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Old 21.09.2016, 10:54
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Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

Hello,

Before someone starts screaming about "reading the forum", I did. I am not looking for information about how to handle the paper stuff, I would like to ask some suggestion / personal experiences to parents who moved here with their kids in primary school age (6-11) who move to Switzerland without their pupils speaking any German. What did you do? Did you choose a private international school? And for these who chose a public school, how does it work? How can a child communicate at all if their level of German is not existing?

My wife and daughter should soon move here and I am pretty confused with that to do: international school for a year to give her the time to adapt OR directly into a Public school? She is 9.

Thanks for your responses!
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:21
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

If you are planning on integrating into local life & staying long-term, your kid will benefit from joining a public school. If you want to stay an expat mixing more with internationals & move out in a few years time, you night as well pay for an international school. She will pick up the language quite quickly at that age. Ask the class teacher to nominate a buddy who speaks her language to help with the integration.
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:24
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

In spite of your 'I did' (read the forum), I presume you didn't find all the threads which come up when one does a Search>Advanced Search>local+international.
There are seven threads there which must have relevant posts in them. I know it is a lot of reading but these exchanges and various opinions in threads give a much broader view than just one or two people saying what they did and how it turned out. Your children are not the exactly the same as their children and you are not exact replicas of them either. (And schools, teachers and the pupils in the same class vary too!)

Hope you find some good points in there.
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:25
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

Thanks for the response. The idea is to settle here. The only concern is have is if she would feel like an idiot not understanding anything for the first months and she would end up hating the school and Switzerland itself...
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:27
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

My son has got a couple of kids in his class whose parents aren't up to speed on the language.

When it comes to communication with the teacher the school has more than enough people on the staff that speak English and are available to step in and help. You just have to make sure you make an appointment in advance. Some parents here just rock up when school finishes to meet with the teacher.

At the beginning of term this time, we had a parents evening and because the classes from last year had mixed up re-merged, each of the parents were invited to introduce themselves (I hate that at the best of times ) Anyway, the expat parents just spoke English and most of the parents had at least some degree of understanding and nobody really batted an eye.

The point is that you'd be hard pressed to find a school here where nobody speaks a word of English. Teachers from the 2nd grade have to be able to teach it anyway.

If you are going to put your kids in the local system I'd say do it sooner rather than later. The language help is really great.
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:45
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

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Thanks for the response. The idea is to settle here. The only concern is have is if she would feel like an idiot not understanding anything for the first months and she would end up hating the school and Switzerland itself...
You're making a fundemental mistake; you are comparing your daughter's ability to learn the language to your ability !

Believe me, kids pick up language quicker than dogs' pick up fleas, in 6 months it will be her who explains to you the finer points of German !

Trust in your child's abilities.
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:51
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

It's possible for someone of primary age to pick up Swiss-German easily so that in less than a year, it's impossible to tall that they're not native, and without Swiss-German or German speaking parents.

My wife (Swiss) has seen this.

I think a bigger potential problem over time (possibly) is how you manage to prevent your children speaking English with a heavy Swiss-German accent.
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:52
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

I plan to stay here for the rest of my life, so that's the last problem I see
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:54
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

Nobody speaks English to parents in our local school and we have more than a 50% rate of foreigners where we live. The parents themselves try to speak the local language to eachother, not English. At the end of the day, the helpfulness really depends not even on canton, commune, school...but teachers themselves. It is a hit or miss.

Your kid being 9, it will not help her to integrate if you plop her into the international school. She needs to pick up the local language and will not do so in the comfort of the English speaking environment. It is not an easy age to be different from the other girls, but on the other hand, she will not be alone in this adventure. You will give her an opportunity to actually make it to a decent high school here. She will not be able to do so without an intense immersion in the local language, as of her first few days here. I am not saying it will be this way but it too often is.

Have in mind - that it might not be easy for your girl nor your wife. If they can get more support from you and immediately own their environment, your survival chance here is higher.
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Old 21.09.2016, 11:57
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

May I ask you where do you live?
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Old 21.09.2016, 12:32
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

A Francophone region that is in fact more international than not. Still, the local system will bootcamp your kid and kids do fine, usually, when their parents know the system. International school system does not help parents to learn about your kid's options here. So - sooner the better, so you or your wife get to know the local ropes.
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Old 21.09.2016, 12:38
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

Thanks everyone for the responses, they were all very helpful. I guess I'll go for the public school then.

Have a nice rest of the week!
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Old 21.09.2016, 12:43
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

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Thanks everyone for the responses, they were all very helpful. I guess I'll go for the public school then.

Have a nice rest of the week!
Just one further thought - your daughter is 9 years old. Not sure whether she is 3rd or 4th grade but the 4th grade for Swiss kids really steps up a notch and the pressure has increased a bit from 3rd grade.

Perhaps they would keep her back a year which maybe would benefit her while she hones her language skills.
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Old 21.09.2016, 12:47
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

Keep an eye on your 11yr old - despite all of the positve experiences many have had, there are just as many who probably have spent more waking (and sleeping) hours muddling over the dilemma of a child who is not thriving than any other aspect of daily life.

Hopefully all goes well, but the transition at an age where she will be wanting to connect with contemporaries on an emotional level that will exceed her ability to express herself in German, may be rough on everyone.
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Old 21.09.2016, 12:50
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

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Thanks everyone for the responses, they were all very helpful. I guess I'll go for the public school then.

Have a nice rest of the week!
If the plan is to stay long term the public system would be my choice.

In your place I would try to ease the transition a bit by bringing them over as early as possible and get them into some kind of local course or activity where they can get a bit of language exposure. They may complain that they want to spend their last summer vacation "at home", find a compromise like "We'll go back for Christmas" or such if you come 2 weeks after school finishes there. The trick will be to find a summer course which doesn't appear to be a school, as this is against all known human rights jurisprudence.
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Old 21.09.2016, 13:53
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

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I plan to stay here for the rest of my life, so that's the last problem I see
in which case, you've just answered your question. The sooner the better.

When our youngest came to Switzerland for a term, aged 12, she practically didn't say anything for 1 month- like a sponge she took it all in- and then became alomost bilingual overnight. Amazing. And despite not speaking French often in the UK- she never lost it either- but she has a Neuchâtel accent, lol.

Your own attitude to the language and your own positivity will make a huge difference- children pick up parents' vibes so easily.
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Old 21.09.2016, 14:01
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

All I would add to the above would be to read the school regulations about integration of foreigners. For example, in early years, where the child has no German speaking parent, in Baselland the mark in German must be disregarded, and allowance made in other subjects. In later years, that "must" evolves to a "may".

We had one teacher who spoke fluent English but refused to speak to us except in German. It was most amusing when he could only remember the English word for something and not the German! Most other teachers seemed to think that good communication with the parents was more important than "you've been here x years, you should speak German". Of course, some didn't speak English, and so we all did our best to make sure that we understood one another.
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Old 21.09.2016, 14:04
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

I put my kids (at 6 years old) into a local school last year when we arrived. We didn't have any issues with integration. They are now pretty much fluent and correct my french all the time. Biggest issue is for you as parent to try and understand all the communication letters that you get every week... but worth the effort for the free and good quality school system.
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Old 21.09.2016, 14:10
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

That's the plan actually. Get her some private lessons now and send her to some summer camp next summer. She'll move here anyway in 2017.

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In your place I would try to ease the transition a bit by bringing them over as early as possible and get them into some kind of local course or activity where they can get a bit of language exposure. They may complain that they want to spend their last summer vacation "at home", find a compromise like "We'll go back for Christmas" or such if you come 2 weeks after school finishes there. The trick will be to find a summer course which doesn't appear to be a school, as this is against all known human rights jurisprudence.
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Old 21.09.2016, 15:41
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Re: Personal experiences with Primary school and language barrier.

At 6 years old at arrival my daughter learned spoken French very quickly in local primary school and soon became fluent. Her reading and writing in the local language has probably suffered though. She had an interest in reading but always read English books and had an Anglophone environment at home which I think doesn’t help with school. I think this held her back through the rest of the Swiss system, becoming more of a problem at each level, but in the end she scraped though the Maturité and is now at Geneva University. If I had the money, and a time machine, I’d probably send her to an English speaking school but that would probably mean not being able to go to a local university, again that’s problem that money would solve.
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