Being expat

Bilingualism and homework (part 2)


I addition to my other post about bilingualism and homework,  I want to point out the importance of fostering the home language in all school subjects, not only literacy.

What many parents don’t realize until their children start going to school in another language, is that they will learn how to do maths, talk about science and all the other school topics, in the school language.

When our children are schooled in another language, this other language will become their most dominant language within a few years. (read here)

If we are not fluent enough in our children’s school language to translate and make examples with the terms they use at school in our home language, we need some help.

I always recommend to ask the teachers for an overview of the curriculum. If this is not possible, have a look at the manual your children are using at school. This can also be difficult if the school doesn’t use conventional books anymore and mainly relies on online platforms. In this case I suggest you sit down with your child or teenager and “dive into the subject” with the aid of a dictionary.

I am fluent in my children’s school language, but when it comes to subjects like biology, physics, chemistry, design technology, etc. I need some help to find the equivalent in German.


Understanding and using the right terms in all the languages

I use to google terms a lot, but you can imagine that it is very time consuming to do so if you need to find 30 terms or more within a few minutes.

I found some sites that can help though:

On you  can select the topic and browse the single terms in many different languages.

For Maths in German-English, German-Very_Easy helps to use the right terminology in both languages.

When I wanted my son to learn the right terms when studying electrotechnical terms, the Electropedia site was very helpful.

– If you know of any site that helps with specific vocabulary, please leave a comment here below and I will add it to the list.


Our children need to also understand the language of tests and exams!

The language of tests and exams is another step our children need to take. It requires a deep knowledge of the language! What for a native speaker is “common sense” might not be for someone who speaks this language only at school (or at work for that matter…).

Here are some sites where you can find an overview of recurrent terms that are used in English exams:
Defining common exam instruction words

Terms that are used in essays

Have a look at this list of key verbs found in exams, to start with – please let me know in the comment area what you would change or add.

ANALYSE    Break an issue down into its component parts; discuss them and show how they interrelate.

ARGUE        Make a case, based on appropriate evidence and logically structured, for and/or against some given point of view.

ASSESS      Estimate the value or importance of something, paying attention to positive and/or negative aspects.

COMPARE    Look for similarities and differences between.

CONTRAST  Set in opposition in order to bring out differences.

CRITICISE   Give your judgement about the merit of theories or opinions or about the truth of facts, and back your judgement by a discussion of the evidence.

DEFINE       Set down the precise meaning of the word or phrase, giving sufficient detail so as to distinguish it.

DESCRIBE   Give a detailed or graphic account.

DISCUSS    Investigate or examine by argument; sift and debate giving reasons for and against.

EXPLAIN     Tell how things work or how they came to be the way they are.

IDENTIFY    Pick out what you regard as the key features of something, perhaps making clear the criteria you use in doing so.

ILLUSTRATE        Use a figure or diagram to explain or clarify, or make it clear by the use of concrete examples.

JUSTIFY      Express valid reasons for accepting a particular interpretation or conclusion.

OUTLINE     Indicate the main features of a topic or sequence of events, possibly setting them within a clear structure or framework to show how they interrelate.

PROVE        Demonstrate or establish the truth or accuracy, giving evidence or a logical sequence of statements from evidence to conclusion.

RELATE       Explain how things are connected to each other and to what extent they are alike or affect each other.

REVIEW      To make a survey of, examining the subject critically.

STATE         Present in brief, clear form the main points.

SUMMARISE        Give a concise account of the chief points or substance of the matter, omitting details and examples.

TRACE        Follow the development or history of a topic form some point of origin.


The bottom line is: as parents of multilingual children our “task” is to make sure that our children know the right words for what they need on a short and a long term. If we want our children to once have the opportunity to also study or work in a country where our home language is spoken, they need a broader vocabulary than what is usually taught in language classes, and they need to read a lot – and understand what they’re reading!

I know this sounds a lot to do, and I admit that it is not easy. But what I surely know is that it is so worth it!

I regularly hold free online meetings on multilingualism where I talk about this topic and share best practices and where I encourage parents all over the world and support them help their children maintain their home languages. You’re always welcome to join!




Categories: Being expat

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