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English speakers living abroad... Teaching your children to read and write in English?

(18 Posts)
justwondering72 Fri 30-May-14 14:47:00

Hi all

My Anglo DH and I are living in France. We have two ds, aged 3 and 6. They are in the local French schools, and doing really well. Both are excellent English speakers ( it's our only language at home, they spend lots of time with grandparents, and we have a lot of Anglo friends here). I am a bit more concerned about teaching them to read and write in English though. It's something I really want to do, as I'd like them to have to option to go to uni in the UK or another Anglo country when they are older. We do have a bilingual option here for collège but their English needs to be of a high enough standard for them to join the anglophone classes without extra support. So that's what we are aiming towards.

So is anyone else out there teaching their bilingual children to read and write English at home? What methods are you using? How do you fit it in around schoolwork and activities? Any books / schemes / websites / apps you would recommend?


mousmous Fri 30-May-14 14:50:19

we are the other way round.
we started teaching reading and writing when dc's reading in english was getting to the 'free reading' stage (half way through year 1).
they do a couple of workbook pages each week and we read age appropriate books in our language (one page we, one page them...)

schlafenfreude Sun 01-Jun-14 23:45:51

Most people I know have waited until CE1 for reading and writing in French to be well established. The skills are fairly transferable and by that state if they get a crash course in phonics they can decode using their knowledge of the language. Encourage reading aloud together to check they are doing it confidently - chapter stories like Harry Potter or Swallowd and Amazons are good. Free writing, letters to family, creative writing, keeping a diary etc will all help. It needs a lot of input and gentle correction but the skills are transferable and where their spoken English is good the reading/writing should follow. Frequency is your friend, just make it routine.

Poopoopeedooo Sat 23-Aug-14 21:01:47

Hi...belated reply here
My two in Spain (now 6 and 8 yrs) have just taken to reading in English as if it´s really no big deal. The way they teach here is very much:"Here are the letters and go read" . Its very easy since Spanish is entirely phonetically spelt with practically no exceptions, so a fantastic way to learn to become fearless when reading.
I REALLY think that all these "phonics" and various other clever methods of teaching English just over-complicate matters.
They also seem to teach the kids to fear getting it wrong instead of just having a try as they sit there trying to remember all the rules rather than having a crack at a new word. My two will approach a new illogically-spelt English word and just sort of work it out as they make sense of the sentence. I have not had to teach them anything- they´ll tackle "night" "straight" , etc etc and get them right first time!
Spelling however, when they write is likely to be a battle since they are so used to it being logical but that´s something we´ll plug away at later!
So my advice is...just get a simple fun book and go!! Dr Seuss is great since it rhymes which helps make sense of words too. Don´t over-think it!
Oh PS, I waited until they were able to read Spanish sentences reasonably well before trying the English (about age 5-6)

violetsareblue11 Thu 02-Oct-14 23:26:11

Really late reply, and probably of no use to you- but just thought I'd say that my three DC's are trilingual (English, French and German) and all three were born in Germany- and raised there until the ages of 8, 6 and 5- when we move back to UK- and we managed to maintain their English and French by speaking it at home to them, giving them English and French literature to read and films to watch... and so on. Now we're back in UK it's constant juggling between the three languages and it's getting tricky!

violetsareblue11 Thu 02-Oct-14 23:26:59

And another vote for Dr Seuss, really fabulous!

Bonsoir Sun 02-Nov-14 08:44:30

Learning to read in English isn't difficult for bilingual DC who have learned to read in French.

Learning to write in English to a high standard is a whole other issue.

If you want your DC to learn to write well in English, teaching reading early, through phonics, with proper literacy support, is the way to go.

alteredimages Sun 02-Nov-14 09:07:36

Bonsoir, I am in a similar position to the OP. Trilingual DD in MS, but in a French school abroad. When you say "teaching reading early" what age do you mean? Should it be with or after learning to read French? What do you mean by "proper literacy support"? I think this might be hard to find here in the Middle East!

DD will also need to learn to read and write Arabic soon which will complicate things further, so want to get English and French started well first.

Takver Sun 02-Nov-14 09:13:49

alteredimages, I think the phonics is key. We're not overseas, but dd learned to read and write at school in Welsh first. By the time they started English in school, she had picked up fluent reading in English herself & was happily reading chapter books.
But that meant she never got any English phonics (school fail, IME, as they kept assuring us all would be fine but that's another issue). We ended up having to do intensive phonics at home a couple of years later when - unsurprisingly - her spelling didn't just magically sort itself out.

Bonsoir Sun 02-Nov-14 09:39:46

My DD is bilingual English-French. We live in Paris and are a French-speaking family - DD has two French half-brothers and everyone speaks French to everyone else except DD and I who speak English to one another. She is in CM2 of a "bilingual" French primary school where 1/4 of the day is in English, streamed by ability. DD is in the top stream (11 pupils out of a year group of 115) for English and most of those DC arrived from the UK or US recently. I would guess that she is the most balanced bilingual in her cohort. She has achieved that because I didn't go along with the school's policy of not teaching reading and writing in English until after she had mastered reading in French. She had an English literacy tutor for an hour a week from midway through MS and learned reading/writing in English through phonics. I also did a lot of reading support at home. Her spelling and written expression in English are way ahead of other bilingual DC at her school who have lived in France their whole lives.

alteredimages Sun 02-Nov-14 10:06:45

Hi takver. My DF's family are welsh speakers and my aunt teaches in a welsh medium school. I think she would love to teach DD Welsh but I have enough on my plate. smile

That is exactly my worry Bonsoir about DD being bilingual French English. I don't think I know any French speakers of English who, once writing, don't seem a bit like a polished up version of google translate. Somehow the sentence contructions just come out a bit off. I will get started on phonics and a tutor now then.

Bonsoir Sun 02-Nov-14 10:36:46

Takver - is your experience of bilingual education in Wales typical? Is it usual for DC to be expected to pick up English spelling without explicit phonics instruction in Reception/Y1/Y2?

Bonsoir Sun 02-Nov-14 10:40:41

alteredimages - I have always worked hard to try to ensure that DD receives full exposure to all the linguistic input and experiences that monolinguals have, for both her languages. It has got easier as she has got older and is clearly fully confident in both languages.

alteredimages Sun 02-Nov-14 12:16:36

Bonsoir, sorry, I didn't mean my last post as a comment on your daughter, in fact quite the opposite. I meant that I was encouraged that balanced French English bilingualism is possible, as I have seen a lot of people with a strong bias towards one language or the other. smile

Takver Sun 02-Nov-14 15:10:05

Bonsoir - they work 100% in Welsh until end KS1 at dd's old primary school. So in theory when they come into KS2 at year 3, they shouldn't be reading or writing at all in English, and so start essentially from scratch with phonics. Obviously, they then learn much more quickly than they would do if they weren't reading at all to start with, a bit like learning to read a foreign language as an adult & learning a new set of rules I guess.

They're used to dc reading some English of course, as many come from English speaking homes, it's just because dd was a very early fluent reader it threw the system a bit.

Takver Sun 02-Nov-14 15:11:53

Should say, there are lots of different splits English / Welsh depending on the school - some will teach dc to read / write first in whichever is their main home language. That approach does tend to leave English home speakers with less fluent Welsh, though (which may not seem such a disadvantage if you're in France, but is a big deal if you want to get a job in west Wales!)

Bonsoir Wed 05-Nov-14 06:47:49

Takver - how interesting that there is no agreed best practice about how to teach early literacy skills bilingually.

justwondering72 Mon 15-Dec-14 13:36:43

Thought I'd update this thread. DS1 is nearly 7 now, and over the past year or so he totally blew all my plans for teaching him to read out of the water, and taught himself! There I was all ready with Jolly Phonics etc... he basically refused to be 'taught' anything much beyond the very occasional activity sheet.

Everything that Bonsior said above has proved true so far. We have always read lots to him, he's in a house full of English books etc and once he learned to read in French, he seemed to apply to same skills to English, and taught himself to read. He's reading up to P3 level now. I don't know that he'll ever be 'a reader' especially when the Ipad and Tv are around. But he can do it.

Writing is a whole different ball game, it involves the application of bum to seat, hard work for him. He's struggling with cursive script handwriting in French , and I suspect it's putting him off doing any writing. And there just aren't the same opportunities to do it casually or informally as there are for reading. And I don't think I'll have any more luck teaching him this. As for a tutor... the school days are already so long here, I'm struggling to force more education on him. We'll work on it in the long summer holidays I think.

Cheers all.

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