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Old 11.03.2011, 23:13
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

Hi,

My 2 pence... based on when I had lots of children with no English in my class in the UK...

I think the child's teacher is not handling the situation very well. So what if your daughter is not saying hello / goodbye / please / thank you? They have said that she is 'learning' - presumably this means she is participating in activities, following instructions etc. That is what is important, not whether she is 'polite' (as that seems to be the teacher's gripe).

When I had children with no English come into my class (4 and 5 yr olds, first year of compulsory education), I never forced them to speak English. When a situation came up where I might expect a child to talk to me (for example the lunch register), I would feed them the vocabulary, e.g. by saying 'And Eren's going to have a packed lunch today, aren't you Eren? I can see your lunch box. Packed lunch'. The combination of their name and the emphasis quickly got the message across. But there would have been no point in forcing them to talk to me. (Incidentally, that didn't only apply to the non-native speakers - I had several shy children and I'd use the same technique on them.

The other thing I used to do is make the effort to learn a few simple words and phrases in their native language. As the teacher, it was my responsibility to make them feel at home. So I learnt to say 'Hello', and 'Well done' etc... (and also 'Be quiet!' in Turkish when I had 2 little ones who used to sit together and chat...).

Finally, I used to take advantage of the fact that I had a range of languages in the class. Sometimes we would take the register in another language, just for fun.

I think that MusicChick's idea of giving your daughter a little rest from school is a good idea, but I would suggest that you tell the school that during that time you will consider how you are going to support her at home but that you also expect the school to come up with a better plan for how to support your daughter in school - insisting that she speak German is not acceptable.

One word of warning... I have a friend here in Vaud whose daughter (a native French speaker) has developed selective mutisim at school. They have already kept her back a year (she is in Enfantine, which I think is Kindergarten where you are), and are now talking about referring her to a child psychiatrist because she's still not talking and they don't want to hold her back again. So you could find, if this continues, that this is proposed as a solution.
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Old 11.03.2011, 23:28
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

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Hi,

One word of warning... I have a friend here in Vaud whose daughter (a native French speaker) has developed selective mutisim at school. They have already kept her back a year (she is in Enfantine, which I think is Kindergarten where you are), and are now talking about referring her to a child psychiatrist because she's still not talking and they don't want to hold her back again. So you could find, if this continues, that this is proposed as a solution.
Whilst you are quite right to mention the possibility of selective mutisim, I also feel for balance I should add that from what I have been advised in relation particularly to my younger child is that it is rare. There are very many reasons why a child does not speak, especially when in a bi/multi-lingual environment, and selective mutisim only represents a small minority of these cases.

Just speaking as a parent who, in the past, has been well and truly freaked by some friends' kindly meant suggestions for what could be the causes for the speech problems my children encountered.
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Old 12.03.2011, 01:26
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

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Hi I am after some advice...
We have been here just over a year and everything is going fine (apart from the odd hissy fit on my part) My eldest daughter has just turned 5 and has been in Kindi since last September, she seems to be coping well and has many friends at school and generally speaking is enjoying life here.
Last month we had a parents evening with her teacher and all seemed well, she is interacting well with all the other children and progressing with her 'learning'
It was mentioned that she seemed to be a passive learner - understanding what was going on and instructions but not yet speaking any German. I came away with the impression that this was OK and it would come in time.
She refuses to speak any German with me or her Dad to the point of screaming and holding her hands over her ears. So I have been quite gentle with feeding her the few words/sentences I do know, but even then she hates me talking in German to her. I thought this was because she wants to keep it seperate from her school language ond not want to mix the two.
But on Monday when I picked her up from Mittagtish her teacher was quite aggravated with me, she spoke in German to me -she knows I dont speak it well, but I got the idea of what she was saying - that its becoming 'unacceptable' that my daughter refuses to speak to any of the teachers, and she also said children (but Im not so convinced on that) she will not even say please or thankyou, goodbye/hello ect, she just smiles and mumbles in English.

She was also shy and didnt speak much in her Australian school but after 8/9 months she was, and I was hoping this would be the same.
Since monday, she has been miserable and crying, doesnt want to go to school ect. I tried to suggest that she make an effort to speak to the teachers even if its just a word, I have tried kind and gentle encouragement, making it into a game even hash and angry 'we live in a German speaking country you have to try' tack but nothing seems to work. She is being so stubborn and just flatly refuses to speak it.
Tonight she wanted some milk before bed so we tried- do you know how to say that in German? can you teach me? but all I got was I know but Im not saying it, it ended with a hysteric crying fit and wanting to go back home where they speak English.

Can anyone offer any advice? I just dont know what else to try it seems her teachers patience is running out and they are taking a bit of a zero tolerance with her this week and she is so stubborn...

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
At home ,at the dinner table,do you and your husband speak English or German together ?
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Old 12.03.2011, 08:56
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

Thankyou everyone for some great advice I will endeavour to 'chill out' a bit and just let things go at thier own pace and hopefully come to that same agreement with her teachers, ill go see them next week.
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Old 12.03.2011, 09:24
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

Actually shame on the teacher!
I remember back in school (like 30 years ago) when we were on first grade there was a girl who had suffered some stress (like moving can be!) and we were asked to respect and understand that she did not want to talk. She started going to a therapist and it took her some time but she started speaking after a while, it is silly to blame you, it is something the teacher should get involved with and try to find a solution with you. Best wishes!
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Old 12.03.2011, 09:30
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

Being a teacher myself, be careful with pointing the blame. Teachers are responsible for 15 - 25 kids, are not perfect and cannot be experts in everything.

Communication between the teacher and the parent is the key here. You both want the same thing.

Good luck.
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Old 12.03.2011, 09:36
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

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Being a teacher myself, be careful with pointing the blame. Teachers are responsible for 15 - 25 kids, are not perfect and cannot be experts in everything.

Communication between the teacher and the parent is the key here. You both want the same thing.

Good luck.


Indeed. However, some are better than others...
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Old 12.03.2011, 10:01
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

Parents think singular, teachers think plural. That's a huge difference nobody likes to be reminded of. Consequences are :
- mute child is not necessarily like any other mute child
- the strategy "say thank you and please, I'll wait for the rest when you feel like it" may have worked with other mute children in the past (by singleing out one specific communicative situation linked with a single word may well help the child get reinsurance about how to use the other language, give a secured start with it).
- the sentence "go and see a pedopschologogist" is a very professional judgement meaning actually "I recognise this problem and take it seriously, I trust other professional of education and speech psychology and do not think I know it all and am the queen", which is a very healthy attitude from a teacher.

I still think the posts above, including mine, are showing in the right direction, but keep this one in mind too. Blaming is just not a good idea. Teachers blaming parents are wrong, parents blaming teachers are wrong, children blaming language are wrong... but all are right to name the problem by its name. Totally different result IMHO.
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Old 12.03.2011, 10:10
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

Your daughter sounds exactly like mine was. She is also is very shy.My husband is Swiss German, but we mostly spoke English at home. I tried to make him speak his language with her as often as possible, but I could not control this all the time. She started Kindergarten last year at 4.5 years old. She also refused to speak German. She managed to always communicate with the neighbour kids in her own way. So I never saw it as a problem.

One month after she started I got a call from her teacher that she wanted to give her extra German classes. At the time I thought they were crazy and that they should just give her time! After around 4 months of this extra German(1 hour a week) I started seing the difference. She started talking German at home to us, her little sister included. The improvement was amazing. Her German teacher did the classes in a fun playful way. This way she was learning and getting the confidence needed in a game form.

Try asking the teacher if it is possible to get a German teacher from your school. If it is not possible, I would look into a German teacher, maybe from another school who deals with young children. I also did my fair share of pushing her to speak. I also started speaking German at home, nothing helped, seemed to make it only worse. I am just glad that her kindergarten teacher gave us this option as early as she did, trust me it did wonders

Wish you and your daughter all the best!!!
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Old 12.03.2011, 11:24
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

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Her German teacher did the classes in a fun playful way...
I think this is the key thought. This, and supportive parents, who realize pushing a lot can make some kids even quieter. It's all about knowing what works for that individual child. Some work well being nudged, some pulled by a tank mom, some left in peace so they have space absorb and gain confidence.

Comparing my classes back home and here, I was shocked by two things:

- multilinguism is expected, the kids soon excel, it's a daily reality for most of the country, kids mostly adapt very fast.

- the number of shy and very timid kids, some almost mute (and mind you, I have them at 15-18), you see the pain on their faces when they are pushed to talk, it's not only tots or young kids. The experiences I got with mine daily point either to overly perfectionist teachers they used to have or parents. My school offers ateliers, though, for personality adjustment, to cope with stress, to get rid of being so timid it paralizes, communication ateliers, etc. I am sure there should be info (concerning kids enfantine age) on this on cantonal edu pages, you could also call your dept for edu and jeuness, things are well thought through here, it's just parents and individual teachers sometimes do not have the info.

OP, good luck, I am sure it will pan out.
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Old 14.03.2011, 14:40
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

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Being a teacher myself, be careful with pointing the blame. Teachers are responsible for 15 - 25 kids, are not perfect and cannot be experts in everything.

Communication between the teacher and the parent is the key here. You both want the same thing.

Good luck.
Actually it is easy to point the finger because the teacher has noticed it and has done nothing but blame the parents instead of actually asking for a meeting. I talk from experience because my sister is a teacher and she would have talked to the parents
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Old 14.03.2011, 15:17
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

Just to echo a valid point; stick to English at home. My girls have been educated entirely in French, but we always speak to them in English. In fact, I get an odd look (along with article and pronunciation corrections) and a patronising smile if I attempt to speak with them in French. For them, it's just not the done thing with parents.
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Old 14.03.2011, 15:50
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

I'll more than echo the point. Research has shown (sorry can't cite it!) that you should only talk with/to your children in your language of fluency. There are parts of language acquisition which are generic. By speaking your own language, your child will develop those generic skills. If you don't, then she won't and will have difficulty speaking any language. If anyone tells you to talk to your kid in German, or that you must speak German at home, they are plain wrong. So don't beat yourself up over your German.

My daughter was four when we came over. Neither my wife nor I spoke a word of German at the time. Nine years later, not only is she fluent, but she's actually rather good at simultaneous translation. ( Compare with my son, who was 10, who's fluent in German and English but can't translate! ).

Eventually, the teacher is likely to recommend a speech therapist. Do accept this - it happened to our daughter. But be prepared to challenge. For example, the therapist said that my girl's (German) vocabulary was smaller than it should be for her age (what a surprise). We said - fine, find out how big her English vocabulary is. It turned out that her combined vocabulary was bigger, considerably, than expected for her age. We also asked whether the shock of cultural change might affect the way she speaks. The therapist agreed. At the end of the sessions, her report was very positive, saying that our child is bright and there's no reason for her not to be in a mainstream class. ( at the start of the session it was looking like maybe repeating a year of kindergarten ).
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Old 14.03.2011, 16:27
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

I have worked with many children who have moved away from home and the comfort of a known language. Alot of the time the transition period for children is forgotten. It seems that she is homesick and struggling with german (not all kids take it to well) because she still misses home.

Try and stick to your mothertongue at home so the transition there eases up and she feels comfortable there, ask her teachers to be patient and speak only one language to her, perhaps in a swiss schooling system where german is the only language or employing someone to take her for an hour or 2 every few days to speak german to her.

It is very important that your child is comfortable and happy and knows that at home all will be as it always was. Her german will come along in her own good time. Good luck.
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Old 14.03.2011, 17:57
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

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I'll more than echo the point. Research has shown (sorry can't cite it!) that you should only talk with/to your children in your language of fluency.
True! Now that we are doing the preparation for adoption, the social worker told us the same thing as well. Even if it means I'll speak Spanish and my husband Dutch, that is the way to do it.
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Old 14.03.2011, 18:04
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

IMHO that is fine only if you understand each other. Talking different languages to a child,, but excluding the partner, is just not a good idea. If I had spoken French to my babies, my husband would not have understood, so how could we have worked as a 'team'. My English was not perfect, and I did have a strange accent - none of this bothered the kids or impaired their ability to learn in any way.

Totally agree though that the OPs child needs the security and continuity of her MT at home - and that German will come when she is ready.
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Old 14.03.2011, 18:59
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

If your language skills are competent than it does not in our experience affect the child's ability to learn that language. I spoke French to our first child when we lived in the UK. It is an acquired language for me, although I am approximately fluent in it. What was missing however was all the cultural touch points like French nursery rhymes etc so I had to do a crash course in the cultural background to raising a child in my second language.

But my German is only intermediate standard and I really would not consider to even attempt to say anything more than basic stuff to the children when in the presence of other non-English but German speaking people. And that approach is working fine too. The exposure he gets in school has been far and away enough for him to progress well in the 4+ years we have been here.
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Old 14.03.2011, 19:01
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

I'm confused - why would you speak French to your child in the UK, if it is not your language?
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Old 14.03.2011, 19:06
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

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I'm confused - why would you speak French to your child in the UK, if it is not your language?
Because we wanted him to grow up billingual (which at 8 he is, plus the 2 languages here) and I was at home, so if I spoke English to him and the community language was English, he would get far more English and the weighting would not be equal. He was at nursery 4 full days a week from age 1 and this is where he learnt English.

It worked really well.

Oh and btw, husband is French and we had already been together for 15 years and only ever had spoken French together, so speaking English just seemed plain weird
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Old 14.03.2011, 19:17
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Re: Help! My daughter refuses to speak German

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IMHO that is fine only if you understand each other. Talking different languages to a child,, but excluding the partner, is just not a good idea. If I had spoken French to my babies, my husband would not have understood, so how could we have worked as a 'team'. My English was not perfect, and I did have a strange accent - none of this bothered the kids or impaired their ability to learn in any way.

Totally agree though that the OPs child needs the security and continuity of her MT at home - and that German will come when she is ready.
Just as an aside - it can be fine even if you don't perfectly understand each other. You'll learn as the baby learns... not as well as the child, but you'll get much, much better at the other parent's language. This is what we are doing -- we speak English to each other and our respective mother tongues to our daughter, and there have been no family communication problems at all.
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