Most foreign correspondents, like expatriates in general, place their children in international schools. Yet it seemed to us like an inspiring idea. After all, children supposedly pick up language quickly. So what if mine did not speak a word of Russian and could not find Russia on a map. They were clever and resilient. They would adapt, become fluent and penetrate Russia — land of Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky, the Bolshoi Ballet and the Hermitage Museum — in ways all but impossible for foreigners.
But the fantasy of creating bilingual prodigies immediately collided with reality. My children — Danya (fifth grade), Arden (third grade) and Emmett (kindergarten) — were among the first foreigners to attend Novaya Gumanitarnaya Shkola, the New Humanitarian School. All instruction was in Russian. No translators, no hand-holding. And so on that morning, as on so many days that autumn of 2007, I feared that I was subjecting them to a cross-cultural experiment that would scar them forever.Sponsored Ads
“They were clever and resilient. They would adapt, become fluent and penetrate Russia.”
And adapt the kids did. They became fluent in the Russian language and learned the Russian culture. Although, initially it was hell. But they eventually got it and started to excel.
I’m going through this right now with my kids. They don’t speak German and couldn’t find Switzerland on map. But here we are. Now we are going through the hell phase.