Saturday, 30 June 2012

Summer English

Ben and a friend at end of year excursion to Sverresborg Folk Museum

Ben, Nic and Christi attend English immersion school, where all subjects are taught in English, except for Norwegian (4 hours a week). They are expected to speak English in the classroom, but obviously speak a bit of Norwegian in the playground, though this depends on the make-up of the class. If there are students who don’t speak Norwegian very well, they tend to stick with English in the playground as well. This is very much the case in Nic’s class, as I have observed at birthday parties, where the kids all speak English to each other the entire time. (On a side note this has been a bit of an issue in the past when Nic has wanted to invite both people from his class and other friends from outside of school to his parties, though that is a topic for another post.)

As I pick them up from school in the afternoon we tend to chat in English as well, and then, somewhere along the way in the car from school to our house the conversation usually fades into Norwegian. Now a days that’s usually down to Ben screaming from the back seat “si det på noooorsk!!” (say it in Norwegian). At home no two days are the same, but usually we’ll chat in Norwegian until homework time, when discussion will once again fade back into English.

The point I’m trying to make is this; on any given day my children tend to want to speak more Norwegian than English at home, probably because they need the respite after a day of English only in school. This obviously, in one way takes a bit of pressure off of me as a non native bilingual parent, because even on days when I hardly speak any English I know that they will have had their fill. On the other hand I should be careful to rest on my laurels, for exactly the same reason, because the resources they get in school are not the same as the ones I can provide. In school they will cover subjects and even play, but they won’t experience dinner time conversation, chatting at bed time or even being told to tidy their room or brush their teeth. To become balanced bilinguals they need all of this, both the academic and social vocabulary they get to practice in school AND being nagged by their mum J

So, with this in mind it is always interesting to see what happens when the summer holidays are upon us. My English weary kids will go a week or so, tops, speaking a lot of Norwegian every day, before they tire of that and revert to English. And this is the beauty of it; it is always the kids who initiate it.  This is true for Nicholas and Christie, but I have not yet noticed Ben do this as much. Last summer  I finally went all in with the bilingual parenting idea, hoping I could help Ben stay with the programme over the  holidays. And he was so motivated and did so well. This summer, though, he seems less motivated, while at the same time having achieved a much higher level of proficiency. I have no doubt now that should he forget anything over the summer it will all come flooding back to him in August. Still, there is that ‘balanced bilingual’ idea, and having the older kids being so ready to keep it English will help both me and Ben to stay on track.

Once again a bit of a rambling post but I hope I got my points across J


  1. Hi Linda! I'm here via the blogging carnival! It's always nice to connect with other non-native speakers raising bilingual children. I have to admit, I'm so jealous that you have the option of an English immersion school! We speak German in the US, and there is a Saturday school but nothing full-time. I'm curious to read more about your story. It's fantastic that your kids are often the ones initiating English! That is great to hear :) I've started to doubt recently my decision not to follow the OPOL format, but it sounds like you're having success even without following it all the time. That is encouraging to me! At the same time, it's great that you are persevering and not just relying on the school to offer your kids more opportunities to increase their vocabulary. Good luck with your summer!!

  2. I've come via the blogging carnival too :-) I also love coming across fellow non-native parents, there seem to be quite a few of us! My kids go to a French immersion school, so I'm familiar with the issues you mention, where some kids are stronger in one language or the other (although the majority are bilingual). It's interesting where some areas of vocab seem stronger, my kids always revert to French when they are playing schools!

    1. That's funny. I have never thought about it but now that I do it is the same with my kids. I have never heard them play school in Norwegian :D