days of German, one day of English. They would give her extra German support and we could get a tutor as well.

I'm happy to admit it's a crazy scheme and Mandarin is the smarter choice given where we are, but I can't see how it would be a big struggle.

Dreame, yes, plenty of Mandarin speaking friends in our condo, at the shops, on the radio etc. It is achievable and could be made to be lots of fun. Thanks for your good point about making it easier to learn other languages later, will put that to DH.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 31-Mar-16 07:49:40

I would challenge that mandarin is harder for all children to learn than European languages. My DD studied a language carousel at primary of French, Spanish, Italian and Mandarin. We travel regularly to France and have had Spanish and Italian Au Pairs. Yet Mandarin is the language she has found easiest and done best at. It will be her GCSE language ( at higher level) and there is already talk of her looking at a Uni course including a year in China.

FreddoFrog Thu 31-Mar-16 09:10:05

Lonecat, what a great education for your daughter. Mandarin seems harder I think, the tones, the very different alphabet, no words/sounds in common. Interesting to hear of your daughter's experience. Sounds like she has done so well.

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