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Old 04.02.2018, 13:50
suisseschweizmo suisseschweizmo is offline
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Re: American in Fribourg

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I have a question about Fribourg. I see that city is French/German speaking. Does it mean that I can choose to put my kids in either French or German school.

I ask because they do not speak neither of these two but I would prefer German as I find it more useful in Switzerland (only my opinion, no insult)
Probably you could choose to put your kids into the German-speaking program, but you would have to do so by choosing your residence strategically.

Someone else gave an anecdote about friends who had to fight their way into the FOSF school. Oddly, children who live in Fribourg cannot go to this school, which is in the town of Fribourg. It is a public school set up to gather together the German-speaking children from several communities outside of Fribourg, towns who did not want to provide German-speaking education in their local schools but rather to gather together to pay for a central school for residents with German-speaking children. Fribourg voted against joining this centralized effort and instead provides the German-speaking curriculum in separate classrooms or separate buildings at several of its neighborhood school locations. If you moved to a town outside of Fribourg, possibly you could send your kids to the FOSF school, but your town might fight you on it, since I think the town of their residence has to pay for each child it sends to FOSF, and since your kids speak neither language, you can't argue that having to go to school in French would set your children back, and likely your town would think it would be best socially for your children to go to school in French with kids from your neighborhood and, like those kids, learn German starting in 5H. (Without a lot of extra effort on your part, your kids won't really learn German this way. The Swiss kids at francophone schools learn German enough to pass tests but seem to resist it all along the way and will quickly forget it, unless German is also spoken in the home).

So, to put your kids into German-speaking classes in Fribourg, you should move to one of the neighborhoods with a school that offers this possibility. Your kids normally must go to whichever school applies to the neighborhood where you live. (There are maps available at the school administration service and probably on line too.) Here is a link to the schools with German classes: . And, so you can compare, here are the elementary schools in Fribourg with French classes: . You'll see that there are a few more offering French but not German.

If you move to a neighborhood zoned for a school that offers only the francophone curriculum, you will likely encounter resistance if you ask that your non-German-speaking kids be admitted to one of the schools with Germanophone curriculum (unless you have a good argument, like one of the parents speaks German, or next you will move to a German-speaking canton, but just saying that you think German would be more useful won't do it).

As long as you move to a neighborhood with a school that offers German curriculum, you should be able to choose to enroll your kids in the German curriculum rather than the French curriculum. Be aware that it isn't exactly the same curriculum. There isn't one curriculum that is then just translated into both languages, rather they are developed separately, though to meet the same federal standards. The germanophone and francophone systems are quite different and quite separate, even at the same school campus. Kids from the German-curriculum building and from the French-curriculum building who share a playground at pause time do not play with each other. The teachers from the French-curriculum buildings collaborate and present a joint Christmas concert, or join with other classes for the school picnic, or an art exhibition or to put together a play, but none of these things are done together with the German-curriculum teachers. The German-curriculum program has a different director and puts together separately a Christmas thing and an end-of-school party and hikes, etc. They coordinate just enough to arrange not to have their events in the same schoolyard on the same date.

Generally speaking, the francophone approach in the classroom is much more structured and serious. The germanophone approach to primary school education is a little less structured and noticeably more play-oriented in the younger years. For some reason, the germanophone system does math faster than the francophone system, at least for the first couple of years. The francophone kids will learn to write their names in cursive on the first day of first grade, and they will do all their work in cursive. The germanophone system sites studies showing that cursive writing inhibits learning to read and being understood and the kids will write only in print for at least the first bunch of years (which kind of makes sense--forms always specify that they be filled out in print because cursive is harder to read). Neither system seems better or worse, the kids all eventually learn the same material, but just so you know, the approach is different.

It is unusual here in Fribourg because it is officially bilingual, but many things are hard to find in German. Basically all of the extracurricular activities that your child may take are offered only or mostly in French. It's hard to find books, birthday party invitations, music classes, dance classes, pottery courses, birthday party activities, help in stores, in German. It's definitely not going to help your kids in their early years to speak German in Fribourg because it's a minority of German-speakers in a city-agglomeration area that is mostly French-speaking, and it is easy to forget that German is dominant in the wider country. I think you are probably right that German is ultimately more useful (I've read about the anger that French-speaking companies have about their disadvantage compared to German-speaking companies in competing for government contracts, etc.). And, more to the point, all the kids who go to school in German in Fribourg ultimately end up speaking French quite well also (though Suisse-Romande natives will gently deride this French as the federal French, not real French), possibly because of all of the activities and dominant culture, whereas most of the kids who go to school in French in Fribourg will never really learn German well enough to speak it comfortably as adults, unless you put them in a German-speaking Scout group or vacation often in German-speaking areas or make other extensive efforts.
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