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resources for learning to read and write in German, for Swiss child in England?

(11 Posts)
Y1questions Mon 28-Sep-15 14:15:34

Ok I know this is rather specific, but who knows? There may be someone out there with perfect advice <hopeful>

Background: Swiss German is technically a dialect, rather than a separate language, though it is different enough from High German (or just, German) that Germans don't understand it, usually. Swiss German is spoken-only; as soon as Swiss German kids learn to read/write, they must by necessity also learn High German, because that is the language they will be reading and writing.
To understand the scope of the differences, e.g. Swiss German knows only two tenses, present and past perfect, whereas German has the full contingent. It is probably nearly as different from German as Dutch is.

DS is 5. We speak Swiss German at home, probably about 80% of the time (otherwise English). His Swiss German is pretty age appropriate, though he has started to translate English phrases verbatim which doesn't tend to work out.

For a year now he has attended German Saturday school and his High German (or 'proper' German) has improved massively, but only receptive. He now understands High German pretty well, all his bedtime stories and audiobooks are in High German and he is fine with them. He hasn't however yet pronounced a correct High German sentence, though recently he has started trying. He is now in the next year up at Saturday school and they are teaching the kids to read. But it is very slow going (understandably, with only 90 minutes/week). So far (two weeks in) they have learned the letter 'ä' (admittedly the first week was mostly for settling in.)

He has just started Y1 at school and reads really well (for his age) in English (Turquoise book band, which poses no difficulty). We feel he is secure enough with that for us to focus on his other language for a bit now (sideways extension, so to speak)

So: Does anyone know of any resources/strategies/experiences for teaching a Swiss kid who hasn't got frequent exposure to High German (as Swiss kids in Switzerland would have), to read and write in German? Online, workbooks, readers, ...? What kind of 'first readers' books/series could you recommend?

Alternatively, resources for learning to read and write in German in general? For young children. (Generally resources are aimed at slightly older children, as 5yos don't tend to learn to read and write yet in German speaking countries.) Any such resources we may have to adapt, as they would probably assume that the child speaks German (rather than Swiss German), but they would be a place to start.

Would be extremely grateful (and a bit surprised) if someone could recommend the perfect resources for us. Alternatively, any thoughts and comments will be appreciated smile

CaramelCurrant Wed 30-Sep-15 04:47:57

Hey there, we are the opposite way around. English speakers in a Swiss environment.

At school the kids use antolin as a resource for getting books (the teacher also monitors their progress). There is also the German kids' news (logo at ZDF Mediathek). What I find is that 2nd language families spend every holiday at home to Ensure the don't lose the skills.

I wouldn't worry about the literal sentence translation - we just respond to "over tomorrow" with "Oh the day after tomorrow darling". Our seven year old rarely says things like this now except for where she has learned to German word first (zB Blutenrest was a recent example).

FinallyHere Wed 30-Sep-15 05:11:57

Have you already tried the local Goethe institute?

The one in London has been very helpful to us in a similar but different situation, both directly by suggesting resources and indirectly by putting us in touch with others who could help.

Another place to try would be an international school, where they may be expertise. Best if luck. xx

All the best

Y1questions Wed 30-Sep-15 10:18:03

Thanks both!

Caramel I have looked at antolin but it seems to require a teacher/school to have a licence. Also the website says that there are no books, just comprehension questions.

'Kann ich unter auch Bücher lesen, herunterladen oder bestellen?
Nein, es können keine Bücher gelesen, heruntergeladen oder bestellt werden.'

Can you explain what you mean when you say that they use antolin as a resource for getting books? Do you mean the suggestions, e.g. if child rated a book as good, then similar books are suggested, but still leaving it up to school/parents to source that book.

FinallyHere, DS' saturday school has links to the Goethe institute, I may check with them first. Thanks for the suggestion. Will have a think about international schools too. There is obviously the German School in Richmond, I think they have Swiss kids too, but these would not normally arrive already reading English. Maybe they can point me towards something though.

Having done some browsing on how kids learn to read/are taught to read in German speaking countries, I am discovering that things seem very complex! Just as I figured I'd got my head around synthetic phonics. German seems quite logical for a phonics approach but I get the impression that other methods are widespread. E.g. Silbenmethode (bit like analytical phonics maybe?) <sigh>

CaramelCurrant Wed 30-Sep-15 10:56:00

The kids get the books through the school and obviously there is appropriate sequential grading.

in our oldest's class they have learned to read in English and German simultaneously. The methods are basically the same. I think the easy German books have the compound words separated into individual words getting more complex as they progress.

Have you looked at Amazon? They have a selection of German language books too.

cloudjumper Fri 02-Oct-15 12:12:24

How about watching German DVDs? I wouldn't worry about him writing/reading just yet, he will have enough on his plate doing that in English. In Switzerland/Germany, they don't start this before the age of 6, there is plenty of time. Speaking/understanding should be enough at the age of 5, in my opinion. There might be a German play group in your area, where he could make friends who only speak high German. But you might find that this could be at the cost of him 'losing' the Swiss German - this happened to me when I was a child (but then again, we had actually moved to Germany from Switzerland, so slightly different).
I think it sounds fine as it is - he is exposed to both and understands both. Unless you are planning to move back to Switzerland soon, but if that is case, you might want to consider a private teacher anyway...

Dragonratt Fri 02-Oct-15 14:15:45

I like the "Lies mal" series, the first one is 'Das Heft mit der Ente' which takes children through from words to text and is meant for them to work on themselves. I'm about to start dd2 on this (also yr1 but need her to be a little better at reading English first to avoid confusion).

There's also this which works through the German sounds that your ds won't be familiar with e.g. eu. It is also meant to be worked through by the children themselves.

My dd1 (now 8) loved both of these and got to grips with how German words work very quickly. She spent a few months in a German school last year and this is what the children were allowed to work on as a treat when they had finished something early!! She's insisted on me getting the book for her age (i.e. Lies mal 5&6, Rechtschreiben 3) and works through them for fun.

Y1questions Fri 02-Oct-15 14:21:42

Thanks cloudjumper.

Part of our motivation to get going with reading/writing now, rather than waiting a little longer, is due to DS being a confident reader in English already. He is well ahead of his age expectations. We thought that being young in year at school would balance that a bit, but have found that he isn't being challenged/stretched. We don't want to 'hot-house' him, but he is keen to learn and gets frustrated. Last year we taught him the phonics that were appropriate to where he was at, because the school wouldn't - e.g. in October they sent him home with books that he didn't know the phonics for as they hadn't been taught, but he had finished all the earlier books. So we explained the phonics as and when they came up. In March they said that he had achieved everything he needed to in YR so there was nothing more they would teach him. Now the class is starting to cover those phonics we explained to him about a year ago. So it again is repetition for him and very easy. Instead of providing him with new stuff now, we figure it might make more sense to 'extend sideways', hence the German.

I don't know if this will be possible, but we would like to keep Swiss German as a spoken language, and have High German as the 'Schriftsprache' (the 'writing language') as it is also called in Switzerland. Seeing as there are hardly any Swiss German books (as it isn't written), Swiss culture is very much orally transmitted - songs, rhymes, etc. And nowadays of course radio and TV as well. So we do lots of that with an occasional sprinkling of High German thrown in. In the last year we have focused more on the High German, allowing him to understand most audiobooks he listens to.
I think if we lived in a German speaking country, he would now be picking up the reading/writing all by himself. As it is, we need to be a little more pro-active and make sure we provide him with the resources, as he isn't surrounded by written German in the way that children in Switzerland/Germany are.

I have ordered one book from the 'Leichter lesen lernen mit der Silbenmethode' series, but I think it is a step to far yet - first need to remind him of the German 'letter sounds'. (He knew the 26 main letter sounds in German when he was just two, but then at three wanted to know the English version). Also ordered the book 'Mit Moro lesen lernen' which should serve just that purpose, it looks like a collection of phonics readers (and work sheets) starting with just a few letters, building up to whole alphabet, then di- and trigraphs (ch, sch, ei, äu, ck ...) and stuff like the Dehnungs-h. That hasn't arrived yet, but will update as to if it is any good. Have also ordered a book from the 'Erst ich ein Stück, dann du' series which looks promising - long bits of text for the adult to read, interspersed by short bits for the child to read. Promises to be able to read interesting, engaging stories whilst still very much in the learning phase.

If anyone has further suggestions for books/resources - I'm very much still looking!

Y1questions Fri 02-Oct-15 14:27:39


Thanks Dragonratt, that looks very interesting. Will probably buy!

Tarzanlovesgaby Fri 02-Oct-15 14:28:25

a saturday school uses 'rechtschreibstars' excercise books for the dc

how about 'sendung mit der maus' or 'peter lustig' for varied vokabulary?

kingstontownmum Fri 22-Jan-16 21:11:42

Hi, I just came across your thread. I'm also a Swiss mum and live in Kingston. Only speak Swiss German at home with my kids but would be really good to find some other Swiss families around with small kids (my son is 5 and my daughter 2) so that they get a bit more exposure. Do you live in the area?

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