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Teacher is very nice but she does not understand me - bilingual family

(33 Posts)
rrbrigi Mon 12-Nov-12 11:14:18


First of all sorry for the long thread and thanks for reading.

We are Hungarian family in England and speak only Hungarian at home with our DS who is 4.5. There are 2 reasons for this, one of them that he wanted him to learn Hungarian and he is perfect from it. The other one is that we want him to learn English as a native speaker (without any accent). His English is not as good as like other English children, but he understands English and can answer in a couple of words. He started a Montessori nursery when he was 2 and this nursery was good for his education (math, reading, science etc...) but was not good for his English speaking. In the nursery they could do whatever they wanted (what they were interested), so lots of time my son chose to do things alone and quiet.

He is in Reception now. He is a very clever boy. He can read in Hungarian and his English reading is somewhere in Yellow level (Oxford tree level Blue). He can count at least to 100 or more and add and divide number under 10. He knows the shapes, patterns, time etc... He has a very good understanding about the world. But all of these are coming in Hungarian and not English.sad

So my problem is that his teacher cannot see how clever he is. He was in pink level books and I asked the teacher at least 20 times so she moved up him to red level, but these ones are still easy. She does not think my DS understands the book, even if I say he understands them. At home he can tell me the story (in Hungarian only) what he read in English. His comprehension is very good in Hungarian and not in English. But of course he cannot tell back a story in English if his English is not good enough. The teacher thinks that my DS cannot even count up to 20 and he does not know the shapes and he cannot add up or divide confused. My DS is very perfectionism child, he never answer to a question just if he sure the answer is correct. He needs time to think about the English answer and probably the teacher does not wait for the answer. At home I try to help him to develop his reading, math etc, but it is getting to be harder and harder, because my English is not too good and explain the phonics or adding up numbers for him to English is very hard for me. Also I do not know a lot about these subjects because I had my education in Hungary. E.g.: I do not know how they approach time tables in school, or I thought him the phonics (alphabets, 2 letters, 3 letters like ai, oo, th, sh, air, ight) but do not know what is next.

I do not know what to do or is there anything I can do? It is important for me, because the secondary school where I would like him to go is a selective one and he needs a good SATS at the end of Year6 (at least level 5 but level 6 would be better) to get a place. I am a bit sad because I think if he would speak English as a native speaker they would cater his education better.

Do you have any experience like mine? Shall I wait until he catches up with his English? But it can take for a while (I think at least a year).

Also is there any possibility or example that the school can provide a special need teacher next to him, because his first language is not English and this holds him education back? The last time I asked the teacher told me he does not need because he can catch up English alone.
Just to tell you the school (he is in) has a very good reputation and his teacher really very kind lady and my son loves his teacher a lot. I do not even know what I would like from the school to do (guess help his English develop more quickly) or how I would like them to approach it?

Thanks for reading it and for any advice help you can give me.

scooterland Thu 06-Dec-12 00:20:49

He needs to speak English outside school. Doing sport etc in English and socialise. The Chinese/Spanish idea is frankly a waste of time and is probably confusing the poor child esp if he is expected to learn the au-pair's language.
This all sounds rather pushy, even if you don't mean to be. I agree you need to speak Hungarian to him but equally I don't think speaking some English at home for fun will do any harm. It will show him that you are willing to have a go and might encourage him to as well. Equally, however harsh it might feel you need to get real. He needs to speak English lots if you want him to improve. Who cares he counts to 100 in Hungarian? Unless he does in English the teacher is not going to know and whilst you can tell her he does, she is teaching him English. She is not questioning his intelligence, merely telling you ( politely) that his English needs to improve. Getting an English speaking au pair sounds the best way to do that at the mo'. Have you checked your local library to see if they offer language support sessions for ESL children? Ours ran such sessions last year ran by volunteers.

scooterland Thu 06-Dec-12 00:32:44

Judging from your messages your English is a lot better than you seem to think. It might be he wants to practise English with you because it feels safe. And why not? Who cares if your pronunciation is not at native level. At least you could act as a sounding board for him to build his confidence.
Your son will easily pick up pronunciation from peers ( probably already has) with the right exposure so your input would probably help him rather than hinder him.

Weissdorn Thu 06-Dec-12 00:58:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zipzap Thu 06-Dec-12 10:43:59

Why not designate one day a week as an English at home day (and an occasional weekend day)?

It sounds like he is happily secure in his Hungarian. Having a little English would help to give him the day to day vocab - getting up, getting dressed, having dinner, kids tv, playing games etc. It would also help him to see that you don't have to answer everything perfectly first time, if you struggle a bit for the odd word but then see it's ok to try things.

Could you also get him to teach you what he has been learning, even if you already know what he's telling you, again to help build his confidence?

scooterland Thu 06-Dec-12 15:04:10

I completely agree with zipzap. If he is a perfectionist too he will instinctively know he is better in Hungarian. It's both more comfortable and he can express his ideas in a more complex way that reflect his intellectual maturity so given the choice, this is what he will go for.

Of course he needs exposure to native English but clearly this hasn't been enough so far. Of course he needs to make friends who speak English etc this is part of the socialising bit. But you showing more confidence with the language and making it fun would greatly help. You could just have half an hour a day or so, just speaking English and learning expressions in a fun way. I think you also need to make English friends, if you haven't already so he sees you interacting in English and having fun.

Language learning is far more complex than just being exposed to the native language. There might be reasons (perhaps not so obvious) as to why his progress in English is not as fast as you would like.

It sounds too that at 4.5 he may have had quite a few changes in his life, in school environments etc ... If Montessori didn't pay much attention to language learning then obviously that wasn't great for him, if you show diffidence and hesitation at using English at home/outside then he is picking that up. If you haven't already done it, it may also help for you to explain why you expect him to learn English and speak it so well.

slippyshoes Fri 07-Dec-12 18:15:36

Your son is 4.5 and your worrying about secondary schools?! Think you need to get your son more comfortable and confident in expressing himself in English, otherwise it seems a little pointless in investing all that time in teaching him all the maths or science, unless of course you're planning on returning to Hungary where he can be a rocket scientist, in Hungarian.

Have you lived in England all his life? Does he/do you not have any native English speaking friends from baby classes, play groups, nursery, work etc you can invite round/go visit/spend time with in a relaxed, non-schooly/competitive environment? Do you do any activities (e.g. swimming, clubs, music classes) where he could be surrounded by English but in a fun way?

I'm not going to tell you how to raise your child but being successful in life is about more than learning/knowing lots of stuff/educational achievement. It's also about social skills, getting on with people, being able to communicate well.

vesela Mon 10-Dec-12 21:11:58

We speak English at home and live in the Czech Republic. While I've been pretty strict about sticking to English at home, I've started to read to my daughter (5) in Czech sometimes, as well as in English.

My advice would be to continue to speak to him purely in Hungarian at home, but to maybe make more time for reading English children's books together. That way you don't get into the habit of speaking English to the detriment of Hungarian, but you're doing something to help develop his English vocabulary.

(Does he like cats, by the way, or was that just an example? There are lots of good children's books about cats - Diary of a Killer Cat, Good Cat, Bad Cat, The Cat Who Wanted to Go Home, a whole series of books called Rain Cat, Ice Cat, The Cat who Wasn't There etc. etc. by Linda Newbery, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats...).

And my daughter is 5.5. and I'm thinking about secondary schools smile Completely normal.

sashh Wed 12-Dec-12 08:35:16

I taught a Polish girl.

She arrived aged 14 with no English and two years later passsed 10 GCSEs.

Just give him time.

He probably has a bit of 'first language interference' and if he is not confident the answer is right, because he knows it in hungarian but might not know the English Grammar he is staying quiet.

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