Throw them in

3:00 AM

Last week a friend of ours came to visit. He and his wife are Spanish and will soon be moving to Germany. Conversation was mostly about their upcoming adventure and soon turned to focus on the kids. He has three about the same ages as ours and is thinking about sending the older two to the international school where they teach in English.

But then he mentioned that a friend of his told him to send him to German public school as they won't learn German at the international school (Pretty true. They will learn some, but not at a native level. The kids who go to the international school here have terrible French. But their English is good). As the German curriculum for English is excellent the friend's point was that the kids will learn both English and German and voilà, trilingual kids.

Seriously, I want to just smack some people.

It is not that easy.

I am a linguist and yes, I know and believe that children learn languages easier and faster than adults. It is the best time of life to learn a language. Expose a child 24/7 and they will pick it up. But honestly, expose an adult 24/7 and they will pick it up too. As long as they are willing. Thing is, children are always willing because they are not embarrassed to make mistakes and they want to communicate an play, no matter what the language.

But when it comes to school and the child's primary education, I had to disagree with this guy's statement. I told my friend:

"Be prepared for the consequences of doing that to your children."

He and Principe looked at me and asked me what I was talking about.

It is this:

You can throw a baby, toddler and preschool kid into a new language and just sit back, but once they enter first grade you can no longer do that. Unless you are homeschooling the Spanish curriculum at home and only sending them to German school for the language and social development, but not for the primary education. By primary, I mean elementary, for those of you in the USA!

I am all for him taking his children to the international school to become bilingual. I told him to be ready for a lot of work in the realm of learning English and doing the work, but that it was totally possible for his kids to do it. Now, throwing them into a bilingual school where they speak neither one of the languages? That is trouble. He would need to hire a tutor to come over everyday after school to help his kids. Because neither he nor his wife speak, read or write German. How are you going to hep the kids with their homework?

And the frustration of the kids is also something to keep in mind. You might think: what an advantage for my kids. While they are thinking: why they heck can't I live somewhere where at least one person understands me?

Your kids are only human. And while it is awesome to teach them another language there is a lot of work that goes into it. You have to teach them the correct grammar. You have to teach them to read in said language. And you have to teach them to write. Plus, you have to teach them the culture and colloquialism behind that language. This isn't so easy as most of that stuff is just inherent in you and you aren't sure when or how you learned it. I will tell you when and how: while you were growing up and by absorbing your surroundings.

Not so easy to teach something like that.

Plus, when they are starting their education there are so many other things that they need to take time to learn: math, science, the world around them, social skills, not to mention reading, writing and comprehension.

And they need to learn that learning can be fun! Frustrate them with being somewhere where they re lost and cannot communicate with anyone and you have a recipe for a lot of meltdowns.

Just my take. Principe wanted to argue with me on my points but when I pointed out that it is I who has to deal with Queenie painstakingly learning to read French while fixing her speech impediment, while learning science and math while preparing for tests while also improving her Spanish and English, he dropped his arguments. It isn't easy. That is all I am saying. It take a lot of work for both the child and the parent. There is a bit more behind it than just throwing them in and watching them learn.


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