Helena attends one of Vienna’s state run bilingual primary schools and the system also operates at the middle/senior school and kindergarten levels. Morning drop-off and afternoon pick up finds an interesting mix of German and English being spoken by parents and children at the school gate and the surrounding streets. It’s noticeable how conversations will switch between the two languages, especially amongst the children.
I rather like the website statement regarding this approach to education: ‘To prevent language from being an obstacle between people – that is why there is ‘Vienna Bilingual School’. In these schools’ bilingual classes comprise a 50/50 split of native English and German speaking children. All the children study the same Austrian curriculum and work with a combination of Austrian and native English speaking teachers.
For Helena school starts at 8am and finishes at 1pm, after which she settles down to between an hour to two hours home work each day. She usually heads off to her room with the announcement of whether she has home work in English and/or German (and Maths) today.
On a personal level Helena generally operates in German with her friends and class mates at school, unless the ‘cool’ kid happens to be an English speaker. Given that Helena has always been brought up to be bilingual the two language environment has been less of a shock to her than the difference in the approach between the English and Austrian teaching systems. Of course Romana regularly notes that this bilingual environment would be so much more enriched if I got on with learning German….a saga I think for another day.