Picking up the language. How long did it take your DC?

(13 Posts)
tubularfells Mon 25-Feb-19 13:56:45

DH has seen a job in Germany that he would like to apply for and I've started looking at the options for school. All hypothetical at the moment but interesting to consider and there is a chance he could get it! We don't speak German and the job is in English. The company is international and I would imagine they would help with the relocation and we would then investigate learning German ourselves.

There are international schools teaching in English with daily lessons in German (and other languages), but I am interested to hear of others' experience. How long did it take your DC to pick up the local language - French, Spanish, German, etc. - particularly if (like us) you moved with neither parent speaking the language?

DC are at the top end of primary and middle teens.

OP’s posts: |
BonApp Tue 26-Feb-19 21:51:19

My kids were 2.5 and 5 when we moved. I’d say they understood most things within 6 months but it took prob 2 years to reach fluency. It would’ve been quicker if school hours were longer I’m sure (part time here until 6yrs).

Schlobbob Wed 27-Feb-19 13:24:16

Hi tubular, my DC were 7, 5 and 2 when we moved to Germany 18 me months ago. The first 6 months were the hardest, eldest went to German school and middle to last year of kindergarten. At 18 months in their German is a very good standard but not fluent though they understand most of what is said to them. They prefer to watch films for example in English though.

With older children it might be a lot harder to pick up the language and bilingual schools may be best. The full immersion has helped my kids pick it up faster and also my DH is fluent so he talks at home with them sometimes. Though becoming fluent will be slower at a bilingual school, perhaps a few years. I'm learning as an adult and I have a long way to go!

Hope that helps 😊

WinterHeatWave Wed 27-Feb-19 13:31:26

I wouldn't put them in German language schooling at those ages.
They may well become fluent, but especially for the teen, they are unlikely to reach the fluency required to demonstrate their true ability in end of school assessments.

tubularfells Wed 27-Feb-19 20:41:07

Thanks for your replies. Just to confirm, we would only put them in international schools but I wondered what level this got them to with no parent speaking the language.

There was a report out on the BBC (I think) about how language learning is in a huge decline in the UK. Thinking about it, I would imagine that being in another country and having access to the language in a naturalistic setting - public transport, supermarkets, voices on the street, radio, etc. - as well as a daily lesson would be beneficial and certainly better than school instruction in the UK.

Great that your younger ones have picked it up so well, BonApp and Schlobbob.

OP’s posts: |
BonApp Wed 27-Feb-19 22:48:53

They will pick up a bit at international school but not loads. Kids are, by default, lazy at language learning - if they don’t have to do it, they won’t.

But yes they’ll prob pick up more than in GSCE classes in the UK and will have a better accent wink.

So I’d say, don’t expect fluency - but - the move, the opportunity, the new things/people/places and in an international environment could be great anyway!

Schlobbob Thu 28-Feb-19 12:32:34

I agree, by the age of 18, say, their command of the language would be better than that of an A level student. Through daily immersion just being out and about, watching the news and being with other children, it all helps and yes their accent would be very good too


Mistigri Fri 01-Mar-19 12:10:50

Without proper immersion then language learning will take longer unless your kids are very able at languages.

Typically with full immersion at school, most kids are pretty fluent within a year, especially if they are in a school with few English speakers. Mixing with English speakers will slow this down significantly.

BonApp Sat 02-Mar-19 15:13:03

Mixing with English speakers will slow this down significantly.

This is our experience too. Helps with a softer landing but hinders the need to learn the new language at the same time.

littlemonkeyface Sat 02-Mar-19 16:42:57

From personal experience around 6 - 9 months with full immersion at school.

We tend to think that all children learn languages really fast, but there are actually quite a bit of ability differences so this will obviously have an impact.

You don't mention if you would be looking at staying long term. Just bear in mind that language is also lost very quickly if not used daily (I seem to recall especially before the age of 12) and it would therefore require quite a bit of work to keep it up after a return to the UK.

I like the German school system and would usually recommend it, but agree with others that your children are probably too old to successfully integrate.

Most international schools are great, but unfortunately also quite expensive. School fees used to be included in most company packages, but are much harder to negotiate nowadays unless you are looking at high end jobs.

Bumblebeezy Sun 03-Mar-19 11:46:02

I have similar aged children; we moved to Germany last September with no previous German language skills. The children attend an international school and have an hour of German tuition there a day.

They are nowhere near having any sort of useful language skills. They have plenty of basic vocab now and can talk about themselves and certain topics but they don't understand native speakers and in reality their German is fairly useless outside the classroom. Conversely, children who started the school with them in September, with zero English or German, were chatting away in English before Christmas.

Our move here was only ever temporary so an international school was the right choice for us. If we had been staying much longer I think putting them in a local school would have been more sensible.

Movingaga Fri 08-Mar-19 06:11:48

Older children were 8 and 11. I'd say it took about 3 months fur the 8 year old, and 6 months to be proficient. She speaks now without a foreign accent and sounds native. The 11 year old was a bit longer and has a very slight foreign twang according to locals. My middle child was 4 and the move was very hard on him, I don't think he's fully immersed even now, 5 years on. He much prefers speaking English. But he's happy in school and has lots of friends. But he's on the autism spectrum so he didn't have such a typical experience.

fussychica Sun 10-Mar-19 08:12:25

DS was 10, about as late as I'd want to leave it as he had a short adjustment time in primary before moving up to secondary. Local state school so full immersion. I would still consider state for younger children but definitely international for your older ones as they will probably struggle in state school to pick up the language quickly enough not to have a major effect on their academic achievement.
Probably 6 months to be coping comfortably and proficient by the time he went up to secondary. Strong local accent, still noticeable many years later.
Now a teacher of that language and 2 others back in the UK.

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