Hello. In a few months I will have to apply for my 3 year old to start school. I am trying to decide if we should enroll him in the fully French class to begin with or bilingual. We are an English speaking family and I am learning French as my children learn. My daughter at the moment is in the bilingual section. She just started. She is a bit quicker when it comes to learning French. I think it is more of she is a fast learner with a good memory, not because she is older.
Also, my son will be the youngest in the class and on the bilingual side, they will start reading etc in English. I definitely feel my son will be too young to start reading at 3! My daughter was 4.5 when she learned. He is starting so young because in the French system they go via calendar year for half the class who enter in French side and the other side they follow the British age requirements (but that side is by lottery so we don't have a choice). From what I understand if he entered the fully French side it's more of playing in French because they do not read until later. What do you think? I think it would help him learn the French quicker as we don't speak French at home.
It's a very personal strategic choice. Is there anyway they can start with the bilingual class and then go full-on French?
My personal experience though I was older (9) is that full-on is better but a bit rough (but your child being smaller might help). I moved to Spain aged 9 and my Dad had the crazy idea to put me in a British school there. I spoke neither languages, and the school decided to put me down a class (P4 instead of P5 if my memory doesn't fail me) to help me. Well, at the end of the first term I started speaking English sufficiently well and was integrated into my normal class. Obviously, it was not all rosy, especially as I was older and remembered my school and friends in France (where I'm originally from). My parents told me (I don't remember that myself) that at the beginning I came home every night and cried, asking to go back to France. But eventually, I made it and am greatly indebted to my Dad's crazy but amazing idea.
"Full-on" is a bit of a swim or drown strategy, but to be honest, kids have amazing adaptation skills, and I haven't heard of any kid failing, especially so small. And think you have the merit of learning French along to help your children, so that will be of great help in your choice (I didn't have that chance: my parents never learnt English).
Hope this experience might be of use to you.
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
I've taught several children who didn't speak any English before they joined my school. It's always a bit of a shock to their system when they first start but up to around age 6 they're quite accepting of it. After that it depends more on the child's personality and self-confidence. Usually in the first year of school they pick it up very quickly and are often sounding very fluent by the end of the year. Some children are happy to start attempting to speak straight away whereas others stay very quiet for a while and then suddenly start speaking well as if out of nowhere.
As your son is so young he would probably cope fine. Especially if he's already aware of the fact that sometimes you can be with people speaking another language and knows a few words. Also, I like the sound of the French option being more play based initially. Children learn best when they're playing and so he wouldn't be under so much pressure as if they were starting formal reading/writing immediately (they will still begin pre-reading and writing skills so he won't be behind as far as that goes). Even if the language wasn't a factor I would prefer delaying the formal teaching until he was older. If he was in the French option you would have to make much less effort to build his fluency and so wouldn't need to worry about supporting his English literacy which you are better placed to do.
Marie, I would agree with Alison and Amy, and also vote for the fully French class! More French and more play sounds like it will be both more enjoyable and more productive for his first experience of school. Direct instruction in reading English can wait until he's a bit older.
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, and the author of the book "Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability", praised worldwide by parents and experts in the field. Available at Amazon amzn.to/22XKuCt, the global Amazon sites, and other booksellers.
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