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How long would it take a 10yo to learn a language through school immersion?

(12 Posts)
TheKitchenWitch Tue 28-Mar-17 19:38:22

And would you do it?
I'm just wondering how likely this is:
The situation is family living abroad, no-one speaks the local language (husband is on work assignment). They decide to put 10yo into (appropriate level for age) school with no language skills. Child is bored because the work is too simple so moved to next level of schooling.
It's now March and child is apparently fluent and doing marvellously.
I can't get my head round how you could possibly keep up with the work while not understanding any language? I get that immersion works, but (wrongly?) thought you'd start at a lower level because you wouldn't be able to acquire both language and knowledge at a compatible rate.
Does anyone have any experience of this?

Vietnammark Thu 30-Mar-17 11:48:20

It depends on a number of factors, which include, but may mot be limited to:

How bright and motivated the kid is
How the school deals with his situation
What he is doing outside of school
What language it is
How similar the language is to languages he already knows
The definition of fluent

Yes, he could well be fluent, but this does not necessarily mean that he knows or uses all the grammar properly and he is also unlikely to have built up the same vocabulary as the native speakers.

Some languages have very simple grammar and use very few words, but generally European languages do not.

Can't remember the vocab an English 10 year old s supposed to have, but say it is 10,000 words, for example. Assuming he has been there about 200 days (not clear from your message), then he would have had to learn 50 new words every day. I am no expert on this, but would guess that 15 is more reasonable.

In the U.K. we often misunderstand the meaning of the word "fluent". A thre year old can be fluent but it doesn't mean they know much or have a good grasp of grammar.

DorotheaBeale Thu 30-Mar-17 11:56:29

Judith Kerr, in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, writes about becoming fluent in French in a term or so when she was about ten, having previously spoken German, and still speaking German at home. She was an intelligent and motivated child, of course.

Mumoftwoandover Thu 30-Mar-17 19:29:40

I moved to the Uk and my DS new nothing about english apart from the basics, but was very apprehensive and stressed about it.
He was fluent within 2-3 months

Now he loves languages and can speak 3 fluent and maybe 2 more basic levels.

Good luck ! Don't worry , they always end up well

Vietnammark Fri 31-Mar-17 11:25:42

I once tutored the children of a Korean family's Children, aged 4 and 9, when they arrived in a foreign country and were put in to an English speaking International school.

I started tutoring them In English after they had been at the school for a year. The then 10 year old's English was vastly superior to the then 5 year old's English, but it was the 10 year old that was struggling at some subjects at school because he didn't have sufficient English skills.

Vietnammark Fri 31-Mar-17 11:27:40

Obviously not the children of the children. Sorry😰

TheKitchenWitch Sun 02-Apr-17 19:27:16

The original language in this situation is English, the acquired language is German.

I cannot get my head round the fact that a child can already be so good at the language as to be able to keep up (and supposedly be doing very well) with a level above their age at high school, when even native speakers struggle with grammar etc. especially when there is no extra tutoring or back up with the German.
This can't be a typical situation, can it? Or am I just being naive?

Mumoftwoandover - what age was your ds? And when you say "fluent", do you mean speaking and reading/writing? Would you say that within 2-3 months there was no difference between your ds's English and a native speaker's?

Neolara Sun 02-Apr-17 19:32:05

Years ago I taught history in secondary schools. An Italian boy joined the school at the beginning of year 7 with absolutely no English. He came top of the class in the end of year exam and was certainly functionally fluent. He was a complete sweetie and full of enthusiasm for life. I imagine he spent the whole year chatting to people.

SaudadeObama Thu 06-Apr-17 23:38:27

We moved abroad with a 9 year old. He was fluent within 3 months. He did a lot of the work with google translator for a term and then he was fine. Same with the 7 year old, although she was paired with other children and just copied their work until she could do it alone. Both children get really high grades in Portuguese which is the language of the country we're in. One teacher said at parents evening that she thinks their grammar comprehension is so good because they only learn formal Portuguese in school.

When I say fluent, I mean there were no regular words they didn't know and their sentence structure was grammatically correct, rather than just translated English. Now the oldest is 13 and doing things like literature comprehension at school, with texts that are equal to Shakespeare, he's still getting 80% - 90% in Portuguese. The class average is 70%.

I am curious though, if the child didn't speak the language, how did he manage to find the work too easy? Or have I misunderstood?

TheKitchenWitch Fri 07-Apr-17 17:02:52

I don't know. I'm utterly amazed by all these fluent-in-a-month type kids. Most children I know struggle at least a little with the grammar and spelling of their own native language (at school I mean), very few are perfect, and they have been speaking it their entire lives. I can't quite comprehend how you could possibly pick up the vocab and the correct grammar in such a short time, especially if it wasn't total immersion ie you'd still be speaking your own native language at home.

SaudadeObama Sat 08-Apr-17 00:52:26

A month is a bit soon, but it's certainly possible within months. Grammar has rules and it's actually very straight forward. It's often actually easier to figure out a language if you don't speak it natively. The problem adults have is re calling the rules on their toes. But children will memorise and internalise the rules much faster. If I hadn't experienced it first hand, I'd have my doubts too. But I've seen my own children go through this, it still amazes me how quickly it happened.

corythatwas Wed 19-Apr-17 18:53:22

Fluent can mean all sorts of things. Native speakers don't all have the same language skills as one another, whether you are thinking of depth of expression or width of understanding or command of subject-specific vocabulary.

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