What to expect from a bilingual kindergarten

  • Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • What to expect from a bilingual kindergarten

What to expect from a bilingual kindergarten

For almost 4 months now, LJ has been attending a German bilingual kindergarten. In Germany, children normally go to kindergarten (Kita) from 3 years old until about 6. This is the equivalent of nursery school (école maternelle). Kindergartens are not schools. For me, coming from France, kindergartens are a mixture of école maternelle (early years of school) and crèche (nursery). Children are much more free. They still spend most of their time playing even though there are organised activities. Most kindergartens also welcome younger children (some from 6 months old, but mostly from one year old) and are a very sought after daycare solution for working parents. Places are lacking in a lot of cities in the country (especially for younger children).

We were very lucky to get a place shortly before LJ’s third birthday and didn’t want to turn it down for fear of not getting any later on! On top of it, it was a bilingual structure (French-German). As newly arrived to Germany, this is great for us, as we are able to chat to some of the staff in French. But also, LJ was clearly dominant in French and hardly spoke any German, it made the transition for her easier.

So how does it work?

I can’t claim that all bilingual kindergarten work this way, but this is our own experience.

Staff are half German speaking, half French speaking. Because of the proximity of France, a lot of the French staff actually live in France. The director is bilingual. All of the French-speaking staff also speak German. But not all of the German staff speak French (even though they understand a little bit of it). The staff address the children in their native language. About half of the children have a French speaking parent. Children are completely immersed in both languages. They learn songs in both languages, make crafts lead by staff in either language, etc.

For the pre-school kids (4-6 year old), activities are more structured and they have twice a week an hour of more school-like activities (in both languages).

Kids do tend to speak German together as most are dominant in German and do only seem to have passive knowledge of French. But the children are very linguistically aware and never raise an eyebrow at anybody addressing them in one language or another. This was extremely important for us.

Multilingualism in action: our experience so far

Our daughter took time to get used to bilingualism in action. 4 months in, our daughter still addresses most people in French first. We are not really worried about it as we have heard her play in German with her dolls and the staff tell us she says a few things in German (prefabricated sentences like: die Maman kommt gleich). Her understanding is very good and who knows what she says to the others when we are not there…

Yes, children are great sponges, are very resilient and will learn a language with no trouble at this age. But she also has a strong love for the OPOL (one person-one language) method, we feel. We think she finds it hard to connect with people who use more than one language and switch constantly with her. I will write more on that in a further post. We feel she struggled to connect with some of the French staff because they also do use German at times (when speaking with other staff and parents, for example). She assigns languages to people and those who constantly switch puzzle her. Maybe the fact that she is learning 4 languages is a factor here.

Apart from this, at least, here staff are not puzzled by the cute bilingual kid coming in! They are used to it. She is not the odd one even if 4 languages may be a little more than usual! At registration, their forms had plenty of space in the language box and even asked detailed questions about who spoke what to whom in the family (which I loved).

All in all, we are really happy with this bilingual structure. We would have never had such an opportunity when we lived in the U.K. We get to immerse her in a fourth language (German) while still maintaining one of her minority ones (French). LJ’s German is soon going to overtake ours, I am sure.

Republished with kind permission from Annabelle via What to expect from a bilingual kindergarten : the piri-piri lexicon



EXPAT EDUCATION: My book on choosing the right school for YOUR child overseas

Choosing the right school for your child is one of the hardest decisions you’ll make as an expat parent when moving abroad. There are many education options around for expats, and so much depends on your individual family set-up and child that there is no ‘one-school-fits-all’ solution.

Each child is different and each country’s school system is different, even within the ‘generic’ international schools. Also, families differ in their requirements and aspirations, and even relocations vary greatly. What worked well for you all in one country won’t necessarily be replicated in your next move.

It’s easy to get very stressed at this point. Don’t panic! I’ve put together this book to help you kick-start your search for the best type of school for your child.

Available on your local Amazon

To get instant access to the key points you need to know right now, check out my abridged version eBook here

Need to talk 1-1 about your move and life overseas with someone who 'gets it'? Consider me your own, personal expat expert! I'm here for you.

Your one-stop-shop for a successful life abroad

Expatability Club

An expat community and advice hub where you’ll never feel alone or unsupported. With an Expat Expert in your pocket for real-time support.

Let's stay in touch!

Subscribe to my newsletter and be first to hear news and updates from Carole.

By subscribing you also agree to receive marketing emails from Carole Hallett Mobbs. You can opt-out of these emails at any time. My full privacy policy can be seen here: Privacy Policy

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. The fact that she is puzzled by people who switch languages means she has a clear distinction between different languages.
    I remember of a woman at my first German course explaining her attendance with tha fact that her daughter was learning German much faster than her, and that was frustrating!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Want some personalised advice?

Find out how I can help you make your expat life a success!