Expert Info

Posted by hafsahahmed
on 4 Oct 2018

I am a Pakistani, I am about to move Brussels in 2 months. I have a 10 years old daughter who is currently in 5th grade. She is proficient in English and currently she is studying in an English school. She doesn't know French/Dutch at all. Overall she is intelligent and quick learner. I have been looking into international schools websites but they are too expensive and I clearly cannot afford them.  So the only option I am left with is public schools. I have following queries:

1- how much time would it take to make her French/Dutch proficient so that she can excel at school and can read and write French/Dutch easily like she use English.  

2- how quickly kids of her age (10 years) learn a new language in a way that they are not only able to communicate to people but also carry on their full studies in a language that they don't know at all.

3- Do they get any support/help from school or special consideration that kid dont know French/dutch


bert on 5 Oct 2018 - 07:36

Brussels is capital of the EU, with many nationalities living there. Many locals are still in a “language war” as some refuse to speak either Flemish (Dutch) or French. Both are relatively complex languages, but kids learn fast, in terms of speaking. French grammar is quite difficult, not to worrie about though for speech. However, most people do speak (basic) English as well, due to the international character of the city. There is an abundance of international schools, probably preferable over a local school in French or Flemish.

Meagan on 8 Oct 2018 - 08:42

Hi there,

Generally the younger a child is, the easier it is to pick up a new language. Every child is different, however, and some adapt to change more easily than others, so it's always difficult to give a solid answer on this topic.

As Bert mentioned above – and as I'm sure you're aware – an English-speaking international school would be the ideal. You're also definitely right that these schools can be very expensive. Some offer scholarships, however, so it may be worth checking various school websites closely or even contacting schools directly to find out about options.

Are you moving to Brussels for work purposes? If so, it may be worthwhile to attempt to negotiate an education allowance into your relocation package. There's some good advice on how to do this in our article on expat contact negotiation.

There aren't any fully bilingual public schools in Brussels, and where there are schools that focus on dual-language immersion, they're typically French schools offering Dutch or vice versa. A very small minority of French schools may offer English-language immersion but this is typically only in secondary school. You can read more on the Marnix Plan website, which has information on multilingualism in Brussels.

Best of luck, and do let us know how things turn out.

- M

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