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Tips for integrating into foreign-language school?

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
We live in Mainland China, but have only been here a few months so our kids (English-speakers) understand a lot of Chinese but don't speak much of it yet. Our 3.5 yr old son will be starting a part-day Chinese preschool in a couple weeks, his first time ever unaccompanied by a parent in a new environment. Where we live it's 100% Chinese, no one (not teachers, administrators, other students) speak any English. We're meeting the teacher this week and I'm overwhelmed with all the potential questions and worries. What if he can't communicate that he needs to use the bathroom? What if he gets hurt and they can't help soothe him because he doesn't understand? What if he is aggressive or mean to other students, and doesn't understand the discipline? What if noone talks to him and none of the other kids like him because he's different?!?

I'm wondering if anyone has any tips from their own experiences? This is understandably a little more intense than an Immersion situation, where the majority of the time kids all speak the same mother language and learn a second one through a (usually bilingual) teacher... Help?
post #2 of 2
I haven't been in your situation. I have known children who only speak non-English languages who have entered my child's English speaking classes. It helps if there are a couple of "buddies" in the class who can look out for them and help them out a little. Most children like to be helpful and they feel good about being picked for this role. I would ask the teacher to find a couple of children who can be buddies. Perhaps you could arrange a couple of playdates at home too, to nuture the relationship a little.

Do you speak any Chinese (Mandarin?) at home? It will help if he is familiar with a few important words - bathroom, "I don't understand", etc. - before he goes to school. If that's not possible, perhaps you could provide him with a couple of flashcards to use, with a simple picture and the Chinese characters written out so he can use them if he's really having a problem communicating - bathroom, feeling ill, etc.

Does the school welcome parent volunteers? If so, are you able to spend a little time in the class with him, perhaps a couple of times a week?

The children adapted very quickly and learned English in an amazingly short period of time. I hope things go well with your ds too.
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