Would you move - change language again? Agonizing over a decision. - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 8 Old 02-18-2010, 07:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello! This is my first time posting in a long time... I am agonizing over a decision and need to collect opinions of people who actually have experience of kids growing up with different languages.

So here is the situation. We are a family speaking minority language (Russian) at home. DS, who is now 4.5, started going to a Steiner/Waldorf kindergarten for the past 1.5 years and just now beginning to speak English. It was not an easy process for him and very stressful for us, partly because he was going only 9-12 for 3 days a week, so his exposure to the language was limited. but here we are now, he is starting to speak sentences, but still quite simple words only. He is in a great kindergarten which we all love, and in a year he would go to a Steiner/Waldorf school which is a continuation of the same kindergarten, meaning all his friends will be going there as well. And the school is great, its just amazing.

But....

Me and DH are very keen to move.... to Berlin. Which would mean for DS to be thrown into German language which he has no knowledge of. We have been wanting to move there even before he was born, but something always held us up. First my degree program, then his job. Now we are finally free to move. But I am scared!!!!!! Scared it will be hard on DS, scared it will define him, being a stranger always, being in a new culture/new language/ always a stranger to other kids

I also just can't see myself living where we are now forever, ever since we came here we have been living in a temporary state. At this point the only thing that would hold us here would be the Steiner school, and we are not the only people here actually who live here just for the sakes of that school, it is that good Also, I think it would be amazing for him to call Berlin his home when he grows up...

so... what would you do? What do you think would be the affect on DS of the move? Would you try going for a bilingual school? There are several English/German schools in Berlin, however they are expensive and kids don't tend to stay there for a long time, they tend to come from families that move a lot. We would really like to stick with Steiner/Waldorf education for DS, but there are no bilingual Steiner schools in Berlin, unfortunately.

Please advise, I am lost at this point...
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#2 of 8 Old 02-18-2010, 08:11 PM
 
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We are a bilingual French/American family. My two oldest dc were born in the US and we moved to Germany when they were 1 1/2 and 3 1/2 years old. My other 2 dc were born in Germany. We lived in Leipzig for almost 3 years and then in Saarbruecken for another three years. My kids never went to school there. We tried kindergarten for a few weeks becaue we wanted them to learn German, but for various reasons it didn't work for us, and we are homeschoolers. I know that my other non-German friends put their kids in kinder or school, and their kids picked up the language really quickly and were well integrated after a couple of months.

One family that I knew in Saarbruecken (French dad and Flemish-speaking Belgian mom) had been living in Hungary before coming to Germany. So their kids were going to Hungarian schools and speaking French, English and Flemish at home. Then they went to to a German/French bilingual school and were fluent in German very quickly. As far as I know they had no problems integrating. After Germany they moved to France for a year and now they are in Geneva, Switzerland and very happy.

Our experience in Germany was a bit different as our kids never really learned much German. We didn't plan on staying in Germany so long - each year we thought we would be moving away, and then we didn't. Fortunately we always managed to find other French and English speaking families. In some ways it was difficult for the kids as they couldn't communicate with kids at the playground, with shopkeepers, librarians etc and as we were homeschoolers and foreign we were definitely outsiders. If we had spoken German it would have been much better.

After we left Germany we lived in Italy for three months. None of us spoke Italian when we went but the kids picked up quite a bit, even without being in school. They loved it there and wanted to stay.

We ended up here in the UK (we've been here a year and 1/2 already) because I wanted to be in a place where we could homeschool legally, and meet other hs families, and more importantly where we could speak the language. My kids will always be "foreigners" and a bit different as they are French and American, so even though they speak English, the culture is different than American, French, German or even Italian - the cultures that they know. They are well adjusted and confident and happy despite being a bit different and not really being "at home".

Anyway, all that to say that I think since your son is still quite young, a move to Berlin would not be too difficult for him. If he is in school he will pick up German within a couple of months, and if you stay in Germany he will probably consider that his home, and not the UK.

If your dream is to live in Berlin and you have that opportunity then I think you should go for it. Good luck with whatever your decide.
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#3 of 8 Old 02-18-2010, 08:14 PM
 
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Also meant to say that if you decide to move to Berlin you can start introducing your son to German right away - with German language dvd's/music/books. You could even find a German speaker to come to your home every so often and speak to you and your son in German.
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#4 of 8 Old 02-18-2010, 09:42 PM
 
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At 4.5, I think it's the perfect time. We moved to France from the U.S. when my kids were 5, 3 and 1. The older two started speaking french fluently within 4 months. They actually got to the point where my American accent bothered them. It was hard, but they found friends and fit in just fine. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.

We moved back to the U.S. after only 9 mo. Both ways, it was hard and we left friends behind. It was hard for my older son who was 6 when we came back to the u.s.

I guess you have to ask yourself how long you'll want to be there and can you tolerate the educational system/choices there. That was a huge problem for me when we were in France. We homeschool/unschool now.

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#5 of 8 Old 02-19-2010, 05:15 PM
 
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If moving would be overall best for your family, I say go for it!

Your kid will be fine. Little ones are soooo amazing at language learning, especially in immersion situations. My experience with Germany is that most people know at least a little English, and the teachers at whatever school your child attended would probably know enough to help him out if he's struggling with communication at first.

I would love to live in Germany. For many reasons, that probably won't ever happen. Ah well.
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#6 of 8 Old 02-19-2010, 06:28 PM
 
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There are terms for this but I've heard it called "serial bilingualism" where a family moves from place to place, learning and forgetting languages as they come and go in their lives.

I've never heard of this being harmful, in fact, it has shown to be beneficial. Generations of diplomatic, military and academic families have proved this over centuries. Royal and colonial families historically have done this too. The only real issue is "inserting" a child into the local education system, which can be avoided by keeping them in foreign schooling (American, international or other languages). This is kind of a separate issue and your son is actually a bit young to worry about this. If you were moving with an 11 year old, this would be an entirely different post!

But I say, go for it while he's still young enough to make the transition with ease. Finding a good Steiner school might have to be a priority and a condition of the move. He'll adjust to the language.

Don't worry about the English. If you both speak it, he'll learn it. English instruction is Germany generally is good.

Early exposure in a language seems to remain, even when left dormant. It can pop up years later, even with the speaker him or herself wondering why they find the subject so easy. An elderly Algerian war vet was telling me how he had no problem learning Arabic. His family had lived in Lebanon but returned to France while he was still a toddler. It "came back" easily... as an adult!

Keep up with the Russian at home. This is not a deal-breaker. Sure, no kid wants to say goodbye to his friends and he'll need some time to adjust but you'll be amazed how quickly he will. Stay if there are other factors which keep you closer to home but this doesn't merit it. You'll find another Steiner school. He'll learn English eventually. He'll make new friends.

If this move is right for your family overall, by all means, do it!
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#7 of 8 Old 02-19-2010, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all so very much for your replies. It is such a hard decision for me to make, as it feels as a choice between DS's and our (mine and DH's) wishes. When we ask DS if he wants to move he always insists he doesn't. And we visited Berlin together many times with him and had an amazing time there, always. I guess I should just prepare myself for a bit of a bumpy start but then hopefully it will get better soon. Anyway, thanks again!
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#8 of 8 Old 02-20-2010, 11:10 PM
 
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Husband is French, and I'm American. We want to move to France eventually. The only thing that scares me is that European countries are so weird in their attitudes towards homeschooling, vaccines, and so on.
There was a family in Germany a few years ago who had their daughter taken away from them by the state--only because they homeschooled her. Tests proved the girl was much more academically advanced than the other kids her age, but the government didn't like them homeschooling. The same thing happened in Sweden last year, very tragic situation. Finding private schools is much more difficult in Europe than here in America too. So take that into consideration. It sounds like a school that respects the individuality of its students and teaches them well is important to you.
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