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Question for others educating bilingually

(5 Posts)
Mominatrix Fri 21-Sep-12 12:28:28

I have one child who is in a bilingual French school in London. Whilst being bilingual, it is very much a French school which happens to also have some courses in English, and is geared for those who plan on continuing onto the Lycee at 11, where all the children have a guaranteed spot.

My son is currently in MS and whilst I am so far happy with his education, we would like him, if he is able, to join his elder brother at a super-selective private English school. I have been firmly warned by his teachers that I am, under no circumstance, supposed to teach him how to read in English. They will teach him how to read first in French in Grand Section, and English in CP. The issue I have is that we are a principally English speaking family, and my son is MUCH stronger in English than in French. Additionally, from what I gather, English is a more difficult language to master so why would I not try and teach him English phonics first?

A further problem is that entrance to the ElderBrother's school is principally at 7 and 8. There is an intake at 11, but it is heavily weighted towards state schools, and my younger son's school would be considered alongside the other private ones. If I took the recommended hands-off approach, DS2 would not only not be ready for the 7+, but it would even be a huge stretch for the 8+.

What has been your experience, and what would you recommend?

rrbrigi Fri 21-Sep-12 12:44:09


We are a Hungarian family living in England. My son started reception in an English school. I spoke to his teacher and mentioned to her that we only speaks Hungarian at home and I teach him every subject in Hungarian next to his English class. Morning English school, afternoon Hungarian "school" with me. I bought the Hungarian's priamry schools book for him. She did not have anyproblem with it and also she supported me not to speak English with him because of our pronaunciation, grammar etc... She did not ask me to stop teaching Hungarian until he will be confident in English. My son's Hungarian a lot stronger than his English. but the teacher did not see any problem that I continue the Hungarian teaching (reading, maths, Science, History etc.) at home and I will do this throughout his education.

Anyway his English is already a lot better than it was 3 weeks ago. Big thank you for his teacher.

I do not see the problem why you should not teach English reading for your son. Just because it is harder than French? Hungarian is a lot harder than English, and I do it. The only things that I mentioned to his teacher kindly, to help my son to remember that he needs to learn and speak English in the school.

Good luck.

Mominatrix Fri 21-Sep-12 16:29:06

Thank you for responding rrbrigi. I have a feeling that this attitude is particular to the French education system. The formulaic nature of it makes for solid foundations in the beginning, but stifles independent thought (which is why we wish to switch systems later on).

I would not worry about your son learning to speak English. I grew up in an English speaking country, but English was not my first language, and not the one spoken at home. This did not stop me from quickly mastering it and going on to an Ivy League education. Your son will have the added benefit of speaking a second language like a native, which will aid learning additional languages.

Takver Fri 21-Sep-12 17:13:02

DD - age 10 - is in Welsh medium education; at her school the pattern is that they work only in Welsh in KS1 (now the Foundation Stage) and then introduce reading and other work in English from yr 3.

We didn't really intend to teach dd to read in English, but we're English speakers at home, and read lots of books etc, so effectively she developed her reading in English alongside her formal learning in Welsh.

The major disadvantage was that because she went into yr 3 already reading English (in fact better than welsh, because we have a house full of english language books) she didn't ever really get any proper phonics instruction in english.

Having said that, I'm not convinced that her school actually does any systematic phonics for english, I think basically the children just 'pick it up' alongside their Welsh reading. (I think talking to parents of younger children they are changing this now & doing more formal phonics work.)

However I guess if you're planning on teaching English reading formally (I presume using phonics) you won't have that problem. Certainly dd's Welsh reading didn't seem to suffer at all - she has a lower reading age in Welsh than English (though still well above her actual age), but that's unsurprising as she doesn't use the language that much outside school, and also the range of Welsh language books available is pretty limited in general.

I guess my one piece of advice would be to have lots of French language books to offer that are equally as attractive as the English books .

Takver Fri 21-Sep-12 17:14:27

In fact, you might want to try posting in Chat asking for Welsh speakers as lots of them will be in just this situation (or conversely having dc in English medium education & introducing Welsh reading at home).

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