Saturday, January 19, 2013

how many of you

moved to a foreign country when you were little? and started school in a language other than your own?


  1. Hello! My name is Veronica, Ronnie for short. I'm a regular reader of your blog. Don't ask how I ever came across your site, but I was just bouncing around blogs a few years ago when I first learned about them and loved Letters to Marc Jacobs. Your writing is funny, uplifting, and delightful. I look forward to reading your posts at the end of each week! Anyways, I moved from Tianjin, China to Newfoundland, Canada at the age of eight. If the language barrier is what's worrying you about your kids, rest easy. Nobody could shut me up prattling off English within the year. I was thrown into third grade knowing only how to say thank you. I had no idea what was going on around me. But the best way and fastest route to integration is total immersion. Be around English-speaking people 24/7, watch a lot of Saturday morning cartoons. I'm sure your kids would love that!

  2. Hi Emi, how exciting that you are moving to NY! I love your writing, thank you!

    I'm from Finland and I lived in Japan from age 3 to 7 (where my parents had already lived for many years before I was born). I attended a local preschool for 2 years there. I was the only non-japanese kid in the school (and in the whole town for that matter) but I learned the language quickly, I got friends and I learned what everybody else learned. I guess returning to Finland was more difficult.
    You know, kids are great because they are often more flexible and adaptable than grownups. But I'm so glad that more and more people have started to acknowledge children and their needs and feelings when moving from country to country. Children are kind of expected to just come along but there are millions of confused thoughts in the child's mind.
    Now this is not only about going to school in a foreign country but generally about living in another country as a kid.
    One thing that I've been thinking about lately is the importance of having your own traditions. I was so young that I couldn't remember what Finland was like but for me it was important that my parents and sisters told me about Finland and I knew I had a home country somewhere. It was important to have certains traditions that was just our own like some food stuff or annual celebrations and so on. Because being an international kid was a given, you didn't have to force that but having the sense of being from somewhere is another thing all together. And the same thing when coming back to Finland. It was important that our family maintained some Japanese customs that we had gotten used to.

  3. I moved to Canada from Poland when I was seven. We spent a few months in Austria prior to coming to Canada, and I picked up a little bit of German, but knew absolutely no English when I started grade one. The first year was a little dicey, but by the second grade I was speaking like a pro. Really nothing to worry about (and I imagine that your kids have some English already). When faced with full immersion, you simply adapt (and kids are so malleable). This will be an amazing experience for them.

  4. your replies mean so much to me, thank you Maija and Aga!

  5. If it helps, my dad moved to America as a 14 year old and spoke no English. He started at American high school knowing no English and was fluent by the end of the year. Apparently American comic books were a big help for him. But you hear him now and never would know he's not an American (except apparently he speaks Hungarian like a 14 year old).

  6. I moved to Switzerland when I was little. The language was really no problem, I caught on to Schwiizerdütsch within three weeks. But you know how at dagis you were allowed to call the caregivers by their first names? And "lite skit rensar magen?" and "men de är bara barn?". Not in Switzerland. Learned the hard way that in this country, being on first-name terms is an award you work for many many years. You didn't and still don't call teachers by their first name. I'm now 36 years old and my physician still calls me Louise while I have to address him as! The general culture shock is not to be underestimated. But then NY has more cultural variety than the neck of woods I found myself at some 30 years ago. But my kids are the only ones who get to eat from the sandpit at their daycare without their parents threatening to call the authorities.
    One more thought: What will you be doing for work? All I know is that for kids to fit in easily, it helps if their parents transition well too. Work-environments are a natural immersion pool.


I welcome any comment, so happy to hear from you.