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Old 10.06.2010, 00:41
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How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Hi, we are a Swiss family (parents moved to the UK in 2001) with two children currently enrolled in a fab English primary school in York. Both children were born in the UK and are fully bilingual - the teachers don't realise until they hear their parents's accents. My son plays cricket for a local youth team and my daughter is the world's biggest chatterbox. They are currently in year 1 (daughter) and year 3 (son). My job takes me back to Switzerland, which is great, but we would really hate to see our kids loose their bilingual ability. They are as good as English in many ways and we want to do everything we can to help them retain some cultural identity or at least ability to be English and talk the talk as it were. Not easy: the Swiss schools we have been in touch with ask questions about Schriftdeutsch - the fact that my children have excellent Schriftenglisch does not interest anybody really. Fruehenglisch, as far as I can see, is a bit of a joke when you return from Britain to be honest. The obvious alternative are private schools, but there are only a very small number of them around - one in Wollishofen, a couple in Kusnacht and one in Horgen. But a local school has so many obvious advantages - friends, integration, the school run etc. I should say that I found keeping their written German up to speed a real challenge. They come home from school or afterschool club and have done their homework (as if, but you know what I mean) to then having to sit down to read German and write German sentences. That's really tough and I have to admit that their Hochdeutsch is probably falling behind compared to their Swiss peers. What's the right way forward? I know it's kind of unusual to be Swiss whilst being fearful of loosing the children's English, but perhaps some of you have a good idea? I'd be immensely grateful. And if you know of a children's cricket club in Zurich, just throw it in for good measure. Here's to the world's best sport for children! We'll miss it.
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Old 10.06.2010, 01:20
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Hi Fred

We are an English family with kids going to the local school (son class 3 too) so had the problem to make sure their English stays up to scratch. We started off with one of the bilingual schools you mention but stopped this after a year or so as it was extremely expensive, our daughter was the only native English speaking child at the time, and she picked up the German very well. Instead they both went to English reading and writing lessons after school. This gave them a great start which we build on with activities at home now. The particular English school we used no longer operates but there are others such as http://www.fun-tastic-horgen.ch/EN-F...lish-Club.aspx.

Good luck with the move!
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Old 10.06.2010, 01:34
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

I'm kind of in the same situtation. I'm a kiwi married to a swiss and our daughter is 16 months. We want her to grow up learning both lanuages, so I only speak english at home, and my wife swiss german. Which is sometimes really difficult, since my swiss german is pretty good.

Anyway, back to your Q. I was gonna say, you could consider doing the same thing we are doing. I know you said you and your partner are swiss, but your english is pretty bloody good (written at least anyway ). You could just speak english at home and never whisper a word of german again, LOL.

Apart from that I'm really too sure if I have any good advice, and as you say private schools might be the only option, since the public system doesn't really concentrate on english all too much.

Welcome back to CH anyway.

Cheers
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Old 10.06.2010, 02:41
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Preparing to catch a flight to Malaysia soon. I will keep this short and maybe elaborate when I can the opportunity.

I think you should focus on the German since it is the medium of teaching in school. Their ability to understand the world around them hinges on the command of the language. Only they have a good grasp of the German, could they understand other subjects taught.

Personally, I find German easy when I have to learn it at a later stage in school. But of course, it suffered after more than a decade of disuse.

Just keep English warm. They will find it difficult to ignore when they grow older as it is an useful international language.
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Old 10.06.2010, 06:36
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

In the Zurich local school system English is now a priority language. your children's primary school may well have English as the third language (after Swiss German and High German) and French as the fourth...

My suggestions would be to keep English books in the house, make English-speaking friends (plenty of us in zurich!) and go on regular holidays back to the UK and other English-speaking places to, as others have said 'keep it warm'.

At least it's only a couple of hours flight back to the UK. To keep our kids 'Aussie' accents alive, we have to travel halfway around the world and back again....
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Old 10.06.2010, 08:30
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Ensure they are participating in activities which demand English language

so, for example, speak English to them at home and make sure they only watch English TV

Get them English books

Make them do English homework

Only with constant practice can you maintain a language....
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Old 10.06.2010, 09:37
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

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And if you know of a children's cricket club in Zurich, just throw it in for good measure. Here's to the world's best sport for children! We'll miss it.
This do you?

http://zurichcrickets.com/default.aspx
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Old 10.06.2010, 10:54
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

I am good friends with a Swiss family who lived in the US from 2003-2005. The children (who are now 10 and 8) haven't lived in an anglophone environment for more than five years, but still speak amazing English even though their language at home and school is French.

Things they have done to keep their kids speaking English:

1. Private English lessons after school once a week. This is essential for children to learn proper written English.
2. Almost all movies in the house are in English, and many of their bedtime stories are in English as well.
3. English-speaking childcare at lunch and after school twice a week when mom is working.
4. Holidays in English-speaking areas where the children can play with other anglophone children. This doesn't necessarily mean heading to the US to England, it can mean Club Med in Bali or Tunisia.

One key component seems to be that the children are often in an environment where they need to speak English and can't fall back on French. They are also working on grammar and constantly expanding their vocabulary: if there is a word they don't understand in a story, for example, they have to look it up to find out the meaning.

This is a much cheaper approach than private schooling, and it seems to work pretty well. They 10-year old speaks English so well she could still pass for being American, and the 8-year old does very well consiering she left the US when she was 3. (I must say that French accents are extra cute when they come from blond 8-year old girls!)

Hope this reassures you that it is possible to maintain language skills without too much effort or expense.

Heather
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Old 10.06.2010, 14:00
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Hi Fred

Heather is spot on, and I would add that READING in English is perhaps the most important of all. Because the children already speak English and have some basic reading and writing, the key is for them to continue to develop their skills. I teach reading and writing in the Zürich area to other primary school children who are in a similar situation. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information.
Cheers,
Elise

Last edited by Longbyt; 10.06.2010 at 15:08. Reason: email address removed as per forum rules
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Old 11.06.2010, 10:54
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

absolutely , the key is having plenty of good childrens books around.

this was invaluable in my case as i was ( and am ) a solitary soul who loves to get lost in a story...it may work for you too.

good luck.
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Old 09.02.2011, 16:56
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Hi,

Just reading this thread as we are facing the same with our 3.5y.o. He is trilingual (English, Dutch, Swiss German) and we will be putting him in to the local education system starting with Kindergarten when the time comes (and is birthday is 3 days too late to start this August..)

Another question to add: is there any support available from the local education dept with respect to keeping up a child's "native" languages? I seem to recall reading something about this - but my Googling so far has drawn a blank.

Cheers,
Nick
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Old 09.02.2011, 17:27
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Yes. There are the HSK classes. I do not know if they offer them in Dutch but definitely in English. We use them in French for our son and for the French ones we have a small fee to pay (about 10 Chf per session). It is 2 hours a week and is fun but also teaching the basics so our son can read/write now in French too.

I do not know if they start much before Kindergarten age though, so until then, your best bet is the private offerings in and around Basel in English, about which there have been many previous postings, but to name a few, Open Door, Ahead with English, Little Blessings playgroup, Sunshine playgroup etc etc.

When your son starts kindergarten, the teacher should be able to get all the details about the HSK courses available in your area .. that is how we found out about them at any rate.

Elizabeth

PS totally forgotten what HSK actually stands for, but it is something to do with Heimat sprache Kurs or something ish ish ...
PPS Oops sorry I don't think you want to know about Basel do you, despite your name! sorry. Just ignore that bit!

Last edited by ecb; 09.02.2011 at 17:29. Reason: mis read the posters home town
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Old 09.02.2011, 17:32
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Mine are in local school. They get 6's (out of 6) in English which is great for their confidence!

We don't have any extra lessons, but one parent speaks and reads English to them, and they watch DVD films in "original language" only :-) and read English books where possible.

Cinemas often show movies in English/often the original language so we do that too ...

The early years are important for language development, so they should be fine.

Lisa
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Old 09.02.2011, 17:37
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HSK
Heimatliche Sprache und Kultur

This is according to my oldest "for the Italian kids to learn italian, I don't have it because English is a school subject."

Lisa
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Old 09.02.2011, 17:44
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

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HSK
Heimatliche Sprache und Kultur

This is according to my oldest "for the Italian kids to learn italian, I don't have it because English is a school subject."

Lisa
Strange. Around here, HSK is for native speakers only, so the standard of what you are taught in, say, the English classes, is roughly in keeping with what a child of that age in the UK should be learning (perhaps quite not so high a standard - I have only seen/heard what friends children are learning in English, no direct experience myself) but this is certainly the case in the French classes. What my son is learning in French HSK is light years away from his French in school, which is first year of a foreign language level.

And yes, it would appear in Liestal that the most well attended HSK courses are the Italian ones too!
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Old 08.03.2011, 15:44
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Hi, I have exactly the same problem and will be moving next school year near Meilen. My daughter will be in 2nd grade at the Swiss school. I would like to get a small group of bilingual children between 6 and 8 to arrange a reading and writing class with a native teacher in that area. Playdates would also be a possibility.
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Old 08.03.2011, 18:02
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

There seems to be quite a few of you in the same position - so organising regular playtime, picnics, walks, etc + find a larger room and organise regular lessons, activities, reading, book exchange, etc with or without a teacher. Just finding each other here has found a natural solution - job done. Hurray.
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Old 10.03.2011, 10:52
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Re: How to keep kids bilingual in Zurich

Pre-School & After-school English for Bi-lingual Children in Zürich

Hello All

There are options available for English reading and writing classes for bi-lingual children in the Zürich area. In Zürich City Center, children may attend afternoon lessons with AtoZ English. The programme is oriented towards English-speaking children attending Swiss schools.

For the "little kids" (ages 3-6) there is Start Reading - Phonics Fun! This is a play-based phonics programme that teaches children to read at a young age. (Most of the other programmes are teaching only the letter sounds at this age, whereas with Phonics Fun the children are learning to read.)

For primary school students, on Wednesday afternoons there is Reading, Writing & Liking It! These lessons focus on spelling and writing, as well as grammar, reading and phonics. It is especially designed for children attending public school in German (as there is usually "interference" from the German which is corrected by these classes). For more information you can contact me via the English Forum mail or call 043 411 88 07.

There also are after-school programmes in Uster at the WAC and another one in Wollerau. So - the situation isn't as dire as it may otherwise seem. My experience has been that by attending regularly a systematically-organised English enrichment class, bi-lingual children can develop good English reading, writing, grammar and spelling skills.

Elise
PS In regard to the earlier discussion about HSK (classes for native-speakers) for English-speaking children in the Zürich public schools, I investigated this and unfortunately whilst Zürich has a programme for some languages, English is not one of them.
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