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Sabbatical abroad with kids so they can learn Italian

(15 Posts)
unsuspectingclodpate Mon 05-Sep-11 17:40:46

Hi, anyone have any experience of moving abroad for a year or so to expose their kids to another language. My kids are 8, 5 and 9 months old and I'm considering moving the lot of us to Italy so they can be schooled in Italian and spend time with Italian family. DH is Italian but kids have never picked up much Italian.

Obviously, a lot to organise in terms of getting work in Italy and renting out our house, school places etc. I'm wondering if this is a crazy idea or something worth chucking my energy at.

What do ya think?

fraktious Mon 05-Sep-11 17:46:55

Honestly IMO a year is not enough from scratch and even if they became fluent it would take a lot to keep it up after you return.

But as an experience it could be good - just make sure you have strategies for dealing with the educational ramifications and upheavals wrt friendships.

Portofino Mon 05-Sep-11 18:32:11

I agree with fraktious - a year is not long enough really. It would take the older ones probably 6 months or so to get used to it. And probably the chopping and changing (as not strictly necessarily) would do more harm than good. Surely there would be difficulties with UK school places etc too?

As an adult it probably took me nearer to 2 years to get fully settled. It is hard to meet people and make friends in a strange environment when you don't know the language fluently. I found the first year abroad VERY hard even though I found a job quite quickly.

unsuspectingclodpate Mon 05-Sep-11 18:34:15

Thanks for your reply fraktious.

We could stretch it to 18 months but I had thought about how they will retain their Italian when we come back. If my Italian improves a bit then we can use Italian at home more plus we do visit family 3 times a year.

It just seems like a very big undertaking so I have to make sure I have the energy to make it happen. I guess having half Italian children it seems such a shame they can't communicate in their dad's and grandparents language.

unsuspectingclodpate Mon 05-Sep-11 18:36:56

Thanks Portofino. I cross posted. We would be living with DH's family and we have Italian friends. I know it would be hard though.

natation Mon 05-Sep-11 18:46:24

I suspect hubby is not speaking Italian much to your children if they have not picked up the language? If this is the case, would it not be more productive to oblige your hubby to speak ONLY and consistently Italian to the children and then send them to relatives in Italy during the holidays?

unsuspectingclodpate Mon 05-Sep-11 19:22:45

Well, you're quite right there, natation. But he finds it difficult. He does talk to the baby in Italian. That kind of babytalk that Italians do. He gets impatient with me butchering his language so we do tend to stick to English.

Rooble Mon 05-Sep-11 19:39:37

Hi I agree with natation - if you use only English and he uses only Italian they will learn them as two separate languages.
And agree that 12 or even 18 months at this age probably won't make a massive difference long term unless you continue to use Italian with them on a daily basis when you return. (fwiw two of my cousins did two years of primary school in the uk and spoke fluent English albeit with strong Sussex accents. By the time they were 10 and learning English in school they'd forgotten every word)

unsuspectingclodpate Mon 05-Sep-11 19:44:50

I kind of feel we missed the boat a bit with dd1 and dd2. If he talks Italian to them now they simply don't know what he's on about. Thats why I thought some intensive total immersion could be our last hope. I read somewhere that up to the age of, say 10, kids can learn another language relatively easily without the plodding grown-ups have to do. Ho hum.

Portofino Mon 05-Sep-11 20:30:51

It brings it own challenges though. My dd speaks perfect French and we speak to her only in English at home. (This is after 5 years). She still gets confused about the days of the week in English though. Say - we'll do that mercredi and she knows exactly when you mean. If you say Wednesday, she has to check. Her routine is in French ifyswim?

TeddyBare Tue 06-Sep-11 08:42:23

Could you do something like this but with the children in your family rather than strangers,

MmeLindor. Tue 06-Sep-11 08:49:26

Your DH should start speaking Italian with them. And get Italian TV.

At 8/9 years your eldest is getting to the age where the window for learning is closing, but you still have the opportunity to do it.

I do think that 1 year is too little, but the experience would be good. It took a good year before my DC picked up French when we moved here, and after that another year to become fluent.

However, it would get your DH used to speaking Italian with them and make it easier to keep up when he gets home.

If you are going to do it, do it as soon as possible.

TeddyBare Tue 06-Sep-11 08:53:27

That was the wrong link I posted, here is the right one:, or Neither seems to have a link with Italy but it might be possible to email them, and even if they can't organise it, they might be able to help you.

unsuspectingclodpate Tue 06-Sep-11 10:47:38

Thanks for all your replies. A lot to think about. smile.

falasportugues Mon 03-Oct-11 23:24:13

I think that if your aim is total fluency, then 1 year might not be enough. But it will give them loads of cultural insights, stronger family ties, and will open their horizons out incrediblly. Perhaps their Italian will become well established enough in a year. people are individuals, and my experience of moving abroad was of adapting far quicker than previous posters have suggested. I also attended foreign school at age 6 for less than a year, and believe that although I did not keep that language up on return to uk, it did stretch my synapses enough to become fluent in a second language much quicker as an adult. think about your individual children... do they struggle if their routine is interrupted? if they are adaptable, confident sociable children, I bet they would get loads out of it! I think it might be a sacrifice in some respects, but don't be put off! I am eternally grateful to my parents for taking me!

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