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Old 09.06.2010, 21:27
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Re: public vs private schools for non-French speakers in Vaud

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They speak very little french at the moment but the school assured us this won't be a problem
Just a tip to save you a lot of effort over summer: they will pick up more French in the first week of school than you would be able to put in their heads during the summer holidays.

I spent weeks before our move trying to teach my 7 turning 8 yr old son French - I got some children's study packs with CDs, hired a tutor to come to the house once a week, etc. My son went along with all this quite willingly, but even so it was laughable the amount of French he learnt compared to how much he knew after a few weeks at school.

Make sure they know the politeness and greetings basics (explain to them that hand shaking is a big thing here and that all kids shake the teacher's hand numerous times a day on entering and leaving class), can introduce themselves, know the numbers at least to 10 and can ask to go to the toilet.

A very normal pattern for Second Language Acquisition at their ages is:
- a few months of virtual silence whilst they pick up the rhythm of the language and break it down into words rather than a stream of sounds
- 6 months of very short and often incorrect sentences (lots of imperative stuff here, 'run now!', 'me eat it!', that sort of thing)
- another year to get up to a good conversational 'playground' level with some consistent errors still remaining (we're here; my son is only now starting to put object pronouns in front of the verb, as the change from 'I read the book' to 'I it read' order is unnatural to English speakers. My 6 yr old can on the other hand use pronouns perfectly, even the 'difficult' ones like 'en' that don't have a direct English equivalent - flippin' elastic little kid brains)
- a couple of years on from that should see him at a near-native level, give or take accent or some matters of specialist vocabulary

But really, 7 and 8 are excellent ages for this. They are young enough to adapt, are still at the age where a lot of peer games and communication can be almost non-verbal, already have experience of the routine of school, and can probably read much better than the rest of their class - the phonics sounds for French aren't a huge jump from English, with just some different vowels. The system here starts very slowly in primary (and ramps up enormously in secondary) so they will at first be covering concepts in things like maths that they already know from English, so can just concentrate on the language for the first year.

Good luck for the move.

'Chance favours only the prepared mind.'
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