Is your child having difficulty learning the new language?

As you probably know I grew up bilingually in Africa. We spoke Dutch at home and we spoke English at school and where ever else we went to. I'm really happy that my parents made the effort to raise us in bilingually. You can read more about it in a post I wrote recently Bilingualism and growing up Abroad.

I have just finished reading the book called "Adios Holanda!"by Anita Schmidt. It's all about how she and her husband leave the Netherlands with their three daughters and move to Spain to start a new life there. The book is in Dutch by the way.

I am very interested in the effect of international moves on families and particularly the effect the move has on the children. I enjoy reading books on this topic.

Their eldest daughter Nienke (a real Dutch name) was 5 years old when the family moved to Spain. Here in the Netherlands she went to school, had her own friends, spoke Dutch fluently and had her own "afspraakjes" play dates. After moving she was immersed in the local Spanish school, they had Spanish neighbours and as a family they adjusted to the Spanish lifestyle. She was the only Dutch girl attending this local school at the time. So she was immersed in Spanish during the school day.

After a couple of weeks the mum discovered that Nienke did not say a word at school. She did not open her mouth. She was scared to make mistakes. She was scared that the other kids would make fun of her. It actually took 6 months before she started speaking at school. During this time Nienke also started to wet her bed during the night again. Now mum was really worried. 

Each child handles stress and change differently. This situation was not only stressful for the family but very stressful for Nienke too. She was experiencing language shock. It's when the stress gets in the way of the language learning. I came across this article: Is your child experiencing language shock? 5 things you should know about language shock.

6 Things to consider when your child is not speaking the new language:
  1. Do not condemn your child because they are not speaking the language yet.
  2. Try to be relaxed about the fact that your child is not yet speaking the new language.
  3. Talk to the teacher and ask advice.
  4. Realize that this new situation is very stressful for your child, give him or her some extra hugs and have more time together.
  5. Remember that in the end most children do pick up the new language, but it takes some time.
  6. Seek professional help if necessary.
Here's an article with 6 Ways to help your child succeed when they are struggling to learn the new language. It is written for children in the U.S. but it is useful.

What's your experience? Did your children have difficulty learning a new language? Do you have tips?

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