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Old 23.06.2012, 20:39
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Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

Hi Everyone,


I am a US citizen, my husband is from the UK. He has some functional French. The only second language I have is Japanese. Our daughter understands Japanese.

I plan to learn French when we move to Geneva though or take it up right before we move.

So my question is, we are planning on moving to Geneva by the end of this year for his work, and are thinking of putting her in the state kindergarten first, and then putting her in an International School or possibly Private school.

But the decision would be, because the kindergarten would be French speaking and by the end of kindergarten she more than likely would be understanding French, should we continue on her education in French.

Here are the things I am thinking about though in the decision process:

1) How did you keep up with child's progress, their school calendar and paperwork that comes home? Do they generally usually have English versions as well of this paperwork? I would think the International schools might, but I am unsure if any of the notifications from a state french speaking school for kindergarten or a French speaking private school would and i would I then struggle to keep abreast.

2) Were you unable to help with your child's homework as it is in French? How did you overcome this problem?

3) How have you helped your child to not only have casual, spoken English fluency in the home, but also encourage them to have a true academic fluency in English enough to say, go to an English speaking University later on?

4) I've heard some school's have classes for children with English as their mother tongue. What will they go over in these classes?
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Old 23.06.2012, 22:27
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

At 4 years your child will not have any homework. And there are extra tution for foreign kids with little or no french skills.
i could imagine it could be quite fun you and you child to learn a language together!
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Old 23.06.2012, 22:41
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

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I plan to learn French / we are planning on moving to Geneva / are thinking of putting her / things I am thinking about
Friendly message here, don't shoot me :
you plan too much
you think too much

Your child will go to a French speaking Kindergarden, fine, enjoy it and go along. Learning a language means TIME especially for an adult. Now comes your planning and thinking talents into the game: for yourself, not for the kid.

Your child could go to
- a Swiss school = French academic mother tongue and English as foreign language, the normal case here, so that your child will have an easy time but learn less academic English and rely on family for it.
- a bilingual school = French and English bilingual, the result is different from child to child, it means in every case to have the bilingual life that matches it. Here again, your planning talents will come handy to find a balance during the week, the holidays etc.
- an international school in French = French academic mother tongue and English lessons with other English mother tongue children, this means that they do their best to challenge the students academically also in English but they have less time for that than in English speaking schools.
- an international school in English = English academic and family mother tongue, and French will be stronger than yours so maybe a more advanced level than usual foreign language, but still not mother tongue, there are usually level groups adapted to different levels for that. Planning talent needed to make French stinger in that setting... as always, if one wants to be bilingual, one must have a bilingual life.
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Old 23.06.2012, 22:46
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

We put both our children (ages 9 & 14) into state schools AFTER sending them to an international school for the first six months after moving to CH. The system is very supportive for foreign children with no French language skills, and the children were well integrated into the school within six months.

I would say go for the state schools.
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Old 23.06.2012, 23:08
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

What a wonderful opportunity for your child to learn a foreign language for free, it is a life skill and you child will thank you later in life. Local school to get the language, you can always look at other schooling opportunities later in your childs life.
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Old 24.06.2012, 00:10
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

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1) How did you keep up with child's progress, their school calendar and paperwork that comes home? Do they generally usually have English versions as well of this paperwork? I would think the International schools might, but I am unsure if any of the notifications from a state french speaking school for kindergarten or a French speaking private school would and i would I then struggle to keep abreast.
Can she/he read and write yet? If not, how do you imagine he/she will do homework? There's no homework until 7yrs old in the state system. And in the state system you will get everything in French. Only. You're smart - that's obvious from your questions. You can use a dictionary. You will work out what the paperwork says. Don't worry about it. You will not get detailed daily information on your child's progress from any school. Certainly not a state school.

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2) Were you unable to help with your child's homework as it is in French? How did you overcome this problem?
Remember that what's written is aimed at a child. You will understand it. By the time your child is old enough to get complex homework your french will have progressed a long way.

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3) How have you helped your child to not only have casual, spoken English fluency in the home, but also encourage them to have a true academic fluency in English enough to say, go to an English speaking University later on?
You're thinking way too far ahead. For now, make sure that your child gets good quality conversation, TV, stories, books in English. Later, after primary education, you'll have a choice to put him/her into a school in the same language that he/she will use at tertiary level.

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4) I've heard some school's have classes for children with English as their mother tongue. What will they go over in these classes?
State schools have classes for non-francophone children. They teach the children french in a manner that's suitable for children (i.e. usage rather than grammar based.)

A key difference between the CH state system and the UK is the relatively high priority in the CH state system placed on developing social and motor skills versus the UK priority on academic skills.

I believe that some children have special needs because they have particular difficulties or special gifts that make them difficult to teach effectively in the "normal" education system. If you believe that applies to your child, then seek out a school that can meet your child's particular needs. If not, then what's more important to your child is that they learn to fit in, to interact, to feel secure and self-confident among his/her peers. Unless the school is particularly bad, he/she will get that from pretty much any school. You can pay more for the same education in the private sector if you want them to mix with the children of more affluent parents (about all you can conclusively say about the difference between the state and private systems.)

As for language, most young children starting primary school in another language at age 5 will absorb the language from their environment without any explicit language teaching. And once they feel confident to do so (probably not til their 2nd year in primary school) they'll start to speak it. But fluency will not come until the 4th year. Some children progress faster. And quality adult interaction outside school in that same language will also help. But most children will get there in spite, rather than because of any effort or lack of effort invested.

Steve
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Old 24.06.2012, 00:16
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

Just a thing that the OP might not understand right away: The second national language is very important in the Swiss public system. Even for a non-francophone child, there is a point where it is not advisable anymore to avoid German and being good at it (at least in school).
Science is not a core subject as such here until quite late compared to a UK/US mind set. In primary school, focus on literacy skills and communication skills - including the other national language.
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Old 24.06.2012, 18:33
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

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Friendly message here, don't shoot me :
you plan too much
you think too much
she does, ach shame!!!! she's most probably overwhelmed by the move, and desperately worried, about alot of issues.
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Old 24.06.2012, 19:08
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

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Just a thing that the OP might not understand right away: The second national language is very important in the Swiss public system. Even for a non-francophone child, there is a point where it is not advisable anymore to avoid German and being good at it (at least in school).
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Old 24.06.2012, 21:14
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

I'm actually not actively worried about any of this. I am just wondering which things may be a problem, and prepare myself for how to deal with it.

Life is nothing but surprises. And part of the fun in moving overseas is the surprises. And it must be said we are not moving because his job is relocating him. We are moving by choice.

And I am actually not a planner by nature. But what I do like to do is plan for my child's impending education and where we will live. Both things i consider up there with life's important choices ;-).


I have lived overseas before in Japan for years so I know what challenges come with being in a new country. If it was just my husband and I, I would wing it. But with a little one I am trying to make it go as smooth as possible.

But I am not losing sleep over this. So you guys can rest assured. ;-)
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Old 26.06.2012, 01:00
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

If you use the search function, I beleive you will find several threads on the homework in another language issue, it is indeed harder for the parent than the child on this aspect.

Also, keeping up another language at home is possible but does involve a lot of work sometimes, again search the forum and you will find some discussion on this and practible tips.
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Old 26.06.2012, 04:16
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

Thanks runningdeer. I'll go and check that out
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Old 26.06.2012, 11:23
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

my son is in the state system he is 2nd enfantine and my youngest goes to a garderie in the next village this is also only french speaking. I get letter from them starting to understand those fairly well any im not 100% chuck into google translate online and gives a pretty good interpretation of the bits not sure or just ask one of the other mums as a couple can speak english. I love the system here they really helped my son with individual lessons 2 times a week.. plus as he goes to state school he mixes with the local kids so plays every day after school with them... his speech is growing daily with new vocabulary.

I still have much work to go with the language but next year my youngest also can go garderie so more time for me to have 1 - 1 lessons

good luck for you move.. and the other posts are right some great old threads to read through on options and experiences
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Old 22.02.2013, 19:54
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

A related question -

My 4-year old speaks only English. Does he need a bilingual school or can I put him in a French-speaking school?

And....are there any French or French-English bilingual kindergartens near Zug? I only see German ones....

Thanks for any advice!
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Old 22.02.2013, 20:13
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

Zug is a German speaking place: either go for the German speaking local school system or pay for the international schooling in English.
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Old 22.02.2013, 20:15
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

Put him in a German speaking state school & he'll pick the language up very quickly at that age.
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Old 22.02.2013, 20:17
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

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A related question -

My 4-year old speaks only English. Does he need a bilingual school or can I put him in a French-speaking school?

And....are there any French or French-English bilingual kindergartens near Zug? I only see German ones....

Thanks for any advice!
Zug is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, so naturally the public schools are in German... I don't get why you want to send them to a French speaking school
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Old 22.02.2013, 20:50
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

I speak French but zero German. I figured maybe we all might find it easier, especially if he is in an immersion experience.

Do you think a 4 year old could do the public school in German? Even if we speak none at home?

Also still wondering about French speaking options

Thanks?
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Old 22.02.2013, 21:02
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

Why would you want him to learn French when you will all need German for every day life in Zug?? Honestly the locals will speak better English than they do French...
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Old 22.02.2013, 21:09
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Re: Difficult to have child in French speaking school if parent doesn't speak French?

Yes. For a 4 year old it is not a problem at all, s/he will pick up German very quickly at that age. I speak only English with my kids and both are in the Swiss school system. For when your child gets older a lot of schools now have "homework help" after school where they are assisted with homework so when my oldests' German homework is beyond me he can get help there.

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I speak French but zero German. I figured maybe we all might find it easier, especially if he is in an immersion experience.

Do you think a 4 year old could do the public school in German? Even if we speak none at home?

Also still wondering about French speaking options

Thanks?
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