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Maintaining my kid's English language skills abroad

(6 Posts)
lumia Tue 30-Oct-12 22:11:40

Our family has moved to France a little over a year ago, at the time my eldest was 6 (he was born in England, both us parents are French, but our son's English at the time was much stronger than his French (through Nursery first, then reception year and year 1 at a CoE school). Having moved abroad, and despite attending a bilingual programme aimed at native English speakers, our son's level has been steadily declining in reading -especially common words for is age group - and in writing : he can no longer connect sounds and graphics. He does not have any condition that would lead to developing reading/writing disorder (we've investigated that avenue) and we have kept a strong link with England and the English language through regular contact with our friends back in the UK, TV and films in English only, native English afterschool babysitters, meetups with English speaking and bilingual families and myself speaking English to him most of the time at home. Despite long hours spent on his English homework (on top of the equally demanding French curriculum), his dad and I feel more and more helpless at the decline of his first language which is part of his identity (he always says 'I am English!'). Sorry that is a long (desperate) message from a mum who would like to know whether other mums have had the same experience after moving abroad, and how they coped with this.

Romilly70 Wed 31-Oct-12 08:01:37

Hi Op,
I have no real ideas for you (we are native English speakers but also living in France and DS is 2, so the language issue has not come up yet !)

Have you tried posting your query under the "Bilingualism" topic? There may be other parents with more practical advice, but it does sound to me that you are doing every thing you can to help your DS and should not give up hope...!

kakapo Wed 31-Oct-12 18:03:16

Hello lumina. We lived abroad when I was little, and looking back my mum did an excellent job of keeping our English language skills up to approximately the level of our English peers.

She did lots of things, the most practical of which were writing letters to (and receiving them from) family and friends in the UK. I suppose the modern equivalent would be email, but you could also set up a Facebook account and read lots of people's updates. Also there is a chat function where he could chat to English friends.

We also played a lot of spelling games like hangman, mostly in the car. And we read English books together.

How about English TV programmes/films? Or French films with English subtitles if you're working on reading?

fraktion Thu 01-Nov-12 04:33:12

I think it's probably normal that his English is taking a step back while his French comes up to speed with the demands of school and playmates etc. You are doing all the right things and it sounds like you have a good support network of anglophones to provide that need to speak English.

Is he in CP? That's an intense year, so reading in English may have just felt too confusing compared to French and has been subconsciously pushed back.

Just keep encouraging him to read and wrote in English and it will come. The foundations are there.

lumia Thu 01-Nov-12 20:23:44

Hi all,
Thank you for your kind words. Fraktion, your reply was reassuring and soothing "the foundations are there".Yes I guess I will perservere in encouraging him reading and writing and, at the same time, respect his learning pace, I am not giving up !

Bonsoir Fri 02-Nov-12 07:24:25

At DD's school, a bilingual school in central Paris, I see lots of French families return from London/New York/Singapore etc where their children were born and attended Anglophone nurseries and pre-schools. I'll be very frank and say that I know hardly any French children who, returning to France at 5/6/7, manage to maintain their English and stay in the "bilingual/native speaker" stream at school. The only ones that do see more of their Anglophone au pairs than their parents and spend weeks on end at summer camps in the US.

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