News Translating: Parents need to be involved

From the Department of the Bleeding Obvious comes the news that if you want children to succeed, it is probably not a good idea to treat their parents like animals. And besides, most of them are already doing what you want and it’s still not working.

Terms of Reference

“Bilingual” doesn’t mean “someone who speaks two languages fluently” in Denmark.

Here, it means “someone with no Danish parents living in Denmark who intend to stay here longer than a five year contract”.

So, a child of a Dane in a mixed couple, is not “bilingual”. A child who travels the world with her Danish parents and picks up the local languages is not “bilingual”. Children born to “expats” are not “bilingual”.

“Non-western” means people from South America, Central America, all of Africa and parts of Asia.

“Western” means people from North America, Europe, Australasia and (possibly) parts of Asia. If they move to Denmark they are considered “expats” unless they marry a Dane.

Taken from Politiken: Expert: Parents must be involved if bilinguals have to learn Danish

No good comes from forcing parents to send their children to daycare.

More than half of bilingual children with a non-western background have large problems speaking Danish when they start primary school.

“If this development is going to be turned around, it is necessary to act in cooperation with daycare and parents.”

So says Agi Csonka. She is the director of Denmark’s Evaluation Institute which investigates and improves the quality of daycare and schools.

“Daycare cannot do this all alone. So there has to be a close cooperation with parents.

“A close cooperation can support the parents to develop their children’s language competences,” said Agi Csonka.”

Good experiences with suitcase of reading-books

The director tells that previously they had good results, when parents and institutions cooperate.

“They had a trial where a group of children got to take a suitcase of reading books home.

The trial showed very positive results. It shows that if parents get support, then their child’s level actually improves,” she said.

She thinks that three things need to be in place to help children on the right path: The right stimulation of children’s linguistic development, that staff have a high professional qualification – and as already stated a close cooperation with parents.

Parliament decided in 2011 that it should be possible to force the bilingual into day care but the Kommunernes Landsforening (KL) has no information on how widely this has been enforced in practice.

And amongst others, Venstre demanded that more of the bilingual children go to daycare.

Warning against forcing parents

“But force is far from the solution because most bilingual children actually already go to institutions”, points out Agi Csonka.

“So, we will not catch that many by forcing parents to send children to institutions,” she said.

There are several political initiatives to lift bilingual pupils’ linguistic competence. These include a large research project and a bilingual task force.