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Bilingual kids in Polish schools


cms 9 | 1,272
9 Feb 2010  #1
Anyone else here got any experiences ?

My 3 year old has just started pre-school and the bilingual thing (English/Polish is spoken at home, just Polish at school) seems to be causing some difficulty in mixing with the other kids. Reading up on possible causes and treatments but interested if anyone else going through similar issues.
Chipmunk 12 | 61
9 Feb 2010  #2
My son was a late talker. He's now a little over 4 and attends an English speaking school and we speak English at home. However he knows so much Polish! His school is 25% international students and the rest are Polish so his friends all speak to him in Polish during play etc. The instruction is in English, but even during Christmas plays and so forth they do both English and Polish songs/skits. So while he is not bilingual, he's definitely capable of conversing and interacting with his friends. We've only been here a tad bit over three months and I am just amazed at how quickly he picked it up.

Personally, kids don't need to hold conversations to get their point across. Especially at your son's age. When we first arrived at Poland we would take him to the indoor play areas at some of the malls. He never had a problem playing.

I'd see if he's having more issues with being in school(preschool) and not at home than I would be about his language barriers right now. Maybe try some one on one play dates for him. My son is an only child and he benefits heavily from play dates. Especially before he started school.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,653
9 Feb 2010  #3
he benefits heavily from play dates.

"play dates" are the worst thing to come from America!

Ugh, I wish we spoke a seperate language sometimes :(
Wroclaw 44 | 5,388
9 Feb 2010  #4
Reading up on possible causes and treatments but interested if anyone else going through similar issues.

I can only guess the problems.

Are the other kids making fun off your child when he/she speaks English at school ?

Does your child sometimes use English and the teacher doesn't understand ?

If you don't keep an eye on this it's possible that your child will refuse to learn English.

The statement that kids soak up other languages, you will find, is often rubbish. They won't learn anything when they are embarrassed by their peers for saying something different.

At such a young age, when living in Poland, make sure that Polish is the priority language. And remember that Polish learners of English don't learn the simple forms. So when you say this is a 'moo-cow' instead of 'cow' you are certain to land your kid in trouble.

But the real answer is to talk to the teacher/s
mafketis 20 | 7,253
9 Feb 2010  #5
Generally, up to age four or five bilingual kids can have some delay and it can also take them time to figure out how to separate languages in different contexts, especially if both parents speak both languages. Conversely, his vocabulary might be patched together with holes here and there (things he can say in one language but not the other). These issues usually resolve themselves, but the effects can be long lasting. Some explicit tutoring by the parents to cover linguistic gaps might not be a bad idea. At this stage the priority should be Polish so the native Polish speaker should make sure to go through story books, picture books (with labels) and the like to make sure he knows what's what.

And ... are you sure it's the bilingual thing? Some kids just are less social and adept at mixing than others and it can take them longer to fit in with other kids. As a monolingual kid I was just kind of awkward and not very social and had some rough times in my early years of education. If I'd been bilingual I can imagine my problems being blamed on that.

Finally, as a general rule, make sure you keep any kids with home English out of English class at otherwise Polish schools. The teachers are liable to feel threatened by them. And, as Wroclaw mentioned, they mostly don't know about the kinds of things that English speaking parents say to their kids.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,653
9 Feb 2010  #6
The exception being high school, solely if the child wishes to torture the teacher ;)
mafketis 20 | 7,253
9 Feb 2010  #7
And doesn't mind failing English in the process.
scottie1113 7 | 898
10 Feb 2010  #8
Ugh, I wish we spoke a seperate language sometimes :(

We do.
mafketis 20 | 7,253
10 Feb 2010  #9
I wish we spoke a seperate language sometimes :(

I haven't thought of British English (as spoken by everyday Brits) and American as the same spoken language for quite some time. I think of them more like Swedish and Norwegian - autonomous standards that are mostly mutually intelligible, especially in face to face situations. If I eavesdrop on spontaneous British conversation I understand 50-90 % (never 100 %). Face to face, things go easier, but I realize I'm missing some discourse cues.

What's needed is an American standard that's differs more markedly from the written British standard.
teddywilkin
10 Feb 2010  #10
British English and American English are different languages now are they?

Apart from some spelling changes invented up by Webster, the only differences are accent and some regional phrases. Goodness, I can travel for an hour in my car in the UK and visit villages where I would understand only 50% of a conversation spoken between two locals. The same is true in the US, expecially if you are listening to a conversation between young people.

The idea that we speak different languages (such as Swedish and Norwegian, Italian spanish) is completely wrong, and to be frank you are barking mad if you think so.

We have bilingual kids and we were always advised that one parent should stick to a single language when speaking to the children - that helps them to separate the languages.

We often hear that bilingual children are often late speakers, but actually there is no evidence to support this claim - it is just something people say to each other.

The lanuage of the mother and that of the playground have the strongest foothold in the child's brain, so children that are taught at school in a language different to their mopther's have few problems. However those that have the mothers lanuage at school benefit from reinforcement of the other language with books and tv.
mafketis 20 | 7,253
10 Feb 2010  #11
US usage is far more uniform than the UK, regional differences exist but not to the same extent. The big difference in the US is between SAE and AAVE.

British speakers are more likely to understand American better than the reverse. I've known university educated Americans who didn't understand at least a third of the dialogue in Mike Leigh movies (Life is Sweet comes to mind).
scottie1113 7 | 898
10 Feb 2010  #12
SAE and AAVE.

What do these mean?

Actually there are differences between lots of different kinds of English, whether it's British, American, Australian, Carribean, etc. And the most common English spoken in the world today is English spoken by non native speakers. No big deal.
mafketis 20 | 7,253
10 Feb 2010  #13
What do these mean?

SAE : Standard American English, sometimes called General American English a pretty uniform and largely class neutral spoken standard. For formal versions listen to NPR or national news broadcasts. For informal versions listen to the lead characters in most American tv shows or movies. Largely indistinguishable from standard Canadian usage.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_American_English

AAVE : African American Vernacular English an ethnolect or sociolect mostly unique to the US.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AAVE
johnny reb 17 | 3,538
12 Dec 2017  #15
The teachers are liable to feel threatened by them.

It's my understanding that students in bi-lingual schools in Poland sometimes call their foreign English teacher by the teachers Polish name instead of his English name just to legally taunt the teacher sometimes.

Just goes to show you how creative the Polish youth are.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,653
12 Dec 2017  #16
Polish children don't call their teacher by first name, hence it shows that "what you've heard" was actually made up for reasons unknown.
mafketis 20 | 7,253
12 Dec 2017  #17
What a very weird idea, and anyone who knows the first thing about Polish education knows that if a teacher were misguided enough to suggest such a thing colleagues would immediately let them know what would happen.

Story from years ago.

An instructor from a Far Northern Country at a Polish university: "Everything is far too formal here, I want my students to call me by first name as they would do in my country!"

Polish colleague: "That's really not a good idea."
Far Northern lecturer: "Nonsense! It will improve rapport and they'll learn more!"

one month later

Far Northern Lecturer: "What can I do? Students aren't coming to my class anymore!"
Polish colleauge: "I tried to warn you...."

In Poland, a teacher who's too casual/informal with students is sending the message: "You don't have to do anything in this class, you don't even have to show up (cause I might not).Dont' make me do any work and I'll give you a 3, deal?"
Atch 17 | 2,866
12 Dec 2017  #18
Well there is a half way house between the two where you call the teacher by their christian name with the prefix Mr or Ms. It worked for me. Keeping order in a class has nothing to do with what the children call you. It's the vibe the teacher gives off. Some people have a natural air of authority about them and others develop it as they grow in confidence and experience. Some teachers never acquire it and can't keep order in a classroom regardless of what they're called.
SigSauer 4 | 413
12 Dec 2017  #19
@delphiandomine

Dude, you're trying to be a snobbish and pretentious English teacher, give us a break from it. Anyone worth their salt would be working for the American School of Warsaw, International School of Warsaw, or The British School, earning a respectable western salary, not putzing around in language schools. Please, spare us from your imagined ivory tower snide remarks, and know your f***ing place. You got called out for the stupid b/s you said in the other thread about banning me from the country because I work with our security partners, when Poland contributed thousands of soldiers to ISAF in Afghanistan, and left that thread with your tail between your legs. You come off as a bitter and unremarkable little man, that spews nastiness and hate at others for your own failings in life. Your perceived inadequacy's pour out onto every post you make trying to elevate yourself above your fellow man with absolutely no merit or basis for such feelings of supremacy of over others. I would suggest that you reevaluate the way your treat other people, and learn how to have differing opinions with others, without resorting to snide, nasty, and hateful passive aggressive remarks. I would have total respect for your opinion, as would others, if you shared your knowledge about teaching with us in a kind and respectful way. I would be really interested to hear your experienced about teaching in Poland, and I think the forum members could learn a lot. Unfortunately anything of substance you have to share is overshadowed by the crass and bitter way you speak to people. I think some serious introspection is needed on your part.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,653
12 Dec 2017  #20
Maf, couldn't agree more. What Atch suggests is possible, but it always sounded jarring to my ears. I effectively gave up and stuck to Polish norms because it was the only thing that didn't sound completely annoying.

I think though, in American English, it's acceptable to use the title and first name, isn't it? I seem to remember reading a book where a character was addressed as Miss Katie or something...
Atch 17 | 2,866
12 Dec 2017  #21
What Atch suggests is possible, but it always sounded jarring to my ears.

I know what you mean Delph. It is a bit cringeworthy and a bit like What Katy Did or Ann of Green Gables but it's a compromise between my Montessori training where the kids use only the teacher's Christian name and the more formal mode of address which is acceptable in Irish mainstream primary/elementary schools. The Principal would generally be a bit wary of the children calling the teacher just by the Christian name but they can usually be persuaded to compromise if you're an experienced teacher and can guarantee them that chaos won't ensue!

The funny thing is that the parents address me the same way despite me telling them to dispense with the Ms. It sounds borderline hilarious coming from the parents :))
mafketis 20 | 7,253
12 Dec 2017  #22
I think though, in American English, it's acceptable to use the title and first name, isn't it?

Sounds weird to me, more like a saloon girl (Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke) than a teacher though who knows, maybe they do that now. I can just about imagine it in kindergarten but not after.

To the extent it can work it can only be with men or unmarried women (Mrs Katie sounds really odd*). Very small children sometimes address adult women with Mrs and the name of her child "Mrs Bobby" (for Bobby's mom) but that's not common.

When I was in school it was always Mr(s)/Miss and last name from grade one through high school. It was after high school that I had an instructor who wanted the class to call her by her first name. It was weird for a couple of weeks then normal. I had a few more through university but it wasn't the norm.

*in most European languages the married honorific has pushed out the old unmarried forms (pani over panna, frau of fraulein, signora over signorina etc) but In American English the unmarried form sounds too marked for neutral usage and miss sounds a bit more neutral than Mrs (maybe from its use with entertainers?) Is that true in Britain too?
delphiandomine 83 | 17,653
12 Dec 2017  #23
I can imagine!

I didn't actually know that Montessori used first names only - it really is much nicer (it's normal in Finnish schools, for instance), but as Maf says, you'd just lose all respect from Polish learners if you did it in an environment where they're not used to it.

With parents, it depends on whether I like them or not ;)
Atch 17 | 2,866
12 Dec 2017  #24
Sounds weird to me, more like a saloon girl

Or a Southern Belle, Gone with the Wind style :))

miss sounds a bit more neutral than Mrs (maybe from its use with entertainers?) Is that true in Britain too?

Don't know about Britain but in Irish schools Miss and Mrs have been pretty abandoned by the younger staff in favour of Ms. In my childhood the teachers were generally known by the Irish forms of their names. So for example Miss Ryan would be Iníon Ní Rían (quite a mouthful for a four year old to get their head round!) and Mrs White would be Bean De Faoite.
johnny reb 17 | 3,538
12 Dec 2017  #25
Polish children don't call their teacher by first name, hence it shows that "what you've heard" was actually made up for reasons unknown.

Well actually what I heard came from YOUR lips on a radio interview when you were in Poznan.
You giggled and told the interviewer how the students would "torment" you by calling you by your first name in Polish.
I would need your permission to post the link to that interview to confirm your lie since your real name was used.
Do I have your permission to post it ?
If anyone wants the link just P.M. me and I will gladly pass it along because I hate to be called a liar.
mafketis 20 | 7,253
12 Dec 2017  #26
I hate to be called a liar.

Then stop lying. Your comment made it sound like you'd heard about this as a regular phenomenon when you were actually (at most) talking about a single teacher and school (if you were accurately relaying what you heard which is... who knows?)
Lyzko 23 | 6,542
12 Dec 2017  #27
Bilingualism is a mine field. On the one hand, the true bilinguals who grew up in a country and who's parents spoke the source language at home whilst junior learns the target language seamlessly in school as their primary language of instruction, and without a trace of first-language interference, are as rare as precious gems!

Sadly, many delude themselves into thinking they are bilingual because they "feel" so easily comfortable chatting/texting away in English, for example Scandinavian, Dutch, and even German teenagers these days. The fact is, they are anything but bilingual; they may know both languages fluently, yet scarcely with native competence in either language. I know this from experience having lived abroad.
Taxpaying voter
13 Dec 2017  #28
true bilinguals ... are as rare as precious gems!

You'll find that genuinely bi-lingual kids generally spoke both languages fluently before starting school.

Then stop lying.

That would indeed solve the problem. But then so would banning any user who digs up a thread that's been resting peacefully for the best part of eight years just so he can engage in some ad hom trolling.

Anyone worth their salt would be working for the American School of Warsaw, International School of Warsaw, or The British School, earning a respectable western salary,

One of those schools is far from paying respectable Polish salaries, let alone respectable western salaries. And you seem to overlook the somewhat obvious point that few people go into teaching for the money. Perhaps it might be better to stick to posting about things you're familiar with?
Lyzko 23 | 6,542
13 Dec 2017  #29
I agree with the assessment that those bilingual children of whom I spoke were indeed exposed nearly equally to both source and target language before attending school.

In my case, I was raised partially by a German "nanny" who spoke nothing but her native tongue to me prior even to kindergarden, while my folks spoke only English to me and I never studied German formally until I was sixteen.

Does that make me bilingual? Yes, according to the narrow confines of the above definition. On the other hand, my nanny stopped speaking to me in German altogether by the time I was only eight, so there were nearly nine or so years before I actually learned the language as a young adult, having most of my adolescence to catch up, so to speak:-)


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