Native Language @ ISB

Entries Tagged as 'Family Language Plan'

Sign Up for Raising Multilinguals Parent Workshop

October 15th, 2020 · No Comments

On Wednesday, October 28, 2020, from 7:45-9:15 a.m., ISB faculty and administrators will offer a workshop for parents from all divisions (ES, MS, HS) about maintaining students’ native languages while they also study in English at ISB. 
At this workshop, faculty and administrators will:
  • Present reasons to maintain native language, based on research
  • Describe language classes and resources available at ISB
  • Discuss the importance of making a family language plan
Please join us! Parents of students in PreK through Grade 12 are welcome. In order to ensure that we have enough space to comply with the current physical distancing guidelines, please sign up here if you plan to attend. We will confirm the location prior to the event. 
For further information, please email:

Tags: Family Language Plan · Parent Workshops

Planning for an IB Bilingual Diploma

September 8th, 2020 · No Comments

When making a family language plan, some ISB families include a bilingual IB diploma. This is a diploma received at the end of high school, when the student has earned a score of 3 or above in two A languages selected from the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program course studies in language and/or literature.

Excelling in language and/or literature in two A/native languages is quite a challenge. Families interested in the IB bilingual diploma will want to support and maintain their children’s native language(s) from as early an age as possible; they should also reach out to the Vice Principal in the Middle School or the Dean of Academics in the High School regarding questions on pathways and levels of proficiency needed to support success.

Questions? Email for an introduction to a counselor, administrator, or teacher who might be able to assist you.

ISB’s Class of 2020 had 36 students who earned a bilingual diploma. Their languages were Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Turkish.

Currently in ISB’s High School, in addition to languages taught during the school day, IB students are studying Danish, Dutch, Hebrew, Hungarian and Norwegian independently.

Tags: Family Language Plan

Raising Multilinguals “How?” A Followup Workshop

October 17th, 2019 · No Comments

How can parents nurture native language besides speaking it with their children and enrolling them in classes? Find out by joining us on November 14 for the workshop Raising Multilinguals How? Unlocking the World Through Language-Rich Experiences.

In this workshop, a followup to Raising Multilinguals, we will explore how families can promote literacy (reading and writing) and rich conversation, in support of the family language plan.

Parents of students in PreK through Grade 12 are welcome! The workshop will be held in the MS/HS Library’s Literary Lounge. If you have questions, please write:

Tags: Family Language Plan · Mother tongue at home · Parent Workshops

Raising Multilinguals, an Annual Parent Workshop

October 11th, 2019 · No Comments

Raising Multilinguals: Unlocking the World with a Family Language Plan

On Thursday, October 17, 2019, from 7:45-9:15 a.m. in MPB 1, ISB faculty and administrators will offer a workshop for parents from all divisions (ES, MS, HS) about maintaining students’ native languages while they also study in English at ISB. This will be similar to the Raising Multilinguals workshop offered in prior years, and is especially useful for new families. 

At this workshop, faculty and administrators will:

  • Present reasons to maintain native language, based on research
  • Describe language classes and resources available at ISB
  • Discuss the importance of making a family language plan

Please join us! Parents of students in PreK through Grade 12 are welcome. For further information, please email:

Tags: Family Language Plan · Parent Workshops

Ask Olga! “Kick as Hard as You Can”: Setting High Expectations for Native Language Practice

April 5th, 2018 · 2 Comments


A lot has been said here about balancing languages—and we have noted that much depends on our goals, needs, and available resources. Just as plants depend on the quality of soil and environment for their optimal growth, so children’s growth and linguistic development depend on the quality of their linguistic environment. When we put a plant on the balcony in a pot, we devise a plan for how to support its optimal growth in the given conditions. We provide fertilizers, protection from insects, and so on—a handbook on taking care of house plants gives many recipes. With children, when there is lack of certain ingredients for supporting native languages, we might turn to a manual on raising multilingual children, or design our own plan of support.

In this endeavor, we depend a lot on extra effort: our effort, and effort exerted by our children. “You have to make an effort and kick as hard as you can”—our four-year-old granddaughter Michelle recently realized for the first time, during swimming lessons, that learning requires effort. And resilience. No matter what you learn. In the end, effort and resilience bring reward and motivation.


Michelle is enjoying becoming trilingual. It feels very natural to her and appears effortless. Experience tells us, however, that a more rigorous and structured approach to mastering three languages will need to become part of the language plan. She will soon start school in English, which will set high expectations on her and will require continuous mastering of the language of instruction. This will pose additional challenges for maintaining her two home languages, Russian and French, and will certainly require extra effort and resilience.

Parents and close family members become models at the early stages of language development. As children grow, the circle of available linguistic models becomes wider and includes playmates, peers, teachers and other members of the social and academic context. Languages used within these circles will constantly tip the balance in more than one direction and might cause losses in native languages used at home.

At the early stages, therefore, it is especially important to anticipate this happening and to be ready to provide motivation and support for keeping native languages functional. The ultimate responsibility for supporting home languages lies with the family. Our role as adults is to understand the importance of a combined effort—the effort and challenge that pushes the child to the necessary level of independence and linguistic flexibility.

To be able to support our children linguistically we also need to challenge ourselves and push our limits of linguistic knowledge and competence. The level of our mastery will be the foundation for our kids’ growth. Research shows that parental language input style and complexity predicts child language development.

What can we do to make sure we support and maintain our children’s multilingual proficiency in the years to come?

The first very important step is to continue being models for our children and maintain a relationship with them that goes deeper than meeting their basic needs. Children love to ask questions. As they grow older, their questions, thoughts, and opinions will become more sophisticated.  We need to be prepared to have conversations with children on various topics; to keep them motivated by stimulating their interests and encouraging their curiosity; and to put them in situations requiring precise and complex language. Through all this, we are fostering their cultural and linguistic identities.

Here are some things we can do on a regular basis, in the languages we support, with enthusiasm, but also with effort and resilience:


Many games involve functional use of language, requiring children to describe, give definitions, use complex vocabulary, ask questions, negotiate meaning, use various linguistic elements, and reinforce specific skills and competencies.


Many activities need specific language to accomplish them: role playing, storytelling, cooking, crafting, planting, tidying up, sewing, fixing, swimming, etc.

Social Events

Social events provide opportunities to participate in family gatherings and celebrations; connect with playmates; and talk with people of different ages, areas of expertise, and personalities. These events provide exposure to cultural norms and ways of discourse, promoting understanding and acceptance of behaviors and ways of thinking and talking.

Collecting Knowledge and Experiences

Trips to new places and visits to theatres, museums, lectures and workshops encourage curiosity, build foundations for cultural and scientific literacy, and enrich language.


Literacy activities are building blocks of cognitive and emotional development. Look for books that have rich language and offer a high level of interest as well as challenge. Read to and with children; have conversations and discussions around texts; engage in retelling and interpretations. Literacy activities also include writing letters to relatives and friends, and keeping journals.

Columnist Olga Steklova is a retired EAL teacher at ISB and trilingual herself. She shares tips for raising multilingual children as she observes her own grandchildren. To read more columns, click on the Ask Olga! category below.

Tags: Ask Olga! · Family Language Plan · Mother tongue at home

Helping Children Learn a Spouse’s Language

February 27th, 2018 · 2 Comments

German IMLD poster

In many ISB families, the parents speak different native languages. Both hope their children will learn both. But what if one parent works late or travels frequently? Can the other parent help the children learn both languages? Yes!

Yale linguist Claire Bowern writes that it is OK to speak in your spouse’s language sometimes, even if you do not speak it perfectly. Research shows that “kids who are exposed to early language from non-native speakers usually grow up to be full speakers of that language.”

Bowern adds, “The main thing children need is not so much a highly accurate linguistic role model, but rather several people to speak it with, and one strong way to do that is for the non-native speaker parent to speak the language too.”

Rita Rosenback, author of Bringing Up a Bilingual Child, writes that consistency in using your native language with children is most important when you are their main source of the language: “the general rule is that the less exposure a child has to a language, the greater the need is for the person [parent] to be consistent with the language use.” (So, for an ISB family with a German mom who travels and a Thai dad who stays home, the mother can help by being consistent with German, but the Thai dad may sometimes switch to German—because the kids get lots of exposure to Thai in Thailand.) 

Chontelle Bonfiglio, creator of the website Bilingual Kidspot, has even posted about how a single parent can teach a child two languages

ISB encourages families to make a language plan. If you would like ideas for supporting a spouse’s language in your plan, please get in touch:

Tags: Family Language Plan · Websites

“The Need Factor is Crucial” for Learning Language

February 9th, 2018 · No Comments


François Grosjean is an emeritus professor of linguistics at Neuchâtel University, Switzerland, whose blog Life as a Bilingual appears in the Bookmarks on the right side of this blog. Grosjean has been quoted as saying “the need factor is crucial” for young multilinguals: They must experience regular situations in which only one of their languages will do. If not, Grosjean says, “children are very good at judging whether it is worth maintaining a language or letting it wither away.”

Our recent post by columnist Olga Steklova also mentions the need for diverse experiences, “language use for a wide variety of meaningful purposes.”

Besides language class, where can your child regularly “need” a language? 

Full post quoting Grosjean at The Economist Prospero blog: Bringing Up Baby Bilingual: Strategies for Getting Youngsters Fluent in More than One Language

Tags: Family Language Plan · Mother tongue at home · Multilingualism · Websites

Raising Multilinguals, an ISB Parent Workshop

January 29th, 2018 · No Comments

Raising Multilinguals poster (1)

Please join us on Thursday, February 1,  from 7:45-9:15 a.m. in MPB 1 at the top of the Zigag, for a parent workshop called Raising Multilinguals: Unlocking the World with a Family Language Plan. Open to parents in all divisions (ES, MS, and HS), this workshop will focus on maintaining students’ native languages while they also study in English at ISB. Join us! More details are here.

Tags: Family Language Plan · Native Language and Education · Parent Workshops