My kids have had the (massive) advantage of being born in France. In addition to this, and unusually, we took the decision to send them to a French childminder from age 1 until school started. (This facility is heavily subsidised and in our area was organised by the local ‘Relais des Assistantes Maternelles’ or RAM). This meant that my kids pretty much learnt the two languages together. BUT both my wife and I speak only English at home and, although we have both French and UK television we tend to gravitate towards the UK TV 95% of the time.
I’m not saying this to brag, just to give you an idea of how they are doing, they are average in the class for French, in most other subjects they are slightly above average. In the primary schools many English speaking children manage to follow the curriculum without too much difficulty. However if the basics of the language aren’t mastered by the time they start collège (secondary school) at the age of 11 it can become quite an issue. We’ve done some analysis and I think some (more) of the reasons our kids cope quite well are:
* We enrolled them in as many French run clubs and holiday activities etc. as we could. Here the kids are exposed to more ‘conversational’ French than in the school environment.
* My wife is a full-time Mum and speaks good French (mostly self-taught) so can help with their homework.
* We have a tutor who comes to the house once a week to fill in the gaps.
Even with these ‘extras’ the kids just about keep their heads above water on the schooling front. You shouldn’t expect much extra help from the schools either. Some do run remedial lessons for non-French speakers but only for an hour or so per week, and there is normally no classroom assistant to help them on a daily basis. Quite often any difficulties that your child might have will just be put down to the fact that they are not a native French speaker.
In fact I was talking about this yesterday with someone from Samoëns and another from Chamonix. Apparently can get a bit frosty on occasion in the Chamonix schools, they have had to deal with too many non-French speakers and it sounds like they are getting fed up now (this wasn’t reported in Samoëns). Of particular ire was the scene of an English parent picking their kids up from school whilst dressed in ski kit. You can imagine what the teachers think. There isn’t the same hostility where I live in St Jean d’Aulps, but the proportion of English speaking children in the three primary school classes is 25%, 30% and in one class 50%! You can perhaps understand a little why the French can feel put out.
These developments will no doubt help families avoid having to needlessly move back to the UK for educational reasons when their children can profit from diverse, high quality schooling in situ – and still go skiing!
You can read more about the Lake Annecy area here: http://www.alpine-property.com/area/10/lac-annecy or see a list of the properties we have for sale around the lake here: http://www.alpine-property.com/lacannecy