Learning languages at school: How international school GESS makes multicultural kids feel at home in Singapore

GESS celebrates diversity and encourages kids to stay connected to their roots through language learning and fun cultural experiences. Chinese tea ceremony, anyone?
How many languages do you think are taught at German European School Singapore? German? English? Try 11. Read on for how this international school is keeping language alive – and fun – for its multicultural and multilingual students.

Third culture kid? In today’s Singapore, nobody bats an eyelid if you explain that your dad is from Sweden, your mother is British, you were born in Berlin but now live on the Little Red Dot. Try saying all of that three times quickly! Our children’s generation is more multicultural than ever, and we love it. But, how do international schools in Singapore help kids feel at home, and that they belong, no matter where they’re from? At the German European School Singapore, it’s all about celebrating your mother tongue and culture with a lovely Language Enrichment Programme. Can we join too?

Yes, the two core languages here are German and English, and all students, from the little ones in preschool to the Grade 10 kids learn both, whether they’re a beginner or native speaker. But, you might be surprised to know this international school also offers mother tongue enrichment classes in Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Turkish, Mandarin and Japanese. This really is a home away from home for families from so many backgrounds – 50 different nationalities to be precise!

We know the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism and maintaining a mother tongue: language helps us to communicate and feel in our element with people from different countries, connects us with our own cultural background (no matter how diverse the mix), and it opens doors to opportunities around the world. Nurturing language and cultural pride is one of the most meaningful things we can do for our kids.

Kids engage with their mother tongue through storytelling session. This little class is for French-speaking students.

Kids at GESS engage with their mother tongue through storytelling sessions. This little after-school enrichment class is for French-speaking students.

But we also know that when it comes to a mother tongue language, if you don’t use it you lose it. The Language Enrichment Programme for Primary School students at German European School Singapore takes place after school, once a week. It’s designed to encourage kids to use their language out of their home in a natural and authentic way, and to challenge themselves to build fluency. GESS understands that in an international school setting, staying connected to your own culture through language is so important – not just to prepare for repatriation down the track – but for your child’s sense of identity.

What’s the secret to achieving this amazing feat? Fun, fun, fun. Did you see those cuties up top enjoying a Chinese tea ceremony as part of their Mandarin class? The dedicated LEP mother tongue instructors use games, storytelling, arts and craft, along with food, music and dance to help children experience their home culture. (Don’t tell the kids they’re following a structured programme that will help improve their oral and written skills while they’re at it!)

Language lessons are lively, encouraging kids to speak in their mother tongue out of home and stretch their abilities!

Language lessons are lively, encouraging kids to speak in their mother tongue out of home and stretch their abilities!

Danish and Dutch children in Primary School benefit from a unique Mother Tongue Programme: Danish is integrated in the school day as an alternative for German, while Dutch students have access to an after-school programme. Of course, if your mother tongue isn’t English, German, Danish or Dutch, your child can choose another language under the LEP offerings. Six-year-old GESS student Alessandro Roviaro gives the Language Enrichment Programme his little stamp of approval: “I like it because we do a lot of fun things like cooking or baking and I can speak Italian!”

At the heart of all this, of course, is keeping cultural identity alive, and reminding children to be proud of who they are and to appreciate the diversity in their own school community. We can’t think of anything more enriching than that.


This post is sponsored by German European School Singapore.