Introducing the Rug Rat to a French School

Good morning, guys. Hope you are not all freezing over there. I’m after some general insight from those of you with Rug Rats as to how your kids coped with starting at a French school, any problems you faced, any tips. You get the idea. Basically, anything I should know to help the 6 year old when the time comes.

How difficult would it be for a 9 year to pick up the language? We are also considering the move from the US to France but this mummy is not sure how my 9 and 7 year olds would do in a French school.

You can buy school books in larger supermarkets. You need to look for “Orthographe”

Thank you Peta. I’m going to start teaching Shaun some basics starting from now (I’m sure I can find appropriate lessons for his age online - I’m very doubtful I can find a French tutor in Malta) so he at least has a solid foundation to build upon by next year. You are right in what you say about the English speaking children sticking together and almost alienating themselves. That is what has happened to some extent here. Even though Shaun’s father is Maltese and he was of course born here, he is still referred to as a “foreigner”. Ridiculous. Anyway, I’m very grateful for your advice. I need to stop showing Shaun pictures of French houses and travel programmes on the TV because all he is interested in now is the fact this grass and big trees (both of which are lacking here) so he can build a tree house. I can foresee broken arm number 3 looming…

If I don’t speak to you guys before then, I wish you all a very merry and warm Christmas.


We moved to France when ours were 5 and 2 and just chucked them in at the deep end, sending them straight to school. They adapted amazingly well, even our painfully shy older daughter, and were making themselves understood within months. As Aidan said, they were a big novelty to start with. The only problems we’ve encountered came later when the eldest appeared bi-lingual but in fact there were still big holes in her vocabulary so she was missing the gist of some of the lessons. We had to take the teachers to one side and explain that they needed to ensure that each lesson had truly been understood and break things down into more manageable French if necessary for a short period of time.

Try to avoid them becoming too pally with other English speaking kids at school if at all possible, certainly in English in any event. It’s too easy an option to take themselves off to one corner at breaktime and natter away in English, and will do nothing to endear them to the other kids. When in a French school, have a stab at speaking French. The quicker they bite the bullet the quicker they will integrate.

They are both now completely bilingual, without a hint of an accent in either English or French.

Aidan, thank you so much. It’s always a concern about “Is mummy doing the right thing”. Shaun is struggling with Maltese, even though he was born here but I think two factors have been influencing that: (1) Mummy only speaks English and the locals have always tended to speak to us in English because of me, even though I begged Shaun’s grandparents to only speak in Maltese to him (2) Maltese is quite horrendous - it’s a combination of Maltese, Italian and Arabic. Do I need to say more really? Malta is becoming such an overcrowded little island and the construction industry seem to be in a feeding frenzy so the air always seems polluted by something. Even the sea breezes seem unable to disperse the car fumes and builders’ dust sometimes I would like to raise Shaun somewhere clean and healthy and with a good education and a language that could prove useful to him in the future which is why I’m thinking seriously about this. Of course, whether his father will allow me to take Shaun abroad is another matter - I will have to be persuasive…

Hi Valerie,
Funny that you started this today because I’m in the midst of the settling joy. We’re Americans living in Montpellier since last Feb and when we moved here (from Ireland) none of us had a word of French. I was up nights worried about the kids and we toyed with the idea of bilingual school…couldn’t afford it and heard bad things so didn’t do that in the end. Thank goodness. I have three kids, Sofia 8, Rowan 6, and Leo only 2. We spent some time out of school when we moved here because we wanted to be settled in a house first. They started in May for the last 7 weeks and it was amazing how well they did. First of all, the teachers and principal at our school are fabulous and very welcoming. Second, all the other children were very interested in our kids because of the newness and the language. It actually worked in their favor at first. It sometimes felt like we were the display at the English speaking zoo! Everyone told me how easily the kids would pick it up and integrate and it is absolutely true. I would never tell anyone with young children to do anything but start at the French school. They sent a language big cheese around to test my kids and he was a bit harsh…but that was the only hurdle we really faced. You should know they teach them cursive very young so it might help if you started working on that with your son…but teach the French cursive rather than ours. It is different. If you want more details from me just send me a message with specifics and I’ll be happy to answer if I can.
My 6 year old is the one with the best accent in our family. It’s a great age.