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Old 18.01.2017, 10:29
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Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Hi ! I would like to get some advice from families having made the experience.

We are native French speakers, used to live in French part of CH. Our kid has been for 2 years at local school but we didn't like how rigid and unfriendly it was. Then she has been in a bilingual school FR-ENG for 2 years. And this year she is attending British school in Asia, where we stay for the year. So she speaks fluent French and good English. And she is a fast learner, so adding a language difficulty makes her days less boring.
In addition, she now takes 1 hour/week of private German lesson to reach the level she should have in French part of Switzerland.
That's the situation

We have the opportunity to move to Biel or Fribourg areas, German parts. My first thought was to enroll her in a German speaking school (she will attend 6H). Another language, another challenge, hopefully a more relaxed atmosphere, looks exciting ;-)

Then I read a number of posts here and there, and see that most people would definitively go for a French (or English) school, since kids need to learn 2 "difficult" languages ie Swiss German to interact with friends + high German at school. I didn't see it as such an issue, knowing that kids learn quickly. I guess she will need a year to catch up with English - no big deal compared to the opportunity to master German !

Am I a bad mother ?!
Do some of you have had a similar experience ? How did your kid react ? How much time did it take for them to be at ease at school ? Was the teacher friendly and helpful ?

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences (or thoughts !) :-)
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Old 18.01.2017, 10:44
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

It would be possible in both Biel and Fribourg to enrol her in French speaking schools as they are both bilingual towns.
Given that 8H is the streaming year she would have to work very hard on her German to get up to the level required to be in the matura stream if You choose German as her first language but it is possible to do.

It's good for kids to be challenged but it's not always very nice for them to be playing 'catch up' all the time so I'd think very carefully before making any decisions.

You could contact Carlasmom on here who has three kids in local school in Biel.
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Old 18.01.2017, 10:55
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Agree with Belgianmum, it shouldn't be too difficult to get her into a French speaking school. I don't know how Bienne is split (if at all), but here in French the city is definitely "divided" between the two languages so you'd just need to choose to live in the French speaking part. Granges-Paccot, Villars-sur-Glane, Marly, Belfaux, etc, are all French speaking. Tafers, St Ursen, Giffers, etc, are German. You'll hear both languages being spoken when you're in the city proper as people switch from one to the other depending on who they're talking to. In the city itself French is usually to the left of the river, German to the right if you look at the attached map link. The river's the dividing line in the city.

https://www.google.ch/maps/place/Fri...73!4d7.1619719
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Old 18.01.2017, 11:24
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

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It would be possible in both Biel and Fribourg to enrol her in French speaking schools as they are both bilingual towns.
Given that 8H is the streaming year she would have to work very hard on her German to get up to the level required to be in the matura stream if You choose German as her first language but it is possible to do.

It's good for kids to be challenged but it's not always very nice for them to be playing 'catch up' all the time so I'd think very carefully before making any decisions.

You could contact Carlasmom on here who has three kids in local school in Biel.
Thank you BelgianMum, you are right that this is going to be a challenge. and I agree that having the feeling to be "catching up" all the time might not be nice... I will think carefully :-)
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Old 18.01.2017, 10:45
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Hi Anahe,

Our eldest girl was 9 when we moved here and could not speak a word of German. She went to the local school and very quickly was able to communicate with the other kids. The school was great and arranged German lessons for her in school time which was extremely helpful for her.

Of course we worried if it would all be too much for her, moving to a new country, new school, new friends, new language but it worked out really well. Kids have the ability to adapt.

She went on to do well in school and now works in banking. Oh and the best bit is that peolpe that dont know us ( English Mum and dad ) think that she is Swiss when she speaks!

I wish you all the best whatever you decide.

Last edited by swissfi; 18.01.2017 at 10:46. Reason: typo!
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Old 18.01.2017, 10:57
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

My son was 10. He understands dialect, but chooses to speak German. The community provided extra German lessons for him. His lack of German skills was taken into account during the streaming decision - in accordance with BL law for new arrivals with non-German speaking parents. Since he was the only child in the canton to get 100% on the maths test, he went into pro-gymnasium . Fribourg/Bern may have similar laws.
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Old 18.01.2017, 11:21
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Thank you for these quick replies :-)

I am not sure I was clear: I have the feeling that this is a great opportunity for her to learn German. As such, I do want to enroll her in German school, even if I could organise our life differently and get her to a French speaking school.

But she is 9 and she is Swiss. Enrolling her into a Swiss German school would allow her to master French, German and English, and I feel this is a great opportunity.

So my point is NOT: how can I get her to a French school ?
My point is: am I naive or crazy to send her to a German speaking school ? Am I wrong when I think that kids learn very quickly in immersion ?

I am looking for families having sent their kids to a German speaking school while they were not speaking German.

Thank you
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Old 24.01.2017, 10:48
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Dear Anahe,
It will also depend on what you and your daughter want for her future education. If you are desperate to get her into the progymansium stream higher stream leading to Gymnasium entry), changing her to a German speaking primary school so late is a risk because German is a very important subject and kids need very good grades (unless your daughter is a maths genius like Notallthere's son).

If you are open to other options and educational outcomes, such as entry into the secondary stream (intermediate stream, leading to vocational education, higher specialised secondary or, with very good grades, change to the Gymnasium after 2 or 3 years), Realschule (lower stream, leading to vocational education), then go ahead. Children do indeed learn very quick. I advise parents on schooling and I have seen positive and negative examples of integration into local school (i.e. children who did not speak the school language) at a later stage. In my opinion, it very much depends on the child (and the teacher but that is something you can't influence). If you have a resilient, robust child who is a quick learner and open to new experiences, it can work very well.
Good luck
Stefanie

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Thank you for these quick replies :-)

I am not sure I was clear: I have the feeling that this is a great opportunity for her to learn German. As such, I do want to enroll her in German school, even if I could organise our life differently and get her to a French speaking school.

But she is 9 and she is Swiss. Enrolling her into a Swiss German school would allow her to master French, German and English, and I feel this is a great opportunity.

So my point is NOT: how can I get her to a French school ?
My point is: am I naive or crazy to send her to a German speaking school ? Am I wrong when I think that kids learn very quickly in immersion ?

I am looking for families having sent their kids to a German speaking school while they were not speaking German.

Thank you
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Old 24.01.2017, 12:32
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Hi Anahe, I agree with the above posters. My kids arrived with English and French but no German when they were 10 and 12 Years old. We had them repeat a school year right from the start, which helped tremendously. My son was able to join the intermediate stream after one year, and is now looking for an apprenticeship position for next year. He would not have been able to join Gymnasium, partly due to the language, partly because he just does not love school very much in general, so the vocational education is the better road for him. Our daughter is now in Grade 7 and doing very well, she too is in the intermediate stream, but working hard on moving up a level to join the highest stream for Grade 8. She just needs a 5.5 in either Math or German. She has a knack for languages and it is actually German she will probaly make the grade in. She very much wants to go to Gymnasium, but we'd be fine with the voacational route if she choses that. I think it all right to put your daughter into the German local school, as long as you are ok with her maybe not making the Grade to go to Gymnasium.
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Old 18.01.2017, 11:25
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

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Hi Anahe,

Our eldest girl was 9 when we moved here and could not speak a word of German. She went to the local school and very quickly was able to communicate with the other kids. The school was great and arranged German lessons for her in school time which was extremely helpful for her.

Of course we worried if it would all be too much for her, moving to a new country, new school, new friends, new language but it worked out really well. Kids have the ability to adapt.

She went on to do well in school and now works in banking. Oh and the best bit is that peolpe that dont know us ( English Mum and dad ) think that she is Swiss when she speaks!

I wish you all the best whatever you decide.
Great input Swissfi, how long did it take her to feel at ease at school ? How did she manage the selection stream the following year ?
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Old 18.01.2017, 11:40
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Thanks Anahe.

She settled in quickly with the help of a very helpful teacher and some nice friends. It took around 6 months for her to be comfortable with communciating.

The school suggested that she repeat the school year to enable her German to improve so she would feel confident to sit the exams and this is what we did. It is quite a common thing.
She also took part in activities outside of school such as swimming club and gymnastics and this extra interaction also helped, not just with the language but also with her confidence.
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Old 27.01.2017, 17:41
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Hi, as a mother of a six-year-old trilingual, I trust kids can easily adapt to new environments and learn new languages by immersion. The true problem (double challenge) probably lies in having to learn a new language and keeping pace with a demanding curriculum in this crucial pre-selection year (streaming year) which can already put a lot of pressure on kids (and parents).

A possibility to avoid this would probably be offered at the Biel Rudolf Steiner school (http://www.steinerschule-biel.ch/) (Fribourg does not have one to my knowledge). Steiner schools offer the same curriculum worldwide (a definite advantage for gypsy expats ) and the (pre-)selection process is usually shifted towards the end of the school career (16-18 years), thereby avoiding a lot of stress (I know from own experience). I admit its a question of personal convictions/philosophy (and, against the common idea, not so much of money- the fees can usually be discussed with the school)...
Bon courage!
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Old 29.01.2017, 16:52
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Re: Moving to German speaking Switzerland with a 9 yo kid not speaking German !

Dear Carolin, thank you for the input.
I know a number of kids enrolled in Steiner schools (not the Biel school though) and they are happy and balanced kids. For this reason, I spent time in the past trying to understand the Steiner concept.
I am definitively not in favour of Steiner school because of the basis of the school's concept, anthroposophy. They teach a number of principles that are not science proofed and for me this is just dangerous. This school is not "just" a school and I don't trust their teaching, as such I could not enroll my kid in such a school.
I am always concerned to see parents enrolling their kids in Steiner schools without having read Steiner's theories
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