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Bilingualism and learning to read - I am unsure what to do

(6 Posts)
WidowWadman Sat 09-Feb-13 14:40:16

My daughter is 4.1 and has started learning to read - she's doing the ORT books she's bringing home from pre-school with her dad, and also has a go at some words and simpler books at home.

I do the same in German with her - when I read a book to her, she will try to work out some of the words. She actually understands quite well that the same combination of letters can be pronounced differently in German and English, and sometimes, even when words sound the same and mean the same, they may be spelt differently, e.g. "fish" and "Fisch".

If she's unsure she'll ask what language a book is to extrapolate the correct pronunciation from there.

gabsid Thu 07-Feb-13 16:58:57

Thanks, yes, I found with DS(Y3) that he only had to learn to read once (in English) and then he applied these skills to reading in German. DS's German reading is fairly basic still, but he manages. DS's school work comes first, we read each day in English with him, besides he needs some support in maths, so there isn't much time for any work in German.

DD is only 4, so I won't do any formal stuff with her, but as it looks now she will read a little in German before she starts to learn to read formally in English in Sept.

noramum Thu 07-Feb-13 16:36:20


we are both Germans living in London. DD started Reception in 2011 and is now in Year 1.

We left the German reading/writing purposefully out until Christmas last year. She was by then a fairly fluent reader, knew her English phonics and a lot of sounds.

We have a small book advent calendar and just said to DD "have a go and read". Obviously there are a couple of different sounds and letters but as soon as she knew how to pronounce them she read quite well, less good than English but more like she did at the end of Reception.

She has now a couple of German books for 1+2 Klasse and we normally read these togehter. English reading is still the majority and school work (she has to read each day at home) has first preference.

It was strange going over the English phonics with her, I only then realised how difficult it is to learn to read English but it wasn't really an issue. All homework is done in English, only explanations are done in German. For example we go over the topic in German but then switch to English for the writing part.

Depending on the time you have available you can do more but with DH and I both working and childcare we found that school work takes up most of the time so we kept it very low-key.

gabsid Thu 07-Feb-13 16:32:50

Thanks, we do go to a German group once a month and DC enjoy it, they speak German to each other.

DD only goes to pre-school 3 mornings per week, at home, as you do, we speak, read and watch German TV from the internet.

Its just this interest in reading and writing DD shows at the moment. German is phonetic, so quite easy. I am concerned that she might know the sounds of the German alphabet and read a little, and then when she starts school its all change to the English system, which might confuse her. Or will she just keep it apart like they do with the languages.

My DS learned to read in English first (he is still learning in Y3) and he can read a little in German, but I think we will have to practise that soon. The problem with DS is that he does not enjoy reading at all.

misscph1973 Thu 07-Feb-13 11:12:52

My DCs are born in Denmark, I am Danish and my husband is English and we live in England.

I am very impressed that you practice OPOL, something I found very hard with my DCs when we moved here 4 years ago when they were 4 and 2 y o, as their primary language quickly became English. I mainly read Danish books and sing Danish songs to (and we watch Danish children's TV on demand on the computer) and we go on holiday in Denmark and have relatives visiting from Denmark.

My DCs have a good passive Danish, but they are reluctant to speak more than a few words or short sentences. My 8 y o can read some Danish and she is quite proud of that, and her and her brother (5 y o) knows the Danish letters.

Your DD will probably be very tired from school - all those new impressions will really tire her out, so there is a possibility that more learning at home will be too much for her. My advice is to read German books and sing German songs, as to a certain extent the reading of German will just happen, in bursts, as she learns to read English. Luckily the German and English alphabet are quite similar, so I don't think it will be too difficult, but at the same time be careful you don't expect too much from her, the whole school experience is very tiring for little ones.

If there are any German playgroups in your area, this could be very helpful. My kids really like to meet up with other Danish-English families, they like knowing that there are other families just like them ;)

Good luck!

gabsid Thu 07-Feb-13 11:01:52

We live in the UK and are a German/English bilingual family I practise OPOL and DC (7 and 4) are fluent with both still prefering German over English.

Now DD (4) is very interested in reading and writing. I now the advice is to let them learn to read in one language first and then teach them to read in the other. This made sense for DS (now 7) who had no interest in that sort of thing, and also he was quite young when he started Reception.

DD will start school next Sep, and I couldn't show/teach her English letter sound when the only language I use with her is German. My instinct is to just carry on with showing her how to write what she wants to write, telling her the German letter sounds and how to form the letters. I told her about a book I still had from DS (it introduces all the letters, shows how to blend them and has little game activities) - she was quite excited.

I'am planning to just follow her interests at home in German and then let her learn to read in school in English properly.

I would be very grateful for any experiences/advice.

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