Being a kid of expats you grow up dealing with many languages; the local language which you talk in the streets, the language you speak to your parents at home, and English when you are at school. But at NIST International School in Bangkok, kids can also get Swedish on their school schedule.
“Bli en stjärnläsare!” read orange letters on the soft green wall in the Swedish classroom at NIST. Next to the letters, shelves are filled with many different books and board games, all in Swedish. The open and modern classroom is a learning haven for Swedish children who want to stay in touch with their mother tongue.
For Swedes there are many opportunities for kids to keep up with their mother language in Thailand, but NIST is the only school which offers it as part of the regular school day, and where you will get a diploma which can be used when applying to universities in Sweden.
Technology to fit individual needs
The size of the Swedish classes at NIST varies from 11 students in the largest class to one consisting of just a single student. No matter the class size, Daniel Kvarnemo, the Swedish teacher at NIST since August 2016, says he hopes to be able to constantly improve the teaching methods, and likes to spend time finding new exciting materials for his students.
At NIST all of the younger kids have iPads, and the older have laptops which they can work on. Daniel explains that by giving them individual logins, they can, for example, have different texts with questions that allow them to work more independently, and then Daniel can monitor how they are doing from his own computer. The modern technology is also a great way for Daniel to adjust to each individual’s needs.
“Instead of me putting a text up on the screen, they can go at their own pace. If someone is a good reader they finish fast, and if some need more time then they can do that,” he says.
“I feel like you have to try and base it on the individual’s needs. Many of them are at the same level, but not all. Some of them have lived all their lives abroad and may not have had access to Swedish schools, so they are struggling a bit more. That is definitely one of the good things of having smaller groups, so they can sort of work a little bit more on their pace.”
Sudden growth in interest
This year 33 students are taking Swedish A at NIST International School, which by far beats the previous record of 16 students as the largest number of Swedish students. Daniel says he has no certain explanation for the sudden increase.
“I would like to hope that the school has done a good job and that a positive reputation is building,” he says. “The programme has been running for a few years, and it has become more and more known that it is actually an option here in Bangkok to have your kids send to school where they can learn Swedish.”
A few of the students have lived in Bangkok their entire lives, but most of them will only be staying for a couple of years, as they follow their parents around to various expatriate assignments around the world. As a result, the number of students can often vary from year to year. Still, an increase like this has never been seen before.
Improving Swedish from home
For the many expat kids who are moving around a lot, it might not always be possible to find a school like NIST where you can get Swedish on your schedule. But Daniel says that there are many other ways to help the kids practice their language.
“Join the Swedish School Association if there is one. Otherwise, I think it is mainly about exposure.”
He recommends watching Swedish television shows. If their Swedish is weak, they can maybe add English subtitles. They can also listen to audio books.
“If you are a member of a library back in Sweden you can still access audio books, even when you are in Thailand or other places abroad. That is a great tool. Ebooks too are very good material.”
The digital platforms are also a good way for your children to work on their mother tongue. Daniel even uses some in his classes. Smart devices offer many apps with different educational games and activities.
“Stol,” says a voice from the Smart Board as Daniel shows one of the apps that he likes to use with the smaller kids. It is a memory game where he will have to match the Swedish word to a picture. After a few misleads, Daniel finds the chair to match the sound. A simple and fun way to help expat kids stay in touch with Swedish.