To Do or Not To Do: Language Immersion

As some of you know, I've been debating whether or not we should toss Jackie into Russian preschool (assuming it's up to snuff once we get there) and see how he does; or if we should keep him home, either with me, or if possible, a nanny - the benefit there being twofold: Jackie learns Russian, and Mommy gets a break.

John is on the Russian immersion bandwagon. He thinks Jack will pick up Russian much faster that way, get valuable time with other children, and keep up with preschool lessons. Those aren't really things I can disagree with. But I do worry that Jack will feel insecure and out of place, and that his English may become stunted as a result. Also, I read somewhere (a post report maybe?) that they are much stricter in Russian preschool and actually hold your child's hand when they color. Obviously that's something I can assess once we get there, assuming a) they allow parents to sit in on their classes and b) I can even find a preschool that will take him, especially since the school year will be starting when we get there.

As for Jack and his Russian - the kid certainly enjoys repeating Russian phrases, although he clearly has no idea what they mean. Even his rudimentary Spanish is lacking. Our lovely twice-a-month house cleaner, Abby, tries to speak to Jack in Spanish when she comes, and I try to get him to say "adios" when we leave so she can get her work done. Lately, Jack has taken to calling her "Abbios" - which is kind of clever, but also shows he's not exactly gleaning that "adios" means goodbye and is not, in fact, her name.

I've done some reading on language immersion in toddlers and it seems that they usually take to it well, that it can slow their language development at first, but that later on the child is actually better at learning foreign languages. I realize that Jack probably won't retain any of the Russian he learns (he'll only be four when we leave), but if it can give him a leg up in the future, it may be worth a shot. I'd love to hear from any Foreign Service families with input! Or anyone who knows anything about immersion, for that matter.

Happy Friday!


  1. All our research showed the same thing: it slows their English for a while, but they catch up eventually in both languages and are better at all languages down the road. I say go for it and see how it goes. Kids are more adaptable than we sometimes assume, but if it does somehow go poorly you can always make a change.

  2. I agree with won't know until you try and yes every country is different. I personally feel the younger the better. A close friend put her 3.5 year old in the pre-school of their village in Germany and he did very poorly. Because he couldn't understand a word anyone was saying he began to act out with tantrums, screaming, kicking, etc. My friend now goes to school with him each time (not that her German is anything beyond the most basics for daily living)--that was the agreement of the school and the only way they would allow him to stay enrolled. So like I said, I think each country AND child will be different. I think he may have done better had she not waited until he was 3.5. As a parent of a 3.5 year old I think it is VERY beneficial to have them in some sort of program as early as possible. I took my son to a "mother's morning out" program 1 day a week when he turned 2 and I think it did wonders for his social-emotional development.


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