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foreign languages vs mother tongue education

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Nice to find this forum :)

 

So, I want your experience/opinion on selecting the education system for my 3.5yo, from next year. In my family we all speak Greek, being by far the dominant language of my (still pretty young) children. Nevertheless, we live in Luxembourg, where multilingualism is considered natural and obvious for most of the people, and therefore we have several options when it comes to schooling. These options even include a Greek school! (to be more precise, a European school with a Greek section). There comes the dilemma: Greek or non-Greek school?

 

On one hand, I would like my children to learn foreign languages and achieve at least a minimum level of bilingualism, as this is very beneficial in our globalised world (not to mention integration to our host country). On the other hand I've read many articles on the benefits of mother-tongue education and how schooling in a language that is not "natural" to children could cause them to stay behind academically. I would very much like to hear your experience on the subject.

 

 

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Nice to find this forum :)

 

So, I want your experience/opinion on selecting the education system for my 3.5yo, from next year. In my family we all speak Greek, being by far the dominant language of my (still pretty young) children. Nevertheless, we live in Luxembourg, where multilingualism is considered natural and obvious for most of the people, and therefore we have several options when it comes to schooling. These options even include a Greek school! (to be more precise, a European school with a Greek section). There comes the dilemma: Greek or non-Greek school?

 

On one hand, I would like my children to learn foreign languages and achieve at least a minimum level of bilingualism, as this is very beneficial in our globalised world (not to mention integration to our host country). On the other hand I've read many articles on the benefits of mother-tongue education and how schooling in a language that is not "natural" to children could cause them to stay behind academically. I would very much like to hear your experience on the subject.

 

 

I think it very much depends on the kids and their background. If you take disadvantaged kids (poor socio-economic background, relatively uneducated parents who might also be too busy keeping a roof over their heads to spend much time helping them) and try teaching them in a language that's foreign to them while doing a half-assed job trying to teach them that language, then most would likely suffer from not being able to understanding the academic instruction and end up with delays. On the other hand, I'm from NL and went to bilingual 7th & 8th grade, and it didn't disadvantage me academically, even though I'd had barely any English instruction before then. The teachers knew that English was new to almost all of us, but we were intelligent and motivated, so we just quickly learned the English needed (for example, our 8th grade biology textbook was a US community college biology textbook - we weren't behind academically, despite the foreign language thing). 

 

So, I think it's very much a ymmv thing. I think I'd start by seeing which school seemed to have good teachers, a nice atmosphere, etc, rather than worry too much about the language. Your kids will probably be fine with w/e language school you pick. 

Edited by luuknam
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My understanding is that bilingual kids will be behind academically at first especially in language arts but catch up in the first couple of years and then can shoot ahead of single language peers due to the benefits of being bilingual. 

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We are a German speaking family who emigrated to the US shortly before oldest started school (kids were 3 and 5). We opted to send out children to a regular English speaking school to create an immersion environment, and speak German in the home.

I did not notice any academic delays; on the contrary. Young kids are able to pick up languages very quickly. 

What is difficult is to maintain the discipline to teach the kids the mother tongue to proficiency, including writing. Both my kids are proficient ins peaking and understanding, fluent readers, but their writing skills are not as strong as their excellent English writing skills.

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We have a ton of immigrants in Canada. In my area in particular, many new even 2nd generation immigrants put their children in bilingual school programs (English and French), and maintain the mother tongue at home and on Saturday morning international languages programs. 

 

With good support at home in all the various languages, the children seem to do alright. No worse than anglophones do in the bilingual programs. 

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