Teaching and multilingualism

A family affair: teaching and multilingualism from mother to daughter ….

Old dreams coming together or good timing? Tina Roessler decided to open the Bilingual School at the time when Aries Roessler undertook to write her book (in French) “Bilingual at Ten?  A Plea for Early Immersion” – published by l’Age d’Homme in 2006.

Being both of them trilingual (French-English-German) and passionate about teaching, Aries and Tina each contributed to the development of multilingual pedagogy from their perspective.

During the two years needed to prepare the opening of the Bilingual School – for the daughter – and for the writing of her book – for the mother, their exchanges were numerous and fruitful. They visited several bilingual schools in Europe, and gave considerable thought to how best to achieve effective language teaching and results.

Aries Roessler’s book concentrates on the possibilities offered to public schools – in Switzerland in particular – to substantially improve the results of the teaching of German. In spite of a phenomenal number of teaching hours in comparison with other European countries, the “communication skills” targeted by the programs are mediocre to say the least.

At the end of compulsory school, pupils have had almost 830 periods of German teaching. In the “Gymnase” (3 year Senior High School) there are another 360 ​​periods of German. Altogether, almost 1200 periods of German are taught between compulsory school and high school. Despite the high level of language competence required by the programs, at the Baccalaureate students neither speak German nor understand it well. Their reading ability is weak and their writing faulty.

This appalling situation eventually led Aries Roessler to take early retirement from the Gymnase, and to look for different and better strategies. Her ideas are explained in her book, which you will find in pdf HERE (in French); a summary in English is available HERE. After presenting the biological mechanism of language learning, she proposes the introduction of early language immersion in Primary school. One of the key elements is to advocate exchanges of young primary school teachers between Swiss linguistic areas and European countries.

Tina Roessler opened a private school and therefore had the freedom to take a different path, by introducing second language immersion from Kindergarten and largely increasing the number of hours taught in the second language. This produces results that go way beyond the “communication skills” aimed at by public school; students reach a native level in English writing and literature, and a Cambridge C1 level at age 15, while performing at a very high level in French.


Post-Scriptum: Aries did finally not retire, since she currently teaches German language and literature for native German speaking students, as well as History and Politics at the Middle School level in the Bilingual School …