My husband and I live in southern Spain with our four young children. Two boys (ages six and four) as well as two girls (ages two and one). We have decided to enroll our children in the local Spanish schools.
So far this has been hardest on my six year old as he does not speak Spanish. He knows a few words and gets better everyday as do the rest of us, but as a mother I worry about grades, friends and communication. He can read and write in English, but Spanish is a different world to him.
Any words of wisdom would be welcomed! Thank you!
As you say, your big boy’s Spanish is getting better every day. There’s only more of this to look forward to, until the day your son will start correcting his parents’ uses of Spanish. Be prepared.
It won’t take long, I promise you. Many expatriate families like yours have gone through the same process and report similar experiences. Mine is one of them: my children started schooling in English, which was an all-new language to them, at roughly the same ages as yours. It took them about three months to feel at home in the language, including academically, and much less than that to make English-speaking friends, who in fact were the ones guiding them along their language learning, through play and serious peer talk.
You may want to try something I found helped (or at least I like to think so!): invite Spanish-speaking friends of your son home to you, just one at a time, and just for a short while at the beginning, and then leave the two children entirely on their own. Don’t peep, don’t fret, don’t try to “help”: children know best how to sort themselves out. The first few times are likely to be something like wild races around the house, yelling and wrestling. That’s fine: they’ll be racing, yelling and wrestling “in Spanish”. And if one friend turns out not to be so friendly after all, just try the next one.
The result, for us: English became our children’s own peer language, the language that they use among themselves. So be prepared for that too.
Do feel free to contact me privately, if you wish to discuss these matters in greater detail.