ScandAsia has spoken with a few Scandinavians living and working in Singapore about their children and how they handle the challenge of maintaining their mother tongue when living in a foreign country.
Maintaining the Danish language in Singapore
Mikkel Aabye recently moved from Denmark to Singapore with his wife Christina Aabye. Together they have three children attending the Overseas Family School. Mikkel and Christina were fond of the school’s values and were also attracted by the offer of Danish-taught classes within the institution.
Mikkel and Christina’s children are in the Kindergarten 2 and pre-Kindergarten 2 levels of their education (K2 and pre-K2 for short). They have four lectures a week in Danish and the rest in English. According to Mikkel Aabye, their children are very satisfied with the variation in language.
The Overseas Family School houses many international students in Singapore
Mikkel and Christina plans on bringing their children home to Denmark in a couple of years. For that reason, it’s important to them that the children maintain their native language, Danish. They speak Danish at home, but practices English as well. They read good-night stories in Danish and they watch Danish television for kids like DR Ramasjang – a Danish channel by Denmark’s media giant, Denmark’s Radio.
“Most of the communicating is in English when we’re out”, says Mikkel. “They are still learning it but we hope they can do both languages fluently soon. They’re still young, so they are eager to learn!”
Norwegian, Polish and English – finding the balance
Another couple facing the same challenge is Harald Lundestad and his polish partner, Agnieszka. Together they have 4 year old Leopold. He is currently attending Eton House International Pre-School where the classes are mainly in English.
Eton House International Pre-School offers education for the youngest foreginers in Singapore
At home, Harald and Agnieszk are taking a “one parent, one language” approach. Agnieszk talks polish with Leopold and Harald speaks Norwegian with him. Agnieszk spends the most time with Leopold so Polish is the dominating language for their son and Harald admits that Norwegian actually comes in third, behind English.
However, they do travel to Norway every summer for three weeks where Leopold plays with the Norwegian children and gets a sense of Norway’s culture, environment and language.
Leopold also picks up a lot of German which he tends to mix with his Norwegian. “It is a bit annoying when he sometimes says “Ich bin” instead of “Jeg er”, or “danke” instead of “takk”, says Harald. The German comes from short visits to family and friends in Germany, and from playing with German kids.
Adding Chinese to the mix
Trine came to Singapore, from Denmark, with her children in October 2014.
Her son is 10 and her daughter 5 years old. They’re both attending the Canadian International School, Tanjong Katong Campus.
The Canadian International School is another, among many alternatives for expats to educate their children in Singapore.
The son’s classes are exclusively in English, the daughter however is taught both English and Mandarin. Neither are taught Danish in school but it’s important for the family that they learn about the Danish language and culture. Therefore, all communication at home takes place in Danish. They also visit Denmark annually.
In their freetime Trine’s son plays soccer and her daughter attends several different dance classes. They prioritize activities over Danish lessons to avoid school days that becomes too long and exhausting.
Mainting a language can be difficult for a child abroad but it’s definitely possible, especially in an international diverse city as Singapore.