Monday, May 3, 2010


No, not calculus. Integrating as a new olah into Israeli society.

That was the topic of a lecture I heard on the subject by a renowned educator, on how to help your children integrate into the Israeli school system. One of the major components that was stressed was the problems facing children who do not have the opportunity to learn Hebrew before entering the primary grades. Without a solid language base, these children have a tendency to turn off, to be misdiagnosed with attention problems, and to be correctly diagnosed with behavioral and social problems that result from the simple fact of a lack of understanding.

For American families, this provides a path that they must follow, if they want their children to swim with the rest of the fish. Consequently, chief among the worries of the parents attending this lecture was the fact that they did not wish their children to forget their English- to be able to communicate fluently with relatives, grandparents, and frankly, their own parents.

That is a major point- but as I continued to think about it, I realized the educators were right. It can only hurt a child to place them in a situation where they don't understand, or they have minimal understanding, in the language that is spoken by most of the country.

Seeing my work mates flow freely between Hebrew and English- even though they aren't American born, gives me hope that my future children will still have the English language skills needed to succeed in certain professions here in Israel, as well as just for me. So if I ask questions in English, and they answer in Hebrew- they will still be okay- with extra tutoring in reading and writing.

One family in the lecture piped up that they read two storybooks to their children every night- one in Hebrew, and one in English. That way, everyone wins.
As the educator ended off- he has never seen any child have problems going from the Israeli school system to the American one- besides for some small reading and writing issues, that are resolved rapidly.

So, integration isn't so bad after all (despite what I remember from calculus class). It may be the chance my future children need to help them succeed.

1 comment:

bilingual said...

I am quite interested in questions of bilinguism.

These are the general principles I noted so far:

1) Don't talk to your child in a language you cannot speak perfectly: it will learn your mistakes as a mothertongue

2) I think it is enough to learn the local language anywhere during kindergarten. One to two year's preparation in Iwrit should be enough to catch up and be at the same level at school.

3) Eventually, children end up speaking the language of their surroundings, and you have always to work upstreams in order for them to speak YOUR language.
Probably, their "perfect" language will be hebrew, english might suffer, especially for the younger siblings (the oldest tend to be best at their parent's language, if it is not equal to surrounding's language)

3) Every child is different. In general, children do not have problems in grasping a second language, but there are some who have...

4) Even if your children won't speak perfect english, it will be easier for them to learn languages in general if they grew up with two languages.