Why Bilingual Education?
Winford Bilingual Primary School is a unique bilingual school in the Netherlands because we teach 100% of our lessons in both Dutch and English. This makes us different from other Dutch and international primary schools.
To understand how we are different, it is important to understand what bilingual education means in other Dutch primary schools. Most primary schools in the Netherlands offer some form of English language education. There are different types of education available:
Official ‘tweetalig’ (bilingual) schools offer between 30% and 50% of their classes in English. Often this is done by teaching core Dutch curriculum subjects (like mathematics, reading, writing, and language) in Dutch and other subjects (for example, music, art, or history) in English.
In other ‘regular’ Dutch primary schools, children will spend no more than 15% of their time (around 3 hours per week) learning English.
Winford Bilingual Primary School is different
When we say ‘bilingual education’ we mean that children will have all of their lessons in both Dutch and English. Throughout the school day, the children will be completely immersed in both languages, and learn to switch easily between Dutch and English with their teachers and their friends.
We call this approach ‘dual immersion’. The aim of our dual immersion education is to teach children to be fluent in two languages, rather than simply competent.
What is the difference between ‘Competency’ and ‘Fluency’?
Competency means speaking a language well but with more formality and less familiarity than a native or fluent speaker. Competent speakers have to work harder to speak in this language rather than their native language. They can also find it more difficult to switch between languages.
Fluency means speaking a language other than your first or native language with almost equal ease and accuracy. A fluent speaker finds it almost as easy to speak in a second language as easily as their native language. Fluent speakers can switch easily between the learned language and their native language.
An example of what this actually means
‘Gezellig’ – A commonly used Dutch word that is famously untranslatable into English. It can be literally translated as ‘cozy’ but this is only a fragment of its meaning. It is used to express feelings far more complex than ‘cozy’.
Language competency is knowing what ‘gezellig’ means.
Language fluency is knowing how ‘gezellig’ feels and when to use it appropriately in any situation.
Why do we think bilingual education is important?
Learning a second language helps your child academically by improving, connecting, and expanding the neural pathways associated with reading and writing, and with their ability to express themselves.
Language skills are more important than ever and English is one of the more widely spoken languages so it makes sense that a high level of fluency will be a valuable skill. Although not so widely spoken, Dutch shares its roots with several other European languages (the Germanic languages). Not only does this mean that learning Dutch will make it easier to learn another Germanic language, the fact that your child is already bilingual means that they will find it easier to learn any other language.
Social and emotional benefits
Beyond the academic advantages, there are also many social and emotional benefits to being bilingual. Research shows that young children who are raised as bilingual speakers are better at reading social cues, overcoming social shyness, and have strong active listening skills. All of these will help with making friends, understanding diversity, and help with integrating into new environments.
Advantages of Dutch bilingual education for international families in the Netherlands
Families who intend to make the Netherlands their home for more than a year will find themselves more culturally connected to the country if they speak Dutch. Although most Dutch people speak some English, you will find that you will feel more welcome if you can speak Dutch. For children, this means the ability to make local friends and join in Dutch life, giving them the chance to be fully involved in a different culture and tradition.
Ask us questions!
To find out more about our curriculum, our classrooms, and how our school will suit your child, please feel free to contact us.