A future star on Pobol y Cwm?

Bringing up a bilingual child
I hadn’t expected the school debate to hit our house so early with CK not yet three but thoughts have turned in to detailed discussions this week.

We have a few months left before applications have to be in for a place in September 2014 and Paul and I thought we had it all figured out. First choice, a small school in the village we’re moving to. Second choice, a small school in the neighbouring village. Third choice, a nice school a short drive away in the village where my parents’ live. Sorted!

But then my mum and dad threw a curveball in to the mix.

You see, CK is to all intents and purposes bilingual. He’s speaks English at home and German everywhere else. Having never lived anywhere else but Switzerland, he doesn’t know any different. In fact, a lot of the children he goes to nursery with are exposed to three or four languages on a daily basis.

But how do we maintain this exposure to a bilingual or multilingual lifestyle when we move back to Wales?

Well, the clue is in the country we’re moving to. Wales. Wales, a country with its own national language. Yes, it might not be the most widely spoken language. And no, it’s necessarily going to be career enhancing for him in the future unless he goes in to Welsh politics or covets being a soap actor on S4C’s Pobol y Cwn. But, it could keep the part of his brain that can already differentiate between languages and where and when to use them fully functioning. You know, children are like sponges, and all that.

So my parents suggested sending CK to a Welsh medium school just a few minutes drive from our new house and we’re now seriously considering that as an option. It does seem a little strange that when he’s still in the early learning stages with German and English to throw a third language in to the mix but maybe this is the ideal time. A time when he seems to be lapping up all the information he can get.

I realise that this is quite a peculiar situation but if you have any thoughts or advice, I’d love to hear from you. We still have a bit of time to decide and really want to do our best by CK. Could a Welsh school be the answer?

16 thoughts on “A future star on Pobol y Cwm?

  1. I think children lap up languages at this age and its such a shame that primary schools don’t really go to town on languages – our school does a bit of French from Reception to Year 2 but from juniors onwards they do a little bit of Spanish which annoys me as I think why not build on the French – and then is seems to die a death by Year 4 – another generation of kids not good at languages like myself and my parents etc. Do they other schools teach Welsh though? I’m sure they do don’t they. How important is it that he speaks Welsh? If you all do it is important and for the language to preserve. He’s not going to use it that much though is he outside of Wales? Does the Welsh Medium school teach them other languages too – that would be my deciding factor – I would want him to learn either German or French as well as Welsh x p.s there is A LOT to be said for walking to school i.e snow days, early closures, living in walking distance to friends houses for play dates, after school clubs and not having to leave earlier in the morning and at pick up. x

    1. The English speaking schools teach basic Welsh and the Welsh school teaches basic foreign languages as per the English speaking schools. Trouble is, it’s not the same as having your brain actively absorbing other languages and language skills on a daily basis (hence the reason why us Brits as pretty pants at languages). I really would like to use the local village school and be able to walk there and back as I think that walking to school is the first step in promoting a healthy lifestyle for kids. Decisions, decisions!

  2. Firstly, it was lovely to meet you finally!!!!

    I love languages and in secondary school I threw myself into as many as the school would allow (Spanish, French, a little Japanese and a little Italian). I think went to Bangor university and learnt some Welsh too.

    I would encourage children and adults of all ages to participate in learning new languages. It can only help with widening their opportunities. Having studies Spanish I went and stayed over there in a heavily Spanish community with some friends for 2 months and managed general chit-chat.

    Well done on making your decision. :)

    1. It was so nice to meet you too! Hopefully, we can get together when I’m back home too.

      My degree is in French and linguistics so I’m pretty conscious of how the brain works and how the optimum time to expose children to foreign languages is under the age of five. I wish all schools would start teaching them earlier.

  3. Sounds like a great and very logical idea to me! Before the age of five children’s brains are developmentally made to pick up languages. I wonder if he can still carry on the German any way when he is back in wales….. German TV on satellite maybe etc….. Hope you are having a fab Summer lovely lady! X

    1. That’s exactly what we’re trying to plan for now. The Internet is a fantastic resource for little language games and programmes in German. Ideally we would find a native German speaker/teacher to come and spend an hour or so with CK each week as well. Fingers crossed!

  4. Zs nursery teaches him French (or will do) and I love that. Coming from an Asian background but speaking no Gujarati in our house Zs strongest language is English. My parents have started teaching him gujerati too and you’re so right, he just soaks it up completely and mostly knows which language to use when. I want to keep that up but I haven’t found any primary school that does that. I like your idea about a Welsh school. I think it really helps in the future with new languages and the ability to pick them up. I aced French and German at school for that reason ( I think!) at school.

    1. I completely agree with you. I went to Welsh infants school and also spent a lot of time in Italy as a child. I think that’s the reason why I picked up languages easily when I was younger. Although, not anymore. I find it really hard now.

  5. I’m having the same school dilemma, TC starting in Sept 14 too, we’re not so lucky here with schools (that I would want her to go to anyway!). We’re looking at the bilingual school but its Spanish, no problemo for me but wanted French, nothing here.
    My mum’s side is German and our family live in Germany and Switzerland, my cousin grew up in Geneva and by 3 spoke German, French & Italian! She doesn’t anymore as they moved back to Germany and she lost the ability. I love languages, 2 of my friends are Italian and their 2.5 yo’s are picking up odd words but have been much slower in talking which is probably why TC has been slower too as I’ve been teaching her words in 2 & sometimes 3 languages!

    1. CK was late to speak which we think was due to being immersed in two languages. Now we can’t stop him though. Like you, with friends and family all over, we realise how important languages are and want to make learning them as easy as possible while the children and young enough not to know that they’re actually learning.

  6. If you’re living in Wales, it can only benefit your child to grow up speaking Welsh. It means he’ll be in a better position for applying for Welsh jobs when he’s older, he’ll communicate with local children in whichever language they can speak and he’s at just the right age for it not to seem unusual. I spent all my childhood holidays in Wales and only recently decided to learn Welsh but it’s very hard when you don’t have the opportunity to practise on a daily basis. Learning Welsh at such a young is a gift you can offer you child that won’t seem like any hardship to him.

    1. That’s a great point. I know how hard it is to pick up a new language when you get older. Learning one now will be relatively easy and something that he won’t have to think about later in life.

  7. My instinct would be that you’re mum and dad are really on to something! I don’t think it’s just learning another language as others have said, it’s learning to learning languages so you’re kind of hard wiring the brain to know how to learn languages. I so wish I had had this and am looking at bilingual opportunities myself. Unfortunately, my Welsh Dad’s Welsh is appalling so mine is non-existent :-(

    1. You’ve got it! It’s not really about the Welsh language, it’s about a second/third language and keeping his brain wired to learn and absorb new words and where and when to use them. Exposed to more than one language at such an early age develops the brain in a different way to children that are brought up in a monolingual environment.

  8. So hard isn’t it, and something I may well have to contend with when we move home. My two currently have 7 hours of German a week, and R still remembers a lot of Danish too… Having the native language will be nothing but benefitial though, and I can recommend a good German teacher on skype if all else fails! :)

    1. It’s tricky, isn’t it? I’m desperate for him to carry on as it seems wrong for him to unlearn what he’s already learnt and is so capable at. German via Skype it might just be!

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