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How can Returnees Retain their English? How can Non-Returnees become Bilingual?

Returnees CAN retain their English.

At Dave and Amy English School, we have taught a lot of returnees.   We try to help returnees keep their fluency, comprehension, reading and writing abilities at a high level, and improve them.  But it takes hard work.   How do we do this effectively?


****  We would like to specify that ANY student that wants to become bi-lingual, should do the following.   We teach students that have never left Japan, but have very high level English.    They easily join our returnee lessons at the same level as children who have lived abroad for 3 or more years.     So let’s go through what is necessary.


To begin with, what factors are important for returnees to retain high English ability?   We have found that returnees who are fluent confident readers can keep their English at a high level. This holds true even if returnees are very young.   We had a 5 year old America returnee who loved to read.  She’s now in Junior High School and has a very high level of English.


So that brings us to Tip # 1:  READ. 


  Read a lot of English Books.    Set a goal of at least 15 minutes a day.   Children who read teach themselves.   They learn new vocabulary, correct grammar and spelling naturally.   


Tip # 2:  WATCH English television and  movies


   Mom, “Turn the tv off and study!” Student,   “It is my HOMEWORK, Mom”. 15 – 30 minutes a day of English T.V. will help returnees keep comprehension skills and  learn new vocabulary.   


Tip # 3:  MEET  other English Speakers


  There are lots of returnees/ international students in Japan.   Make a group of families in your area (we used FACEBOOK to make a group for our kids).    Meet up for play dates, birthdays, holidays…    An important  suggestion,  ensure members are fluent English speakers.   And be strict about the ONLY ENGLISH rule.    Most kids will understand and want to work to keep their English too.    Meeting up with friends is fun, but also great to meet other families with similar experiences.


Tip # 4:  WRITE


  Use English texts your child’s grade level.   Do the reading and writing activities.   Many of these texts are fun.   Children can express their own ideas while reading interesting stories.


Tip # 5.  GO to an English School.   


What should you look for in a lesson?


A.  A proper level check:   ALL returnees are different.    We have several America retunees.   They all spent the same time overseas but their level of English is very different.  Its important to have same level students working together.  


B.  Returnees have to be with other returnees.    If they are placed in a regular class, everyone suffers.     In our returnee classes, students joke,  interject with stories, discuss, read native level books, we try to recreate their overseas school experience.       


C.  Long classes. If you go to a 4 hour lesson on Saturday, often there is wasted time.   Lunch,  craft time.     Sounds great, but most likely not a lot of English is being spoken.   It is better to have a shorter, more concentrated lesson.


D.  Homework:  ALL lessons should have homework.    


E.   Teacher:  one with excellent, natural English


F.  How often?   We recommend two lessons a week (hour long lessons).   Once a week is OK—-but twice better.  


Tip #6:  SPEAK English at Home.    If your family is comfortable speaking English, it’s a great way to keep fluency and comprehension.   Try one day a week.   And then add more days if your family enjoys it.


Did we miss anything?


Dave and Amy

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