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!