Sneak peek: Raising bilingual children


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“Raising bilingual children: when school speaks a different language” releases in just a couple of days. Here is a sneak peek from the introduction to show you what you can expect in the rest of the book.

We are an English family and nearly five years ago we moved to a small town in the Netherlands. Our two children were eight months and nearly three years old when we moved, so we were happy that they would be able to learn some Dutch before they needed to start school.

As we knew we were likely moving there for the long-term we were keen for our children to attend the local Dutch-speaking school, rather than an international school. We found a preschool for my son and I attended two different activity classes in Dutch with both of them. At home we continue to speak English, as both my husband and I are English. Though we have both learnt Dutch, to varying degrees, we are still an English-speaking family.

This is a book I would have liked to have had, to reassure us when we moved abroad, but I couldn’t find one that exactly fitted our situation. Too many of them were about families where the parents spoke different languages to each other. Or they recommended teaching your children a language you had learnt at school, or using technology to help them learn a language you couldn’t speak. All of these are valuable goals, but weren’t so helpful for us where my husband and I spoke the same language, but the children were going to a school in the community language, which was different.

When we moved my son was very vocal; he had grasped sentences and could clearly communicate in English. For him to learn Dutch he needed to get to grips with an additional series of words, sounds, and grammar constructions. The word order in sentences is different in English and Dutch, and he took a while to get to grips with that. Now he is seven and excelling in school and has no difficulty in English either.

My daughter was a baby when we moved, and so her first words were a mix of both languages, and she has grown up learning the two together and mixing them up. She is now five and also at school, where she is also doing well. Both of them are fully integrated in their classes and have many friends from a variety of backgrounds. We are lucky not to be the only non-native Dutch speakers as the school, and pre-school, has experience with supporting children with language acquisition.

Children pick up language easier than adults it seems, and the younger they are the easier it is. Partly because they have less other stuff to learn. Though older children can still transition into school in a different language.

I hope that this book will help you think about what the challenges are for children of different ages, and how you can work with the school to overcome them. Working with the school and your child’s teacher is the key to their success, whatever age they are.

Through this book I will use the common British terms for the types of school, as that is where I am from and what I am familiar with. So primary school, not elementary or first school, for children up to about eleven years old. And secondary school, not high school, for children up for eighteen years old. Obviously wherever you live will have their own names for it, and I trust you will be able to match that up with how I refer to them here.

The table of contents for the whole book:

  • Part One: Introduction
    • Our story
    • Who this book is for
    • What this book isn’t
    • General points
  • Part Two: Using languages
    • Chapter 1: Language crossover
      • When to talk what
      • Mixing languages
      • Developing vocabulary
    • Chapter 2: When they don’t want to
      • Reasons why
      • Maintain contact both sides
      • Things will change
    • Chapter 3: What if you can’t talk it
      • Learn yourself
      • They teach you
      • Sectret language
      • You can’t muck them up
    • Chapter 4: Playdates and parties
      • My biggest fear
      • How to manage
      • Children are the best teachers
  • Part Three: Going to school
    • Chapter 5: Choosing a school
      • Types of school
      • What to look for
      • Moving to a new school
      • Maintaining your home language
    • Chapter 6: Working with your school
      • Talking to teachers
      • Homework
      • Learning to read and write
      • What if school isn’t supportive
    • Chapter 7: Young children
      • Babies
      • Preschoolers
      • First years of primary
    • Chapter 8: Older children
      • Primary age
      • Tweens
      • Teens
  • Final thoughts

If this sounds like something that would be useful for you then pre-order it now! The price will go up after publication!

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