A new survey conducted by the British government as part of its research into how language training should be introduced in schools has revealed that the vast majority of pupils surveyed would one day like to live and work abroad. However, of those surveyed an equally high number regret the fact that they do not speak a foreign language and see this as a hurdle to their future plans.
If you’re thinking of expatriating or you already live abroad and you have children, I am certain that of paramount concern is the thought that you will have somehow hampered your child’s schooling or affected them developmentally somehow by moving them out of a familiar environment. But as I hope this article will demonstrate, expatriate children actually have an advantage over their peers back in the UK.
The government’s survey was conducted by PCP Research, it asked 11 to 18 year olds about whether or not they would like to live abroad. A resounding seven out of ten responded positively with the US, Australia, Spain, Italy and France the top five destinations favoured. Pupils cited their reasons as relating to the unfavourable climate in Great Britain, and spoke of their regret at not being able to speak a second language. The government are using the research as a way to encourage more young people to take up language training now that it is no longer compulsory to study a second language to GCSE level.
With all that now understood, it’s time to think about how the expatriate child fits into all this. The expat child is already living out the widely shared dream of one day living abroad, benefitting from a better climate, more exciting prospects and a broader range of opportunities. In other words, expatriate children are achieving what their peers can only dream of one day achieving. What’s more, of those expat kids who move abroad to a country where the main language is anything other than English, they will find themselves immersed in the new language from day one and discover that whilst the first few weeks are very hard, from there on in communicating and learning through a second language actually becomes second nature.
By taking a child out of its familiar environment one is taking a certain degree of risk – but for the vast majority of families, the risk is certainly offset by the range of benefits and advantages that follow. Not only do expat children learn a new language, they learn to make new friends, they learn about different cultures and religions, they learn a whole new set of historical stories and adventures from their new nation, and they are therefore far better equipped, far more mature and worldly wise than their peers back in the UK.
The challenges expatriate children face and overcome prove to them that they are capable – and for those who receive additional encouragement and support from their family, they are likely to develop the belief that in life they can achieve anything if they set their mind to it. What’s more, such children are far less likely to shy away from challenging situations and far more likely to embrace opportunities that come along. Therefore I am absolutely convinced that expatriate children have a great advantage.