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Any advice please - bilingual school in 3rd language

(9 Posts)
lelait Sat 06-Nov-10 20:48:24

We're in Alsace - me English & DP French. DD is 3 and speaks both English & French fine (with quite a lot of mixing but hey). We now have the option to do bilingual schooling in French & German (which neither of us speak). I am really not at all sure what to think (but spend too long doing so!). On one side it could be a great opportunity to grow up with 3 languages - but I also would hate make school life hard for her and/or get in the way of her learning English to a good level. I really don't know what to think - any advice/experiences/research links would be really appreciated. Thanks!

AussieCelt Sun 07-Nov-10 07:26:05

I'd say do it provided that your child doesn't have any language and significant learning issues which by the sounds of it she doesn't. Our daughter who has 2 minority languages at home as well as English as the societal language started her schooling in a fourth language (which luckily I speak as well). She's now in her third year at that school and is very comfortable in the language (ahead of the 2 home languages but on par with English)

Most bilingual schools have immersion programmes and resources for kids who don't have the language on entry, and the teachers should be used to easing non-speakers into the language.

Your daughter's English should only really suffer if you let it suffer - besides a third language at school shouldn't make much difference as time at school not speaking English is still time not speaking English no matter what the school languages are. You will need to incorporate language learning at home into daily activities. One thing we do with our daughter is to structure activities at home or with friends in the minority languages (reading books, singing, play, social activities and hobbies, television etc). Language learning is definitely not 'set and forget'.

firefrakkers Sun 07-Nov-10 08:10:36

Definitely doable for her linguistically.

The only potential problem if neither of you have any German then helping with homework further up the school will be a challenge!

She will have English lessons at school anyway, which will help reinforce learning done at home, and she'll be significantly less disadvantaged than children who are bilingual and schooled in a 3rd language. It's perfectly possible to keep her English going with just the time you have together at home as long as you make the effort to do so. In the grand scheme of things when you look at how much exposure she will get to French, English and German she will probably have most to French (not unusual for a bilingual child living in France, then Emglish and finally agerman which will be for about 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. 3 intensive hours with trained professionals hut I bet you spend more than 12 hours a week interacting in English with her.

natation Sun 07-Nov-10 11:26:14

I wouldn't worry in the slightest about your child's English, with English spoken by parents at home.

I would want to know more about the set-up of the school first and intake of the children. I'd ask how many children speak French or German as a monther tongue in the class, how many speak neither as a mother tongue. I'd ask if the school has a bilingual timetable eg 50/50 and how the 50/50 is split or whether it is in fact an immersion timetable where all the children are supposed to be French mother tongue and are therefore immersed completely into German. In Belgium, there are quite a few bilingual French / English school, all private, but a common problem is that so many of the children speak neither French not English at home that they struggle to learn 2 new languages at once, or some speak only 1 of the 2 languages at home and when they come to school, they just ignore the other language and continue to speak only French or English. You ideally need a biligual school where the majority of children speak at least one of the languages as a mother tongue. Then at some bilingual schools, they do morning in one language, afternoon in another language, rather than whole days, with the little ones who sleep half the afternoon, it seems a bit uneven, as they in reality get exposed to one language for 3 hours in the morning, then in fact just 1 hour of the other language in the afternoon. To me a bilingual schoo should give equal exposure to language, when the children are small. At the public immersion schools in Belgium, the children learn in either Dutch or English, but the childre MUST be native speakers of French in order to do this. If it is the case that your child's Alsacienne school is an immersion school in German for French speakers, I would be concerned that your child would not then have enough exposure to French, 3 year olds forget quickly if their exposure to a language is not kept up.

lelait Sun 07-Nov-10 20:03:58

Thanks all for the posts - It gives me lots more to think about! I'm feeling more positive about it from your responses - but I need to look into the specific schoolset-up a bit more. It would be a local school 50/50 both languages - with (I assume) mainly french children (although we are really in the border area)
Firefrakkers - the homework thing was definitely on my mind but perhaps thats what we need to push us to learn a bit more too.

We have quite a few expat friends with kids and cbeebies on satellite (the kids being my excuse rather than me wanting to watch QI). But I think the advice was to make the bilingual education work they will need exposure outside of school too - which might be harder....

I do question how useful it will be - my cousin did French immersion in Canada and now speaks no French at all - perhaps thats a question for another post!

evamummy Sun 07-Nov-10 20:11:02

I would definately send her to the bilingual school, giving her access to German. She will get the English from you (assuming you spend quite a bit of time with her smile and French from her environment without any effort.

We are raising our children bilingually (I speak the minority language to them) and I have children growing up with 3 languages (mother one language, father another and children go to school in England) and they cope just brillinantly.

I think the benefits of being trilingual for the brain far outweigh any questions of 'usefulness' of a language. And German is great foundation for any other germanic language.

MotherMountainGoat Sun 07-Nov-10 20:28:56

It should work fine. My kids are at a bilingual school (English/German 50/50) and there are a number of families where one of languages at home is different from those being taught - offhand I can think of French/English, or French/German, or Spanish/German parents. Bilingual kids generally absorb a third language pretty easily. And French, English and German is a really good combination as a basis for further European languages.

There have been several parents at the DC's school who cannot speak English although their kids are studying in that language, and it doesn't seem to be too much of a barrier.

Thissideofchannel Mon 08-Nov-10 22:09:31

I would definately give her the option of learning German from a young age, in addition to French and English. I know a few trilingual children and they all cope absolutely well (especially girls, as they tend to be more verbal at primary level). As a language I think German is at least as important (if not more) from a 'usefulness' aspect than French but I agree that the three languages (German, English, French) give her a great foundation in the germanic and latin languages. Your dd is very lucky!

lelait Tue 09-Nov-10 19:31:55

Lots of positives - thanks.
Information evening is tomorrow before having to sign on the dotted line before xmas I think - oh I don't like big decisions like this!

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