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Moved to Spain - putting DS in Spanish nursery. Will he cope?

(36 Posts)
skydancer1 Fri 25-Jul-08 17:03:09

Hi all, I moved from London to Valencia six months ago and enrolled my nearly two year old for morning nursery starting September. I went through agonies about whether I should put him in a bilingual nursery or somewhere where at least one staff member speaks English but in the end went for total immersion as many people advised me that at two children can cope/make sure their needs are met and besides learn the new language very quickly (he'll soon be laughing at my Spanish then!).

I am a still a bit worried about it though! I thought I'd make sure he can communicate really basic stuff ("want milk/juice/water, done a poo, hungry") before he goes. Another consideration in choosing the nursery I eventually went for is that it is only ten minutes walk from my house whereas the bilingual nurseries are one hour bus rides away. Also - crucially - I thought the atmosphere friendly and respectful to children. Any thoughts from anyone who is or will be in a similar position?

Califrau Fri 25-Jul-08 17:15:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

RusselBrussel Fri 25-Jul-08 17:18:03

Of course he will cope, children are amazingly adaptable!

My parents put me in a German Kindergarten when we moved to Germany. I did not speak a word of German but picked it up very quickly apparently.

Then at age 13 they sent me to an English speaking school. I could just about identify 'table' and 'chair'. Again, language was picked up quickly.

skydancer1 Fri 25-Jul-08 18:15:54

That's great to hear. Look forward to hearing more and from Califrau.

Califrau Fri 25-Jul-08 18:18:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Walkthedinosaur Fri 25-Jul-08 18:30:44

I found it easier letting the teachers know the words for wee and poo when DS1 and DS2 started school and it worked pretty well.

Both DS' were pretty withdrawn in their first year, but after 9 months I'd say they were both understanding and saying the odd word and now two years later DS1 is pretty much there and is now helping me outblush. DS2 is still at the end of the nine month stage so I expect him to start putting together sentences next term. Best of luck to you and your little one, I think it's great that children are introduced to a second language at such an early age.

Califrau Fri 25-Jul-08 18:32:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Califrau Fri 25-Jul-08 18:32:47

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skydancer1 Fri 25-Jul-08 19:32:12

It's so reassuring to read all this so thanks all posters. I just wish I'd discovered mumsnet earlier. Particularly helpful to read what Califau had to say about her son becoming withdrawn but finding out he had just been soaking up German. Even though Ds has only been exposed to Spanish in the streets and buses people are so friendly and child adoring here that people chat to him all the time. When he first got here his response to Spanish was to say "No" and shake his head (whatever people were saying and however friendlily). Now he already says about ten Spanish words (it's only Bus Spanish but a start!).

Califrau Fri 25-Jul-08 19:35:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

skydancer1 Fri 25-Jul-08 19:49:13

Walkthedinosaur can you tell me how old your children were when they first went to nursery (in the new language that is). I don't know whether age makes a huge difference as I believe children are most receptive to new languages up until 10 or 11 (I don't really know - I think I read that somewhere)

skydancer1 Fri 25-Jul-08 19:52:25

I think Ds will be able to communicate about the most important things in his world system - car (coche) and bike (bici) straight off smile

ImpyChica Sat 26-Jul-08 17:23:17


Just to back up everyone else - your DS will be FINE! I live in Madrid and DS went to nursery from four months old (he's now 2) - obviously he's not known anything else and it's different for your son but I find the nurserys so friendly and cuddley here! And even if it's not a bilingual nursery, I'm sure some of the staff will know a bit of English - there's a real drive on here in Spain for people to speak English. My DS's nursery isn't bilingual but they do teach the kids a bit of English (they say DS giggles when they speak English as he obviously thinks they are doing it wrongly!)

Anyway, enjoy la vida aqui en España - it certainly is a great place to bring kids up.

Impy x

skydancer1 Sat 26-Jul-08 19:13:24

Hola chica en madrid. Good to hear more and your positive experience of bring up your son in Spain . I think I know really that Ds is going to be fine, but one thing that plays on my mind is that he's already so good with his mother tongue English (ahead of quite a few of his contemporaries back in Blighty as he's always been a chatty little chap) that I worry he might be knocked back in confidence somehow or lose abilities in English. Maybe I project onto him as an adult because I struggle with Spanish (any other language if truth be told blush and maybe I imagine he will suffer as I do. I know both his parents are British but I've heard that kids can reject their parents language pretty much if it's not in the society around them. Perhaps Madrid is a bit ahead in promoting English learning but in Valencia it is hard to find any people (including youngsters learning in school) who can speak any. On the other hand I do not want to cushion Ds from the society he is in or (truly awful idea) keep him in some kind of English enclave of ex-pats.

Walkthedinosaur Sat 26-Jul-08 19:27:54

Hi yes, DS1 was 3.5 and had done 6 months at pre-school in the UK, it was a completely different experience for him in Maternelle in France. DS2 was about 2.8 and he has settled in much better. He was withdrawn for him but he managed to make friends very quickly and I've heard him speaking a little bit of French to them when he thinks I'm not listening.

Apart from the difference in their personalities, I think DS2 had spent a year listening to me speaking in French in shops etc so it wasn't completely alien to him, whereas poor DS1 was thrown in at the deep end.

It was a very worrying time for me and I don't think I relaxed with DS1 for over a year, once I heard him trying to communicate then I chilled - but the thought of them being stuck at school all day and not understanding a word breaks your heart.

It's a tense time but I do think we're giving our kids a great experience by exposing them to a second language at this age.

ImpyChica Sun 27-Jul-08 09:09:17

Hi Sky. There will definitely be a period of adjustment for your DS but, as WalkDinosaur says, it will be so worth it in the long run. And yes, I'm sure he'll end up preferring to speak Spanish - kids want to fit in with the majority around them. I try and speak Spanish in the street/playground with my DS and then have English as the home language. It's early days yet - he's not speaking v clearly yet - lots of babble and mix of English and Spanish words "dog" "duck" "mariquita" "ha caído". So we'll see how it goes....
Good luck in Valencia! Look us up if you're ever in Madrid! Impy x

SSSandy2 Sun 27-Jul-08 09:29:22

My dd was in German kindergarten (started aged 2 with zero German other than "toilet") for a year before she began to speak the language. She just took it in and waited till she had a very good grasp of the whole thing befroe speaking it.

She is not shy, she didn't suffer in any way from being there and not knowing the language, she mingled with the other dc and played with them but as far as I know didn't actually speak to them much before the end of that first year. They accepted her no problem at all.

After a year she spoke fluently, accent-free and understood everything. You cannot tell her apart from a German dc now. Although I think for the first 2 years her German vocab was behind that of mother tongue speakers in that although she could express anything she wanted and understand everything, she chose simpler constructions than German dc might have done.

Maintaining (or perhaps more so - progressing with) dc's English will be a challenge even in a purely English speaking home. Try to find some English speaking dc/children's activities for him once his Spanish is reasonably fluent.

Walkthedinosaur Sun 27-Jul-08 09:40:34

Actually the maintaining English is a good point, DS1 has English reading lessons now as I think there is no point in being bilingual if you're not biliterate. We have English TV so the DS' watch that too.

It's bizarre really because the DS' go to a local play scheme on a Wednesday and just recently another two English children have joined, the play centre staff are amazed because the English children all communicate together in French rather than their mother tongue. They do have other English friends here who speak good French too but they speak to each other in English but maybe that's because we mums are busy nattering in English too.

Sputnik Sun 27-Jul-08 13:08:40

Another one here to say you have done the right thing. My DD went to an Italian nursery from 1.5, I think it was a bit of a shock at first, but then I think even an english speaking one would have been as they take a bit of adjusting. She will pick up the basics very quickly, and remember many children that age are fairly non verbal anyway, a good nursery will be responsive to them, notice they've pooed, offer them drinks etc

skydancer1 Mon 28-Jul-08 17:19:00

Good ideas SSSandy and WTD about progressing with English later. I would love to visit Madrid some time Impy so I might take you up on that and say hello.

One further question - you gals have almost reassured me (overly worried mother or what grin) but what about the issue of bullying in nursery. Does anyone think foreign kids are more liable to be bullied or is two too young for all that 'eew you're different' malarky?

Sputnik Mon 28-Jul-08 20:13:12

I don't think bullying is an issue for under 3s really. He may get a bit left out but I really doubt he would be actually picked on.

WelliesAndPyjamas Mon 28-Jul-08 20:22:59

He'll be fine. DS started nursery at 3 in a completely new language and adapted just fine. He is now almost 5 and speaks the language almost like he was born here. Everyone at nursery loves him and love trying out their english on him.

skydancer1 Tue 29-Jul-08 16:00:49

Hello W&P. I'd like to know from you and others how long it took your dcs (roughly) to have a bit of language for play with other kids (I know they mainly play alongside one another rather than together at that age) and communicating needs. It sounds really optimistic about getting to full fluency for wee ones thrown in at the deep end but just wondering about how long it takes them to gain a bit of functioning language...are we talking days, weeks, months?

WelliesAndPyjamas Tue 29-Jul-08 16:12:21

He'll start by learning the essentials. In my DS' case these were: mine, don't, meat pie (hmm), give it to me, I don't want to, I want to. This took him a matter of days.

Then over the next few weeks I think it was a case of managing to understand what was being said to him. The nursery teachers were great in making sure he grasped most of what was happening. They had some experience of foreign kids already.

Then I would say it took up to six months before he was noticable just getting on with it and playing and chatting freely. And, very importantly, being understood.

This past school year (he's been 4 yrs old) has been a big leap forward for him in terms of expanding his vocab and communicating (i.e. imitating the other kids' words, accents, expressions), helped along quite a bit lately with playing with kids outside of school.

I wouldn't say he is fully fluent but to listen to him now, talking in the vocab of a 4/5 yr old, you would find it difficult to distinguish him from other kids.

Really, the best thing to do is to just go for it and not worry about it. Kids that young will adapt and will just know how to separate the languages according to who they are talking with.

My sister and I (when aged 10 and 8 respectively) learnt a new language from scratch within a few months because we were chucked in at the deep end - it was a summer club in the country we moved to and we had no choice but to learn before the school year started - hardly anyone spoke english. By the time a year had passed we were fluent. We still speak the language fluently and believe it was the best way forward. Other foreign kids in the same town who went to the international school (studying in english) were barely able to communicate in the local language.

trockodile Tue 29-Jul-08 16:26:08

My 3 year old ds started in a german kindergarten in May. He spoke no german but has had no problems and is now speaking some and understanding more. He chooses to watch most dvds in german and is really keen. We had a choice as we could have sent him to an english preschool(husband is in army) but so far i feel it is the best thing we could have done.

He has 1 teacher who speaks good english which probably helped him to settle in, but she tries to only speak german to him now which i prefer. The other children (age up to 6/7) are great and really look out for him, and see him speaking english as an interesting novelty.

He was quiet at first, but he may have been anyway as he had never been away from me before. I find it hard sometimes as i have to struggle a bit more socially and with things like reading notices.

On balance, definately worth it Good luck.

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