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Teaching a bilingual 4year old to read in English

(19 Posts)
annaspanner Sun 15-May-11 11:40:51

My daughter 4.5year old and is a Spanish/English speaker. She goes to Spanish state school and we speak English at home. I had originally decided to leave teaching her to read in English until she mastered Spanish, but she is 'behind' at school and I'm not sure about the method they are using either. They have taught the letter names before the sounds, in capitals, and are now teaching lower case letter in 'joined-up' handwriting style. It seems a jumbled way of teaching infants. Anyway, as a result I've been researching synthetic phonics but am worried about confusing her even more. I don't want to push her either-learning should be fun, especially at this age. So I just leave the materials around and we do them when she wants to. We've only really looked at the first set of sounds. The two languages have the same code but English has so many more sounds so I really don't know when to start properly.
Another problem is that although we read a story to her every day, she doesn't like me (or her Dad) to read to her in Spanish. She asks us to translate the books. She only wants English at home, after all day in Spanish. So the reading homework she is given every week is a struggle.

Has anyone had the same experience? Any ideas?

Francagoestohollywood Sun 15-May-11 11:49:47

Are you in Spain then?

Both my children (especially ds) started to read English after they learnt to read in Italian.

I thought they didn't start teaching to read and write so early in Spain, I thought it was about 6, like in other european countries.

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Sun 15-May-11 12:00:42

I am with franca.

Can you have a student or an old neighbour to come and make her read in spanish and leave the english for later?

Is she behind in her spanish school or are you comparing her with children in the UK?
If it is the later just forget about it, she will catch up.

annaspanner Sun 15-May-11 12:17:31

Thanks for quick replies! Yes, I'm in Malaga. I don't think shes behind either, not at 4.5 years old! but compared to her classmates she is. They started on the alphabet in first year infants (she was still 2 when she started school) and now she's in second year they are really starting to push. She has homework every week, reading and numeracy. And she started speaking Spanish quite late even though she went to Spanish nursery etc. so the teacher was really worried last year. She even told us to speak Spanish at home(which we didn't). Now she's speaking Spanish ok, I don't really mind that she's 'behind' unless she starts to feel pushed. This is really why I have started to think about doing it myself. I want her to love reading, not start to hate it. She does have a Spanish babysitter who could read to her. Maybe she could do the reading homework from now on.
What is the common age to start reading in other European countries?

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Sun 15-May-11 12:58:25

Where I am 7 (with no prior input) and in france it is 6 (with alphabet at 5).

I learnt to read in france at 6.5 (I didn't even know my alphabet) and was free reading before 7.
I think sweden is something like 7/8 too. DH couldn't read when he arrived at 8 in the UK.

But most countries are now pushing the children earlier and earlier to follow the UK system.

Francagoestohollywood Sun 15-May-11 13:25:48

In Italy children start primary school in September when they turn 6. Most of Italian children will also attend nursery school, where there is no formal teaching, apart from perhaps teaching them letters, but surely not compulsory.

Therefore the majority of children will learn to read and write in their first year at primary when they are 6/7.

FIY we lived in the UK until our eldest (ds) was 5.5, therefore he attended nearly 1 yr of primary school in the UK (6 months reception, 4 months yr obne), where he really struggled to learn his sight words.
Since learning to read in Italian (which is phonetical) he is able to read in English rather well.

belgo Sun 15-May-11 13:35:45

In Belgium they teach to read at age six, they also start with capitals, and then lower case in cursive script. My dd1 learnt to read and write within 3 months. I am planning on teaching her to read and write in English in the next few months, now that she is seven.

Four years old is very young to start. I would concentrate on her spanish school work before you try and teach her reading in english.

Bucharest Sun 15-May-11 13:37:14

I left off teaching dd to read in English till she had mastered Italian, which as Franca says, was so much easier anyway, as it's phonetically regular. She had started to read a bit in English (those dreadful dire boring ORT things) but was getting tired and frustrated at the meh-ness of them (especially because they are so graded that the stories are awful) Moondog (MNer) recommended the Headsprout interactive reading scheme, (which you can subscribe to) and last year, once we'd sorted the Italian reading out, I subscribed to that, and dd was reading fluently in English within weeks.She's now 7 and reading Harry Potter on her own.

I don't quite understand from your OP if they are saying your daughter is behind in English or Spanish? They haven't got a thing (mental block?) about bilingual children have they? I've come across this loads sigh. I just wondered with you saying they had told you to speak Spanish at home? Are you both English? If so, then I'd say, yes, a Spanish babysitter, friends, telly, dvds, anything to increase her exposure to Spanish would be a good thing.

My friends have recently moved from here to Valencia and I know they were shocked at first with just how academic the Spanish system is, and the expectations of small children. I think they were expecting something very similar to Italy, and now they are quite worried that when they come back, their daughter who will be 9 will have done stuff already that here in Italy they do in High School.

Francagoestohollywood Sun 15-May-11 13:40:22

Oh wow yes, I'd have thought that the Spanish system was similar to the Italian (which is ime already too academic once the children leave the fluffy world of nursery school...)

Bucharest Sun 15-May-11 13:45:45

My friends' daughter is in school from 8-5 every day, then has homework, and is already speaking (pretty good) French, Mandarin and English and doing Maths that her Mum says they do in media here. shock

Francagoestohollywood Sun 15-May-11 13:56:17

shock! That's one hr longer than our tempo pieno!

annaspanner Sun 15-May-11 21:45:13

Thanks so much for your invaluable information and advice. It is good to hear that in some places teaching reading starts at 6/7. It really does feel too soon to me. I am an English teacher and I don't think my daughter is ready yet, for reading, for homework (of the type she gets) and for being pushed. It's also good to hear that both Bucharest and Franca you think learning Italian first may have helped. Spanish is phonetic too. I think I need to hang on another year.

Bucharest, they do have a 'thing' about bilingual kids, but here in Malaga I think it's just a lack of experience, whereas in areas with more bilingual kids along the costa del sol there is more resistence. Apart from a Morrocan girl and my daughter, I don't know any other 'foreigners' in the school.
In theory compulsory education here starts in primary school at 5/6. However, in practice to get a place anywhere in your area (never mind the competition for a 'good' school) you have to enter infants at 2/3. We had to enter a lottery for my daughter's place at a normal state school and we live across the road. My daughter wasn't ready for school in my opinion but we had no choice. She was the youngest to leave the nursery being a december baby, even though her two best friends, born a month later in January, got to stay for another year. We are both English but as we both work in our academy, she has somebody look after her for a couple of hours most nights, and everyone else we know is Spanish. It really shouldn't be a problem for her, even if it takes her a bit longer, but the school makes me feel like I'm not doing enough.
I can't believe your friend's daughter is at school from 8-5, bucharest. It's normally 9-2 in primary.

You've put my mind at rest, thanks.

annaspanner Wed 18-May-11 23:30:26

Bucharest- I looked at Headsprout and we tried a sample class (even though I've decided to leave the English until next year) and it seems great. My DD loved it. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to save up for it though, at 195$. I'll be back on here in a year to see if there's anything similar at a lower price :-)

Bucharest Thu 19-May-11 06:40:49

I know, it's a bit of a £££££!!!!! isn't it?

Maybe put a callout for Moondog (I think she wrote a thesis or something similar on this type of thing) and ask her what she would recommend. She was around last week.

moondog Thu 19-May-11 06:43:21

I'd recommend what you do Bucharest. smile

Best investment anyone coukd make.

Bucharest Thu 19-May-11 07:59:10

Here you are Moondog! Were your ears burning? grin

I have to agree with you (as you know) HS took all the potential ORT pain out of reading!

moondog Thu 19-May-11 08:08:09

So fab to know that!
Well done to your dd. smile

diglotbooks Tue 31-May-11 09:18:44

This might be a good place to talk to parents in a similar situation is quite a lot of evidence that if a bilingual child is slower learning to read it can be helpful to switch to teaching them to read in their first language, in your dd case English.

annaspanner Sun 05-Jun-11 14:37:57

Thanks, but I think I'm going to leave learning to read in English at least until my DD is 5, in December. We'll have a rethink after the summer. I now have to concentrate on handwriting as we've been told to make a bigger effort with her cursive handwriting. She's finding it difficult. She's only just got block capitals. We sent one bit of homework back halfdone with a note saying that she'd tried her best but that it was hard for her. It was a page of 'L's that we'd spent ages on. It was sent back and we were told she has to try harder! I'm going to see the teacher to see what's going on. :-(

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