The Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS) is an inclusive school committed to inspiring students in pursuit of lifelong learning. Uniquely, the school offers all four programmes of the International Baccalaureate Organisation. Here, BBIS Director Peter Kotrc explains the importance of expats learning the host country language (HCL).
‘It’s all Greek to me’ – a frequent experience of expats arriving at their new post.
Of course, you will always survive with English. It is still the most widely spoken language with 1.5 billion speakers, but Chinese is steadily catching up, now at about 1.1 billion.
There is a good reason why so many companies – in the form of their own courses or by providing individual tuition – support the learning of the HCL.
The simple act of attempting to order something in the local language or engage in (very) small talk with the taxi driver has wondrous effects and produces smiles on people’s faces – hardly ever is one laughed at.
International schools believe in this and have a variety of other reasons for often making HCL language mandatory. There is plenty of evidence that early learning of a second or foreign language is a major incentive for the brain to develop in special ways.
Bilinguals are in many cases more successful than their peers.
The advantages of an easier integration into the host country should not be underestimated – parents in international schools often believe that they have moved just for a two year contract, only to find out five or six years later that promotion and career has made them stay, and not having learnt the host country language turns out to have been a real disadvantage for the kids.
Finally, two or three languages are a graduation requirement in many education systems. Having started to learn another language within the context where it is actually spoken is a clear bonus for the child and will keep their head clear for other challenges.
There is no need to worry about other world languages, either – international schools typically construct their timetables around three languages and offer Chinese, Spanish, French or German in addition to the HCL.
For parents and children, acquiring HCL is a wonderful way to make new friends in the new environment. Just go for it.