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relocating children


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My wife & I definately want to move to France & start a new life but one thing is stopping us....we have 2 girls, age 9 & 5. We worry about what impact it will have on them, taking them away from family, friends & a school where they are happy. How will they cope gong of to school & so far not being able to speak the language, I know that kids are supposed to pick-up languages quicker than adults. Anyone who has done this, please tell me how you got on.

thanks, Joe.
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Regarding the children's ages, it is a perfect time as too much older for the 9 year old would be fraught with problems. Mine were 8 & 10 and spoke and wrote fluently after six months ( that was well over eight years ago now) and they have both done extremely well and are at Lyce. Take it from one who been through the experience that they will soon forget their previous lives and make some wonderful and interesting new friends with whom they will continue through the school system with as well.
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My daughter was aged 9 years and 9 months when we arrived. She had the additional problem of being an only child in France as her older siblings had all left home or stayed at shcool in England. There was a positive benefit for her in that I have always worked and I din't work in France so unlike her life in England I was always there to take her to and from school. The kids need a positive reason for the move as it is tough for them. Of course children are flexible and will eventually adapt. If for example you can have pets you couldn't have in england or a bigger garden this all helps.
Initially her French was slow to come largely because she came home for lunch as part of settling her in. As soon as she chose to stay to lunch her french improved rapidly. We both had one to one french lessons once a week for about 5 months which also helped her. We arrived in January 02 and by the following April of this year she was pretty fluent and making friends and getting invited to tea. By the time we left (we moved back to the UK in July this year after 18 months) she was very well integrated with french friends. However, she chose to go to secondary school in England as she didn't like being a foreigner at school. She has settled very well back into school in England and as a bonus her French teacher has said she can take GCSE Franch this year at age 11. In my view 9 is a good age to make the move as a 9 year old won't forget her english whereas much younger children will.
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  • 1 month later...
Just thought I would add my experiences.

We moved here just over 3 years ago with our 6 year old son and our 4 year old daughter. They couldn't speak French at all except for the basics: hello, goodbye, yes, no, please and thank you and a phrase I thought was important, if they were caught short in class "Je veux pipi".

They found it difficult for the first couple of weeks, but they had the advantage of being in the same school, so they had each other to speak to. As for making friends, my son's birthday is in the middle of September and he already had his invitation list after 2 weeks at school.

After several months they were both completely fluent in speaking French. We always speak English at home, so I didn't hear them speaking French until I started taking them to swimming lessons with a French friend and they spoke French in the car. I was amazed at their progress! I think they would start to lose their English if we did not speak it at home as they do sometimes use the French grammar rules.

As for reading and writing in French, I am not sure how long they took, but they both have no difficulties when compared to the other children in their classes (who are all French). I also buy English revision books (via the Internet from England) and we have "English" lessons at home.

Hope this helps.


P.S. As I am new to this forum, can someone please tell me what LOL means!!
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We have 4 children and they all started at French schools in Sept this year.
They are aged 6, 10, 12 and 14.
We didn't come to France with rose tinted glasses, we knew it would be tough but the boys (youngest and eldest) have definately found it the hardest. The eldest, a straight A student in the UK who took and passed his GCSE French at 13, is struggling with his written French (though aparently no more so than the French children in his class!). He has been kept back a year because of this and is really struggling with making friends, they are definately more immature in France, all our children would agree with this.

As for the youngest, he has learnt more in the last 3 months than he did for 2 years in the UK. He is very proud of his achievements but is very frustrated that he can't play with his French friends in the way he did with those in the UK.

The girls are taking it all in their stride and when my 12 year old came home with the top score in her class for French we couldn't have been prouder!! What an achievement in 3 months.

All I can say to the parents is you have to keep positive and for the majority of the time cry in private, but it is important for the children to see you find things difficult too.
I could go on forever but don't want to bore you all any more!
The best of luck to you and your girls, I hope things go well for you.
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  • 3 weeks later...
hi, we are moving to France in the spring with our 11 year old and have given your topic much thought.

An earlier response suggested that how a child settles depends on how they felt about the move in the first place; I agree with that comment. Through family discussions our daughter can see many advantages in moving to France; seeing her dad more often (luckily she loves his company and wants more of it!), doing more as a two parent family, having the space and time to have a dog and cat ...... She has changed location before so she knows there is a Poppy, Amy or Annie in any school - they just have a different face and name! I don't think it takes them long to work out which of their new classmates will make good friends.

We all accept that our language skills will be a barrier to settling in France but being forwarned is half the battle won; I think. We put a french channel on TV the other night (Sky 825 TV5) and we were certainly forwarned of what her first day in the classroom could sound like if we didn't do any preparation.

We have decided to move to France during the easter hols. but not to enroll her in school until September. Hopefully this will give us all a chance to learn some language as a family group before she has go it alone in the classroom.

We accept, that in the long term, each family member will learn a vocabulary to service the enviroment in which they operate. From babes our speech has been learnt by mimicry which is hopefully followed by understanding then reasoning then writing followed by spelling and grammar. We have reasoned this with our daughter so she will know to expect her grades to fall while she learns to speak, think, read and write in french. We have found with our kids, whatever their age, that their driving force, whatever the situation, is to learn what they need to operate in their peer group. Wanting to fit in with their peers is what I think helps them to learn much faster than adults.

I think the fluency discussion - while entertaining - is mis-placed in this context. Surely we would only become fluent in a topic, in whatever language, if we operate/specialise in that field? Our school age childen, hopefully, will become fluent in the language of the classroom and due to the array of subjects taken will learn a wider vocabulary then their parents?. I for one will never be studying physics again in any language!

How fast they will learn will surely depend on their ability to learn anything. If 50% of children learn a topic at the same speed as their peers, 25% will have more difficulty and 25% will learn faster. We know where our daughter fits into the range for each subject in her mothertongue so our expectations for her, to learn a subject taught in French, will we hope be based on realism - the same as it would be if taught in english with both hands tide behind her back!

One additional problem our daughter might have is 'boys'! She has always gone to an all girls school - any comments?

We decided to make the move before discovering this forum based on issues we were aware of at that time. Reading the forum topics has been very useful - you don't know what you don't know until you know! I hadn't thought about corporal punishment as an issue until I read the discussion on the forum yesterday. I told my daughter that some teachers smack in french schools. Her response was surprising 'they do in the book I'm reading - but they can only smack not bruise - whats for tea?

I've just re-read my ramblings above; grammar, what grammar and I got my degree in my mothertongue???????????

So am I wrong to be optomistic, to think our kids will cope just fine if our expectations of them are realistic and we are there to slap on the elastoplast when they hurt?
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>>taking them away from family, friends <<<

Everyone has moved straight on to education which is obviously very important, but when my two were 5 & 2 we saw a property that was a very reasonable price, in what I then considered a 'good' area. We had French friends there but I felt unwilling to bring up my two children away from there extended families who we saw on a very regular basis, I can't be the only one who has considered this surely. There were other reasons we didn't pursue it (mainly work) but that aspect is not very often mentioned here.

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  • 3 weeks later...
I can see that this thread has been going for sometime now but thought I would just give you a little bit of encouragement. We moved to France in July 2002 and our children age 9 and 5 started in our local village school in Sept, their French speaking skills were vertually non existent at that point but since then they have both become almost fluent, there is not much that they cannont translate, in fact their French is far better than ours and we quite often have to get either one of them to translate especially with phonecalls.

Do not worry about children learning French, to them at that age it's like learning to ride a bike.

Best of luck for the future.

Kind regards

David and Sam
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