Learning Languages

Languages and Language Training

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Language is the foundation of learning, and is one of the most important elements of our emotional and social communication. The sooner language skills are developed, the more effective a person will be in learning, communicating and expressing himself.

The primary teaching language and most important language of communication at the CDSC is German. To meet the demands of an increasingly globalized world, our students also learn English and Thai, beginning in Grade 1. The demand for increased language skill runs throughout the classes, culminating in the German International Abitur (DIAP) which has a strong foreign language emphasis compared to the domestic Abitur.

Beginning in Grade 6, students qualified for high school will begin to study French. The French language plays a particularly important role for our Swiss students, but is also a prerequisite for students who plan to attend a Gymnasium (high school) in Germany. The CDSC will assist new students in arranging French tutoring if extra language support is necessary. Beginning in Grade 8, History courses are taught bilingually (English/German). Physics is taught completely in English beginning in Grade 10, with testing in English in the German International Abitur examinations.

Knowledge of German Language

When we began to offer the German International Abitur at CDSC, we had to address several organizational and educational challenges; in particular, we committed to make a special effort in the area of German language skills. Intentional measures have been implemented to ensure that students reach the German language fluency level required for the Abitur as well as for lower school graduations.

Many CDSC students hear two or even three languages spoken in their homes on a regular basis; indeed, German is not the first language nor primary family language for a number of our students. Understandably, a student’s need for language support depends heavily on family background and the age at which the student first enrolled at CDSC. Children from bilingual families in which German is the second, non-native language often require an increased but quite manageable level of language support. The number of bilingual families at the CDSC has increased significantly over the past years, and it is our desire to meet this challenge in a professional manner.

In recent years we have worked in cooperation with other German schools across Asia to develop a plan for children with German as a second language. While it is ultimately the parents’ responsibility to arrange for language support, we would like to make each family aware of the support available:

CDSC’s language concept, developed during the 2012/13 school year, includes regular language proficiency tests that provide useful feedback about deficits and areas that need further attention. Based on the results of tests and on the assessments of our teachers, we give a recommendation for the level of German language support needed by each student. Professionally conducted, such support leads to good language progress and a gradual reduction of necessary support, while also increasing the chances of success at school.

All support measures are individually discussed with the parents, and are charged at rates separate from general tuition.

The Language Test

The CDSC language test, while used in conjunction with other testing methods, is primarily based on language development stages and ranks students according to seven competency levels. The goal of the test is to discover what level of language competency each child already possesses - what the child is already able to do.

Remedial “German as a Second Language”

Remedial "German as a Second Language" (DaZ), based on Dr. Penner’s renowned Kon-Lab method, has been successfully used in the Kindergarten at CDSC for years. The Kon-Lab method teaches children the rules and basics of the German language through speech and rhythm exercises, using picture cards, games, worksheets and computer games.

The DaZ lessons are designed to follow an alternating lesson plan of games, activities and written elaboration of the curriculum (as far as the children can already write). We use the children’s’ everyday experience of their immediate environment and encourage them to listen, speak, tell and write on the basis of various language support materials.

At the kindergarten level, each child receives 15 to 20 minutes of German language support on a daily basis. During kindergarten and elementary school, the focus of language support is on what is said. The point is to recognize and practice the rules and structures of the German language. Beginning in Flex (Grades 1 and 2), specific issues resulting from multilingualism (based on the themes of the regular German lessons) are addressed in order to build up confidence in speaking and language awareness. Beginning in Grade 3, written German language skills are increasingly practiced and promoted.

The DaZ-classes are held in small groups or as private lessons, and are tailored to the individual needs and differing language levels of students. There is a regular review of students’ progress, and adjustments of classroom teaching content is aligned accordingly. DaZ teaching is based on the German as a Second Language curriculum designed for use in German schools abroad. Students are being supported as they build and develop their multilingual skills, and are trained in listening and reading comprehension as well as in pronunciation. In addition, students are given sufficient practice in writing, and expand their vocabulary, learn word formations (word fields, word families, word compositions) and discover the German grammar (gender, declension, plural, declension of adjectives, verbs, perfect and past tense, prepositions, sentence patterns). Students supported by the DaZ curriculum should be able to follow the regular classroom teaching as well as demonstrate growing language ability; this in turn will increase their confidence and competence in social and school situations.

Foreign Language Newcomers Program

Since 2012, the CDSC has welcomed a small contingent of foreign language students; these students come from non-German speaking families who specifically desire a German speaking education for their children. The transition into the German school system is no small accomplishment. As a rule, it is necessary for these students to take 10 to 15 "German as a Foreign Language" (GFL) lessons per week for at least one whole school year. As the school year progresses, these students are gradually integrated into regular classes with German-speaking children.

In order for foreign-language students to progress in their German, language support is necessary in the afternoons and evenings as well. This need can be addressed in several ways, such as temporary boarding with a German-speaking host family or the engagement of a German au pair. During this year of language study, teacher and parents together set a series of progressive targets to help assess the student’s language success. At the end of the year, successful GFL language students receive a transfer certificate to the next grade.

In the second year the need for language support classes usually lessens, allowing the GFL students to fully participate in the regular German lessons and standard coursework, while their school performance is evaluated according to regular school requirements. In general, access to the German-speaking school system for non-native German speakers is possible only up to Grade 5, and requires an increasing effort with advanced age. This basically means that the earlier a child is exposed to German language immersion, the better he or she will do. However, any such transition requires a strong commitment by both the child and his or her parents.

Further Need of Support

If a child’s language difficulties are not solvable by German language support alone, the root of the struggle may be diagnosed more accurately through observations, individual examination and standardized test procedures. Some not-uncommon difficulties include general dyslexia (LRS), ADHD or a problem of perception processing.

In this case, as with other individual needs, we make every effort to meet the specific needs of the child through carefully planned educational support, internal differentiation in classes and additional remedial lessons as required. This is always done in close consultation with the parents, and we typically recommend that parents also seek the advice of experts (child psychologists, therapists).

Thai Classes

Since the 2012/13 school year, we offer two different programs for Thai language education. The "Thai-Regular" program includes two lessons per week and is based on the "Thai Language & Culture Curriculum for International Schools", a curriculum mandated by the Thai government for all international schools.

As more and more families see Thailand as their long-term home, a desire has grown for students to have the opportunity to study the Thai language more intensively. Students attending the "Thai Intensive" program learn Thai at a native-language level and attend four lessons per week. When students are enrolled in the “Thai Intensive” program, parents and teachers must regularly monitor and evaluate the impact of the extra study workload on general school performance.

Thai lessons in both programs not only impart speaking, reading and writing, but also include historical and cultural contents and demonstrate the connections between history, culture and language. From Flex through Grade 8, all students are required to attend the “Thai Regular” program at minimum.

 

Learning Languages

 

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