Saturday, September 15, 2007

Learning About Bilingualism

At the end of last semester, I was involved in a week-long teacher training session, and facilitated a course for Japanese teachers of English. When prepping the lessons, I found a wealth of resources on the British Council teacher's site for both teachers and students.

And now, I've even found themed materials on bilingualism at the British Council Learn English site! It includes some information, a story, and several games. Although the suggested links are a bit outdated, the lesson material seems very interesting and engaging for high-level English language learners. Sometimes university students ask me if we're teaching our daughter to speak both English and Japanese, and I've found that some students express strong opinions about the issue of bilingualism. As most of these students are English majors, I would like for them to think about their opinions dealing with language issues, such as when the schools should start teaching English and how parents can support second language development at home. The more educated about bilingualism, the better decisions we can make!

British Council
British Council (resources for teachers)
Bilingualism theme
Languages theme

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What happens?

Hi all!!! I know it has been a long time since I have added anything to this wonderful blog, but time and a long distance move have complicated things : ) We are now living in Argentina where my children are talking to everyone in English. They are so used to being in a biligual atomosphere that they think everyone is bilingual. To their surprize it isn´t so. Nicole stopped speaking Spanish about a month ago. Although she understands everything perfectly, she has just decided it is easier to speak English because everyone around her understood. What a surprize for her when we arrived here 2 weeks ago and no one speaks much English...We have to say....Spanish Nicole...Grandma doesn´t understand you. hahahahaha poor thing...Has anyone else had this experience? Dorinda

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Culture, Language, Food, and Family

The previous post touched on the relationship between raising a bilingual child, culture, and mealtimes. Now, I would like to share some of our families meals with you. As you may already know, we are originally from the States, but now live in Japan. In our family, we think a lot about food! My husband really enjoys cooking and has developed many of his own original dishes: most of these fuse Japanese and American, or other cooking styles and ingredients. Please check out his blog Cajsian: Homestyle Fusion Cuisine and Philosophy for yummy recipes, including various twists on mac-n-cheese, braised chicken, and atarashii primavera. I hope your visit there will inspire you to create a delicious meal to share with your family...and top it off with a little conversation in the target language too! Bon appetit!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Infant's Language Insights

Today, I ran across this easy-to-read article on MSN Health titled "Infants stun scientists with ‘amazing' insights" It discusses a new study which claims that infants are able to tell the difference between two languages and discriminate between many sounds that adults are unable to. An interesting concept from the article is that language is a "multimedia" experience. The article states,
"...language isn't just hearing or seeing a word 'rose.' We immediately relate that word to a rose's sight, touch and smell, even the sight of a person saying that word."

Something to definitely keep in mind when working with learners of any age group--language learning should stimulate all of our senses and this should help to make connections and memories of the language and its use.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sesame Street for Parents

Sesame Workshop is a great web site, not only for kids, but also for parents! The parents section has sections called "Sesame Parents", "Fun to Go", and "TV Info". If you remember Sesame Street's Maria, you'll recall that her bilingualism in Spanish and English is featured on the show. Also, she has a column, "Talking Out Loud" on the Sesame Workshop web site where she writes parenting articles.

Her current featured article is "Childhood Echoes: Valuing your past while raising your child for the future." In this article, she challenges us to consider our parenting beliefs, and challenge ourselves to raise our children OUR way, instead of simply raising our children in the same way that we were raised.

But one of my favorite articles of hers is an older one entitled "Talking Out Loud: ¿CÓmo se dice?: Keeping your family's heritage strong." Manzanos lets us see how she struggled a bit to raise her daughter bilingually and biculturally and how the process evolved over the years. I especially enjoyed when she told how she often forgot words in Spanish:
"Other times when, say we were at the beach, I'd see a seagull and I'd say, "Mira la..." and then wrack my brain, trying to remember the Spanish word for seagull. (I'm afraid she'll have many memories of me starting a sentence and then staring off into space...)"
A feeling I'm sure many of us identify with! But she kept trying and finally realized that she was making a lot of progress:
"But I began to realize that she was getting it from all directions: from my self-conscious "Latin" home schooling as well as from all the usual ways. She was getting it from the food we ate, ... ; the music we listened to; a close relationship with her grandmother; and, finally, from seeing Latin culture reflected in the world."

Now we can see the Sesame Street website as a great resource not only for our children, but for us as parents! Finally, if you like the information there, I'd like to suggest their newsletter as well!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Oracy at Home

Today we have a guest post from Monika who is an English language teacher in Argentina. If you like this post, please visit her blog Puppets in Action! She emphasizes the creative and fun use of puppets for learning language arts.

Research has shown we use language to talk about what we need to understand. So if you read to your child regularly and demonstrate conversational skills within the family, you can enhance these experiences with the use of puppets. Why do puppets work so well? One of the reasons is because they are so multi-sensory! have puppets, they look alive and you have tons of stories for using them. What's the next step? Have

FUN laughs,
FUN giggles,
FUN groans,

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to you all! And Happy Mother's Day to my co-blogger, Dorinda! If you are a mom raising a bilingual child, then you've certainly been giving it your all. Take some time today to relax and have fun with your child.

Here are five favorite activities that my husband and I enjoy doing with our soon to be two-year-old daughter! All of these can be readily adapted to encourage interaction in the target language too.

Making music. Strum the guitar, toot a play horn, beat some pots and pans. Make up your own special family songs.

Play outside. We love to go to a local park and play, or just to stay near home and play in the sandbox or to ride bicycles or scooters.

Dance! My daughter really likes to show off her creativity through dance, so we often put on her favorite tunes and dance around the house.

Cooking. Most kids love to watch their parents cook or to get their hands in the batter! Pretend cooking and eating is a lot of fun too.

Look at nature. We've just started growing a few plants and herbs on our balcony, so it is fun to go outside and check their progress: are they getting enough water and sunshine today? Also, when she feels brave we look closely at flowers, leaves, and insects!

No matter what you do today, have an enriching and loving experience with your family!!

Bilingual Role Models

If you're raising a bilingual child, you've probably thought about who could serve as a bilingual role model for your child. Of course, parents who play active roles in their children's development are of the utmost importance. But, a bilingual role model can also play a vital role by providing yet another way for the child to see what an asset being multilingual can be.

There are all sorts ways to locate a bilingual role model. Perhaps the easiest bilingual role models to find are on TV! Many children might look to characters, like Dora the Explorer, and her cousin Diego. However, as we've discussed in other posts, children need to interact in the target language too. So, kids might look up to bilingual family members, godparents, family friends, or older children. If you have bilingual extended family members or bilingual friends, then it shouldn't be too much trouble for your child to find someone they can look up to. If you're not in such a situation, it might be more difficult, but not impossible. Are there local students and/or teachers of the target language? Are there target language speakers that you could interact with via online synchronous voice/video chat? By using a little bit of imagination and your available resources, you should be able to identify someone who could help you in your journey.

Not only can these relationships can be really important for children to learn more about the target language and culture, but they also provide a wonderful opportunity for another adult to develop a nurturing relationship with your child. And, this relationship could be fruitful even if the role model speaks a language other than your current target language! For example, our daughter has a wonderful role model who speaks French and English; we'll never forget the week she spent visiting our house and spending time with our daughter. She cooked French dishes, like crepes; she sang songs and read books in French; and she continues to be a good bilingual role model for her.

Who is a bilingual role model for your child? Looking forward to sharing experiences!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Some Research!

Hi Bilingual Babblers!!!! Hey I found a great article from the Center for Applied Linguistics on Raising Bilingual Children. It addresses some fears and some misnomers. The article addresses the fear of confusing the languages and delayed speech, which many of us have spoken about, as well as, creating super baby brains. I found it helpful and encouraging. See what you think. It can also be found on the helpful links list. Let us know what you think! Hugs ~Dorinda~

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bilingual Babble from a Children's EFL Teacher

I am very proud to introduce our first interview on Bilingual Babble! In the interview, an EFL children's teacher in Japan will give us some tips not only for teaching a foreign language to children, but tips on how parents who don't speak that foreign language can become more involved in their child's learning. Here is the interview:

Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your job?
My name is Cutenekko, and I am a Children's EFL teacher. I teach children from the age of 1 to elementary school, 6th grade. The students I teach only attend one 50 minute lesson per week.

What are your key points for teaching English to children?
Phonics are very important. I use phonics as a warm-up; this skill practiced weekly, eases students into reading, writing and spelling English better.

Children like to be stimulated in a variety of ways, so I think using pictures, CDs, videos and realia are all very important in the classroom.

The final key point is not to speak "baby talk" nor simplify your English too much. You should treat the child as if they understand you, and also present ways for the child to respond to you. At first, it will be in their native language, but soon, your efforts will shine through. No matter what age or level my students are, I always take the first 5-10 minutes of every lesson just to talk--about school/kindergarten, holidays that passed by, or some small news. Students seem very excited about discussing things they know about and want to share with you.

What are some ideas you have for encouraging Japanese parents to reinforce the English their children learn in class?

This is where I am a bad teacher. I don't ask parents to reinforce English at home. But, if I were a GOOD teacher I would say these things:

-Watch an English language DVD at home with your child.

-Listen to English CDs in your car--perfect when you are driving to other classes or school!

-Talk to your child about what s/he learned in the English class. Ask your child to point out new words for you. One mother became very excited when her 3 year old son taught her "cucumber". The mother did not know this word in English, but was so happy her son did!

-Even if you don't like English, pretend you do. Children watch their parents carefully. If the parent has no interest in learning a language, why would your child be interested too? My mother couldn't figure skate, but she came and sat in a freezing cold rink every time I had a 2-hour practice as a child. She took an interest!

-If your child is older, why not ask your child to TEACH you? Children love to act older, so why not give them the opportunity to do so? This will also provide a perfect chance for your child to review what s/he learned in the class.

-Read a book to your child in English. Or if s/he is older, try to read and discuss it together.

-Learn a few phrases for use in the home: "Do your homework", "wash your hands", "brush your teeth", "pack up your things". Any simple, phrase that both parents and children often hear will do.

-If you are very keen, try to create an "English Time" or "English Zone" in the home. It could be just 30 mins. a week, but family members all do something, together, in English. Watch a movie without the subtitles, play a game, make a cake--try to communicate in English.

In addition to those ideas, what types of supplemental language resources would you recommend to parents?

  • In Japan, there are several English shows for children: Eigorian, Eigo de Asobu, Sesame Street and also Shirojiro-kun.

  • I like "Wee Sing" Children's Songs and Fingerplays (CD), and anything by the Wiggles.

  • For books, I use Dr. Suess, and some graded readers--Let's Go series published by Oxford is great. Flash cards, posters, and spelling games are fun.

  • I like Junior Boggle and Scrabble.

  • Picture Dictionaries are very useful, and can be used for review or mini-lessons at home.

  • My older students all seem to love Harry Potter and comic books....perhaps you could try to read simplified versions?

  • I have always wanted to try a field trip in English to the zoo or an aquarium. Children and adults loves these places...why not have fun and learn animal names in English? Scavenger hunts are great fun, and why not try a sporting event in English?

  • My kindergarten students loved learning and playing "Hide-and-Seek"!

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Children have very different needs when it comes to learning. Some enjoy singing songs, others enjoy writing or reading. It's best to find out what style your child enjoys, and incorporate that into his/ her learning. Finally, patience and reinforcement are keys to your child's success.

Thanks, Cutenekko, for taking the time to share your experiences and ideas with us! You have some great ideas for parents, teachers, and kids!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Online Resources to Support Parents

Today I came across a podcast, Kodomo Ekaiwa, produced by Knock Knock English which aims to give Japanese-speaking parents some English phrases they can use with young children. Because the podcast is in both Japanese and English, it is also a good resource for English-speaking parents, like me, who would like to learn some phrases for speaking to kids in Japanese. I had the chance to listen to an episode called It's Cold! and it was not only useful, but also very cute! This podcast was short (under 4 minutes long); the hosts gave theme-related phrases in both languages while music played in the background. Two-thumbs up!

This is just one example of an online resource to support parents. There are many useful sites available, so let's share some more of them here at Bilingual Babble.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Babysitters? Will it make or break the bilingual link?

I have been really concerned lately about my daughter and how she mixes the languages. She spends so much time with the sitter and I'm afraid that she's going to loose her Spanish. While I speak primarily Spanish with her, she doesn't always speak only Spanish with me. After a week where she has to be with the sitter 3-4 days, I have to consistently speak Spanish to her or she would revert to English with me. Last night I put on a video that was in Spanish. I was hoping that it would help. Will the English speaking babysitter break the bilingual link? Any suggestions? Dorinda

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Keepin' it fresh

Hi everybody!
Just wanted to talk about how cool it is to have a bilingual child. During my first marriage, I raised 3 beautiful daughters. Unfortunately, I didn't speak Spanish at that time; hence, they are not bilingual. This time around I am basically a fluent Spanish speaker....hope for all you over 30 who want to learn a second language... I wanted to share a cool thing that is happening with my 2 1/2 yr old.

My daughter goes to a monolingual babysitter. She speaks English. All day long my daughter doesn't speak a lick of Spanish. The minute I walk in the door she lights up and starts rattling stuff off in Spanish. It is sooo wonderful. I just hope we can maintain that.

If anyone else has a cool experience with their BC (Bilingual Child), PLEASE feel free to share. It will be an encouragement to others. Until the next time ~Dorinda~