My husband and I are both from the Czech Republic and live in Ireland. Obviously, the home language is Czech. Our English is good enough, but would not be our mother tongue. We are faced with a big problem. Our children are going to the local school. They are being taught in English. The teachers keep telling me I should give up Czech and speak English only to my children in order to improve their understanding of that language and increase their vocabulary. They also insist on homework being done only in English, no explanation in Czech. I find it very difficult as I feel it would not be natural. Moreover, I would not have the huge vocabulary in English either. What would be your advice?
Thank you for your question. I can be very tricky and I understand your worries. First of all, I would say, you should not give up Czech at home. It is your home language, the language your children need to know, especially when you visit home so they can speak with their grandparents and play with their cousins without an interpreter. Secondly, I do understand the view of the teachers, they are placing themselves in a position to develop the English for their pupils – that’s their job. I can imagine it is difficult for you to help with the homework in English. What I would suggest is that you talk with the teachers and try and find a solution. It is important for the teachers to understand that Czech is the home language and that English will not be the main language of the house. I am sure they will understand. They might be able to help and find you a solution for the homework and helping your children improve their English. Here are some ideas: homework done at school with a resource teacher. You can find a student who would be delighted to earn a little money and can help with the homework. As for large vocabulary, I would not worry about it, this will balance itself with time.
Please let us know how things are going, we would be delighted to hear back from you and your family.
Dr. Isabelle Barth-O’Neill