Good evening! Thank you for sharing your expertise! Although I have just joined this community of experts, I've already garnered so much useful information. My husband, infant daughter, and I all live in the United States. However, I have lived and taught in five different countries on three continents; I love learning from others around the globe.
Currently, I teach languages and world cultures concepts in secondary and post-secondary settings. My interest in this site is twofold. I first and foremost hope to raise our daughter speaking the languages I do fluently (now I alternate between Spanish and English) as well as introduce her to Danish and Chinese (the language my family is learning together!).
My other primary purpose is to advocate for additional modern language usage in U.S. schools at a primary or elementary school level. While this is available to a certain degree, it is not commonplace. I'd love to hear about your experiences with your families as well as any advice you may have for me as I try to impact educational systems and create more opportunities for early language learning in private and public schools in the USA.
Thank you in advance! Looking forward to our synergistic conversations!
We're in the US as well. I do think great things are happening in the language education area here. Bilingual schools are popping up all over the place. We're in California and both my girls attend a Spanish immersion school. We've been told that right now the most difficult problem facing such schools is actually finding qualified teachers, especially at middle and high school levels. They do have conferences about it though. In California it's called CABE. It's all dedicated to bilingual education.
Welcome Alicia! You might be interested in reading about an initiative that is happening in Scotland. It is still in the first few years of being implemented but all primary schools (for ages 5-11yrs) are supposed to teach a second language starting in the first year of school and a third language starting in the fifth year. It is a difficult thing to get off the ground and is only successful in some schools at the moment. It isn't anywhere close to a bilingual education - more familiarisation and introduction to the language.
The vast majority of people in Scotland are monolingual and see learning an additional language as difficult and unneccessary (the whole world should speak English!) I was responsible for introducing French and Spanish into one school over a two year period and it was great seeing the change in attitudes of the children over that period (changing attitudes in adults was much harder!) I loved seeing how it opened the children's eyes to the wider world and made them more flexible and accepting of difference.
Welcome, Alicia!! I love how international everyone is here. I wish I could have lived a few years in different countries. I love travelling, but living is a whole different experience.
Does your husband also speak Spanish and English to your daughter as you do?
In Spain we have different public bilingual programs, depending on the area where you live. Here, in Madrid, they're for Primary and Secondary School (age 6 to age 16), where at least 30% of the time classes are in English. Math and Spanish (we call it "Language and Literature") are always taught in Spanish. Science and English are always taught in English. The rest of the subjects are taught in either one or the other, depending on the school. Schools have language assistants (English native speakers) who assist the teachers teaching subjects in English.
Many Bilingual Primary Schools have at least a second language as an after-school optional class (I've seen French, German and Chinese) and most offer after-school English classes. Bilingual High Schools offer French as an elective subject.
Nursery schools (0-3 years old) usually have English teachers. The public ones usually have children spend between 2 and 5 hours in English a week. It isn't compulsory.
What's called "Infantil" (Age 3 to 6) is mostly in Spanish. Students have English class about twice a week (2h/week). It isn't compulsory education.
This may sound great, but there are some issues with it too:
- English isn't really being taught until children are 6, when they could learn it much easier when they're younger. - Some parents don't speak English, so they can't help their children do some of their homework or study for the subjects taught in English. - Children never learn how to say some terms we all learn at school in their own language: brain cell, stratum (I just looked this one up), etc... - Because these subjects are taught in their second language, they're taught at a lower level.
We're a trilingual family with a Spanish dad, a French mum bred in Spain but educated in an English school, and 2 little trilingual girls; all living in France.
It was natural Daddy spoke his mother tongue to our daughters. However, I had the choice of language, and one of the reasons that pushed me (and backed up by hubby) to speak in English to our kids was the way foreign languages are taught in France. As trilingual parents, we wanted nothing less than trilingual kids, and not kids that spoke "a bit" of English. Here, the teaching in state schools seems very old fashioned (taught very late with boring textbooks). They start to modernise with an hour or so a week of initiation to English in year 1, but for me who was educated in an international school, this is not enough.
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
Thank you for the thorough information about Spain! I loved living and teaching there. Your information about the challenges is also very helpful because it is difficult to promote primary instruction because of the obstacles. I enjoyed learning from you!
Thank you for the information about France, Amy! You and your husband are quite the inspiration! So many moms in the USA are reading and talking about a book that came out a couple years ago that features French parenting styles: www.pameladruckerman.com/books/bringing-up-bebe/
I had to read it to learn more about what so many of the mothers were talking about.
Alicia, welcome! It sounds like you've led a very multicultural and multilingual life, both personally and professionally. And I suspect your daughter will enjoy the same kind of internationally-minded future.
I wish you all the best with your good work in the U.S. Growing up (in the small town of Quincy, Illinois), I'm afraid the school system and community didn't give much weight to languages other than English. If the situation had been different, I might have gotten a stronger start, and gained better long-term success, in my own language learning.
While the U.S. has certainly evolved since then, and there now seems to be a far more positive view of world cultures and languages in many parts of the country, there's obviously still a lot of work to be done and your efforts in this field are truly important.
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, and the author of the popular non-fiction book Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability amzn.to/22XKuCt and the humorous novel How I Lost My Ear amzn.to/2EsjVRS, both available worldwide.
I am a Mongolian living in Denmark. So any need for Danish books or other resources do let me know.
I visited the US for an internship a few years ago and realised there is a big sense of various communities. I even found a Mongolian community in the Bay Area, for example, where they opened a language and culture centre for children and youth. I am pretty sure it exists for other countries as well as Danish and Chinese where they can help you with your bilingual purpose and goals. At least this was my plan if I ever moved to the US with my family.
Mayken: My daughter's ml homework for this week included baking a cake - there's a cake in the story they read, and after each chapter there are questions and tasks, and the current chapter has the step-by-step recipe. She's to bring the cake to school too.
May 1, 2018 23:48:48 GMT 9
Amy: What a nice original homework! Makes such a change from standard homework, and I wouldn't be surprised if kids remember more from it! I like your bilingual school Mayken! Lucky little girl, and lucky Mummy!
May 2, 2018 0:00:43 GMT 9
Mayken: ml cake homework update: About half the class brought cake (8 out of 15), not all of them were the cake from the book recipe, but my daughter's was the most popular. (Maybe because we added food colouring and topped it with chocolate icing and smarties?)
May 4, 2018 5:58:10 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Cake is definitely my favorite kind of homework!
May 4, 2018 11:28:51 GMT 9
Jana: One of the best parts of having kids in bilingual school was getting Mother's Day cards in two languages! (With less-than-perfect spelling in both!) Ha!
May 15, 2018 9:16:08 GMT 9
Amy: (Twice) Lucky you Jana! So nice to read exciting pieces of news like yours!
May 16, 2018 5:46:25 GMT 9
Mayken: I still have that to look forward to, Jana! Mother's Day in our ML country is two weeks later, and the ml teacher goes along with that date. (It was last Sunday in our ml country.)
May 16, 2018 5:58:11 GMT 9