sábado, 4 de junio de 2016

Up to 9 years old May 2016 - Hasta los 9 años mayo 2016

Summary . This is an update of activities and language till the end of May 2016, which includes a look at reading material, games, TV and a look at how to schedule language routines and input into your week and year.
En esta actualización hasta finales de mayo 2016, hablo de lectura, juegos. TV y como crear un calendario de rutinas e inputs linguísticos cada semana y año. 

OUTPUT
As Marc is getting older his language is getting more complex. He's able to play with language more, including imitating voices and accents. He loves imitating Yoda's way of changing the word order of his sentences, known as Yoda Speak. So, "you can learn to speak like Yoda" is rendered : 
"learn to speak like Yoda you can. placing the subject and verb at the end of the sentence. 
As you would expect, use of conditionals and irregular verbs is getting nearer to perfection. 
His use of idioms is increasing, for example, "you look tired Daddy, why don't you have a snooze or get some shut-eye." or "It's a piece of cake."  
If he doesn't know a word, he asks. In Britain's Got Talent, he didn't know the word "overshadow". When teaching the words, try and give more examples. It's always funny when the children start using these new words and phrases; something which adults seem to do less frrequently. 
He still plays in English, and the only exception I've noticed is when he played in Spanish using a game he's played with a friend in Lleida. 
Any mistakes which are made are usually bilingual speaker errors, where a phrase or structure is translated literally. 
Regarding pronunciation, the only word that is resisting 'standardisation' is "worry", where he says the 'o' similar to the'o' in orange. It sounds a bit American.  I just thinks he likes saying it like that! 

In the video below he explains his dream house. He loves drawing, so I try to get him to label and / or talk about what he's drawn.    One of the buildings outside the house is labelled 'Strip'. He explained that this was a striptease place! I said, What's that? and he replied, 'a place with chicks dancing!!! And he didn't get that from me!! 






INPUT
Marc gets most of his English input from me, but also from classes taught through English at school, and he now has an American classmate who joined the school in April. They get on well and he recently had a sleepover at the family's house. 

Understanding American English isn't much of a problem as most of the books he reads and the programmes and films he watches are in American English. This wasn't a conscious choice, there's just so much of it!    

He is mad into Star Wars, and he now has all 7 Star Wars videos and several books about the films. 
And we finally gave in and bought him a Play Station 4. One of the games is Battlefront based on Star Wars, of course!  I changed the settings to English so all games and instructions are automatically in English. This is all part of the strategy to maximise input in the heritage language. It's easy to get lazy. 

I made a first time ever exception to watching cinema films in Spanish for his 9th birthday as we were in Vic, and there are no original version cinemas there. Refusing to go would have been radical at this stage, and a two hour film in Spanish doesn't diminish his English! 

As mentioned previously, he likes Minecraft and is learning a lot of vocabulary about building materials. A bewildering amount in fact. Check it out!

Here are the book series he's reading. He's on his 6th Wimpy Kid novel. One of the main changes this year is that he reads on his own, and the latest book he's received from school doesn't have any pictures!!!! We're reading this one together. 

Wimpy Kid series


Star Wars Craze


More Activities for Spelling and Reading 
Spelling Game
Marc told me about a spelling game he likes and we've been playing it; e.g. in the car.
One person thinks of a word, and the other person has to think of one starting with the last letter of the previous word and then spell it. Example:
Black -
Knight - K-N-I-G-H-T
Telephone -T-E-L-E-P-H-O-N-E
etc
Karaoke
These versions of songs are great as you can see the spelling -sound coincidence and comment on it. Marc was surprised by the way Charlie Puth in One Call Away sings the words "...got nothing on me, where 'me' rhymes with away. and "nothing" sounds like nuthang ! Very American and also a typical  way words are changed to fit a specific line in a song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hx2ynaUaHY

Spelling and Reading in general
Words are everywhere and if you provide enough material in English, whether books, songs or games, even PS4, you can focus on certain words and their spelling.

ROUTINES AND SCHEDULES
I think that if you want to take the language input seriously, it's a good idea to explicitly plan in the times you're going to  be with your child AND speak to them. This way, you can keep a check on how much input they're getting. 

I write the times I'm going to take or pick up Marc from school in my diary.  In my case this year, I've been able to stick to Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. I get to the school about 20 minutes early and we normally read a book together. We've been doing this since he was about 5 (I need to check back through this blog!) I pick him up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I try to make the times we are alone together from 5pm-7.30 or 8pm . We normally go to a cafe/ restaurant such as Viena, and have a snack and a chat and then either read, do some drawing, do some exercised from the Carol Vorderman series or even help him with his homework, even Spanish or Catalan!  We treat them like foreign languages and discuss the answers and explanations in English.  And sometimes we'll go bowling or windowshopping together. 

At the weekends, I try to do as many activities in common with him as possible, walking, riding a bicycle, playing football or othe sports, shopping, bowling, eating together, watching films and TV programmes together.  I also give myself time to myself, otherwise I'd go mad.   

The point is, by explicitly planning you make sure you spend enough quality time with your child. It's a win-win and you can then plan when you're going to spend time with your partner and children too. It's important to spend time alone with your child as they need that language input.  

  
If you have any comments or any questions, please feel free to write. 



miércoles, 9 de marzo de 2016

Marc becoming trilingual Update March 2016 - 8 yrs and 9 months

In this blog I'll talk about Marc's
1)current language progress
2) Different varieties of English  - American
3) Swearing ... again!
4) Reading and writing practice and what we've been doing with advice for parents.
5) Summer 2016
6) Cultural issues



1) Language update
As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, Marc is a de facto native bilingual Catalan - English speaker with increasing proficiency in Spanish.

The language points that I've noticed are

a) His correct use of the conditionals:

2nd conditional
If I were there
I wish I were
(notice the more acceptable use of 'were' and not 'was')
and the 3rd conditional
If I'd been there I would've done something else.

He hadn't been using the would've done, but this has 'appeared' and seems to be consolidated now.

B) Use of idiomatic language
He used so many phrases that he's learned from me, books and films / TV now that I've lost count.
When a new idiom comes to mind I use it and then see if he picks it up.
Example.
Dad: The cat's in seventh heaven, isn't it?
in the end he's also started using this. Children seem to take new phrases and use them  easily.

He makes the odd 'mistake' . The words begins by (instead of 'with') .   These are mentioned in a diplomatic way. "We'd say "begins with..." . so it begins with a 'B' , doesn't it?

2) American English
Just like the UK and Ireland. there is a lot of input from American English on TV and in films and even the books he's reading so, as you might expect, he uses some American words and phrases.
We learned the work 'recess' in a book (breaktime), and then later in the week, he used recess instead of break! He's also using US past participles:  'gotten' instead of 'got', and 'snuck' instead of sneaked.

There is a new American boy in his class who has joined from the American school, and Marc purposely used the American words he knows, e.g 'recess' , 'soccer' instead of 'football', etc.

This awareness of other varieties of a language comes from a parent's desire to expand the child's linguistic and cultural knowledge. If your child is living abroad, you can't expect them to speak in the same way as a child in the UK, so as long as it is English, then that's fine with me! BUT, I always point out the use of American words so that he's aware of the differences.

3) Swearing
While we try to limit and stop bad languge, as has been pointed out in other bilingual family books published by Multilingual Matters, adult language ultimately gets out. He gets some input from internet when he watches (sometimes unsuitable) videos, Minecraft tutorials for example and some films. Obviously, a lot of this language comes from me! Recently he's started using 'Jesus' and 'Jesus Christ'. It's inevitable and is a sign of language 'progress' and also a sign that the child is a language mirror and you are the linguistic role model.

4)Reading
This is where we've seen a significant moment; that is, he's started reading on his own, to himself, because he enjoys it. This is great for him and also a reward for me to see the years of (mostly) patient insistence on reading pay off.  Once, I even had to take the book away from him so he'd have dinner!!

The second improvement is that now he reads aloud with more meaning and not just repeating the words. See video. I also show you a way of helping the child when they don't know a word, in this case 'proposterous', and then we use it so that the meaning sticks.




The secret to reading, which I've set out over the previous entries in the blog, is to work through the levels, to reward the child, and to be regular and flexible. Recently, when he hasn't been in the mood, I've read a page and he's read a page. He also gets a model to copy. it's worked very well.
and use every opportunity to read when words come up in instructions and on internet pages.

Writing
I've asked the school to get him to write more often in class. The current activity is reading a book and summarising it. This, and spelling, and two ongoing areas to improve on.
The books we've been doing are very boy oriented as you'll see by the titles:

The Captain underpants series.
The Wimpy Kid series
He loves both and they are unsimplified as well as being American English.

We're also using two Carol Vaudermann books,
Maths Made Easy
10 Minutes spelling a day. We did a page from this this morning, and he really is improving, I'm relieved to say!

Summer 2016
For the first time in 3 years Marc won't be attending his cousin's school in the summer.
 I've decided to give him a break. However, after telling him he said he wouldn't mind going back again!! I've booked other dates to go with him to English including a visit to the Arsenal stadium. It doens't look like we're going to be celebrating anything there though.

He supports Arsenal and Barça and says he dosen't know which he supports in the coming Champions League match!! Sadly, after the first match he was teased at school because he also supports Arsenal and he's 'too English'. Children notice everything and can be cruel.

These are issues to be ready for on the bilingual journey.








lunes, 30 de noviembre de 2015

AUTUMN 2015 - 8.5 years  -  OTOÑO 2015 - 8.5 años

Marc's Language Profile  8 years of age.

Language Proficiency
Due to 8 years of carefully planned exposure to English, Marc's level is trilingual native. 
He switches naturally from Catalan to English to Catalan without any effort.  

For the first time I feel that Marc is now a consolidated native English speaker. Between the ages of 7 - 8 children make a noticeable cognitive leap that is apparent in everything from their realtionships with parents, family and friends and language and learning abilities. Marc's main areas to work on are his reading and especially writing. His spelling is atrocious! This is why I'm putting even more emphasis on it this year. Mistakes he makes in English are very few and are usually Catalan translations in English as I've mentioned in previous posts.  To be fair if he doesn't know the word in English he asks. The same thing occasionally happens in Catalan when he translated literally a word or phrase from English. This is NORMAL for bilinguals, and not an excuse

 His weakest language is Spanish. He gets input from hearing his mother speak Spanish and Spanish television which is on when I'm not at home. In Agora, the languages are split 30% each between English, Catalan and Spanish and he is likely to improve his command of Spanish in the coming years. In some ways, you could say that he will learn Spanish without his parents. 

Accent
He sounds native in both Catalan and English. He speaks with his father's southern English standard accent. At schoool in England his classmates found it hard to believe that he's from Spain. 

Identity and getting to know the culture
In the last year he's become more aware of his identity. "I'm half English and half Spanish". Nurturing both cultural identities is important, especially for building strong ties with the minority/heritage language.  If children feels proud about the language they will be happier to speak it. And when they mix with people from the heritage language country, they will feel a connexion and feel less foreign which is his case. 

There is no need to 'hide' either identities related to the languages. you can be proud of both. This year we went to the UK twice and Ireland once.

What we did this year.
UK
In the summer after he finished school and had stayed at his cousins' house we went to Devon and Cornwall for a few days. We didn't meet many local people as it was full of tourists like us!! Here's a photo from Lands End. 

We spent another long weekend in Poole in October and then repeated Halloween in Dublin. The strange thing is that most of the time, Marc's Catalan aunt(11 years in Dublin) speaks to Marc in English and he replies in English. Halloween is a big celebration in Ireland and this year we took advantage of the occasion to visit friends, family and the housing estate and the houses I lived in there. I lived in Dublin for 11 years, and he's interested in seeing where I lived.



Non-Native speaking parents   - 
Padres no nativos que quieren hablar en inglés con sus niños. 
1) que tengas un nivel proficiency como mínimo. 
2) que fomentes una actitud positiva hacia la cultura del idioma
3) no dejes de hablarlo y no cambies el idioma. 

I know several parents who are non-native speakers of English who speak to their children in English and their children speak to them in English too. Quite an achievement that some native speaking parents do not even manage.
The idea of identity is more difficult in this case. However, it is still very important to foster a positive attitude towards the culture behind the language. If the parent has learnt English in the UK for example then learning about the UK and contact with the country will help to strengthen the emotional link with the language. Children, once they become teenagers, amy rebel and stop speaking the language as it might seem unnatural to do so. This will depend on the language level and the previous work on showing the positive aspects of speaking the language and link with the language country. And, if the language is a manjor once, it will also be easier.


It is also a good idea to ensure that your language level is high enough to start this life long project in the first place as this will be your communication channel. If you start mixing, the language will liely end up being lost or weakened. Also, you need to keep up your level by continuing to maintain contact with it and continue learning new phrases and vocabulary. The child can only repeat what it learns from you and any films or TV programmes that are watched.

PERSONAL CONFESSION
Although I love having succeeded in raising Marc in English, I would've have loved to have raised him in Spanish if we'd lived in the UK. I would've been more challenging and 'fun' somehow.
It's important not remember that if you're a native speaker in another country, the heritage language is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child.


READING AND WORK MATERIAL 

As mentioned above, I feel that Marc's speaking skills are at a native level for this age. However, he doesn't get as much practice writing and reading as he would in the UK.

THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO. 
The important thing is have a routine and a specific series of books in mind.

WRITING
For writing we're using Carol Vorderman's ENGLISH MADE EASY. some of the book is definitely NOT easy. so, we're using the 7-8 years old one which also builds confidence.


We previously used her SPELLING MADE EASY book. Due to the amount of homework he's now getting, I've had to narrow the choices.


I get him to write and spell as much as possible spontaneously. Fopr example  if  a new word comes up when we are talking I give him the spelling and get him to spell it back to me. It's a continuous process.

READING 
As I've mentioned previously, for young children, there are two types of books: those you read to them (harder) and those they read themselves or to you (easier).

READ TO THEMSELVES
The big change is that he enjoys reading and reads books in English on his own. He currently loves "the Diary of a Wimpy kid".  So this is his self-reader.

READ OUT LOUD
I get him to read out loud to me as I can monitor his progress. We've read Minecraft stories"Diary of a Mincecraft Zombie", and one of the Captain Underpants stories, which I read to him the first time.   We nomrally read for 15 minutes in the car outside the school when I take him. The latest is a  HORRIBLE HENRY book (we've also seen the film). Here's a recent  example (November 2015) . I'm trying to get him to read the sentences with meaning and use the puntuation marks properly.


READ TO THEM
The books you read to them are above their comfortable reading level. We read a non-fiction book, SPILLING THE BEANS on CHARLES DARWIN. There are other books in this series I'd like to read.   Now we're reading a comic from the Adventure Time series, which is different. This time we take it in turns to read the different parts.  He could also read this on his own if he wanted.
this book has a lot of American slang, so I also give him the British English equivalents.
The important thing is to choose books they are interested in to motivate them.


AT SCHOOL
I've also asked the school to make him write more in class and to give him a weekly writing task. So far, this hasn't worked. He is now allowed to read his own English novel rather than the too easy graded reader the rest of the class has to. It's an important concession and one that not many schools are willing to make. In my opinion having a native speaker child reading 'baby' books and learning colours and names of animals is demotivating and even insulting.






SUMMER 2015 8 YEARS OLD / VERANO 2015 8 AÑOS


SUMMER 2015

Once again we repeated the two previous years. I took Marc to Poole in the UK after he finished the Spanish school year and he went to his cousin's local state school.

He was put in his older cousin's class (the year above) as the school preferred him to go with his cousin and a teacher who already knew him. As this was only for 3.5 weeks it wasn't a problem and at the end of every school year the classes are more 'relaxed'.

He said he enjoyed the classes and was able to keep up. although being in a year higher made it more difficult.

When he's in Poole for the summer he often picks up phrases. This year it was 'literally', as in "we were literally there all day", or with 'actually and 'basically' all in the same sentence'. Actually he was literally beating all the other boys at football basically. The point here is that children only really pick up this language if they mix with native kids in the home country. Accent wise, he picked up less of a Dorset accent as his standard southern English accent is now very stable and assimilated.

As I've said in previous blog entries, any European citizen can send their children to a state school in the UK. The main problem is accommodation. If you can sort this out and combine it with a holiday, the experience is very worthwhile for the child, although the child must have a level that permits them to participate in the classes.

SCHOOL IN THE UK.  Should you or shouldn't you? 

The advantages of 3 or 4 more weeks in a UK school after Spanish school term has finished far outweigh the disadvantages. The linguistic and cultural gains are invaluable. The question is if parents are willing or able to make the 'sacrifice' to allow this to happen.

For the Irish option, due to the holidays there, you'd have to do the last week of August and the first ones in September.
Outside Saint Joseph's school in Parkstone, Poole at the end of June 2015 with his older and younger cousins.








martes, 2 de junio de 2015

7 1/2 years old New Term September 2014 - January 2015 - New Stage .Nueva Etapa

After the summer I needed to think about a new plan. The main thing to take into account is the age of the child and their potential.
A developmental leap
I've noticed a developmental change in him as he moves from  small child' to young boy in the way he thinks and behaves. The typical change from 6-8 years old. For example, he has serious doubts about Santa Claus and the other Spanish / Catalan Christmas characters. This means that you have to find more challenging tasks and activities for them. He's now starting to understand plays on words and jokes. Following up on a Knock Knock joke in an English Book, we found many more on internet which he found funny and likes repeating:
Knock Knock jokes on an internet site
Speaking level. Playing games with the language
As mentioned before, he sounds native and his level of English shows all the features of a bilingual native speaker. I add 'bilingual' because there will always be an influence from the languages in both directions, sometimes voluntary and sometimes not. Sometimes a word will come to your head in one language and not the the other. These lapses are normal. I get them sometimes in either language!
This has happened in restaurants where he didn't have a word he wanted in Catalan or Spanish. "Daddy, how do you say 'dessert' in Spanish?" The amount of exposure to English from myself as well as Cartoon Network and related children's video and YouTube videos on Minecraft means that he speaks English naturally adding American words and phrases due to a lot of exposure through the above.
Inevitably, swear words appear and that's something he picked up in England last summer and from me! Phrases like "Flipping hell, it was freezing in painting class tonight!" appear.
We also try and find words that rhyme when we are speaking in a playful way which enriches his language.   For example. Me:  "Marc, I sold something on eBay and I thought .... no way" Marc: " No way but you sold it today .... far away...   Me: You say!   etc... it's spontaneous and something you'll either do or you won't, a bit like singing! If you do it, you'll really boost their level, if you don't, then that's a pity.

To get children to speak fluently give them as much exposure and practice as possible which means getting involved with their activities and playing with them!! There's no secret. The more the better. And gently correct through reformulating their phrases (repeating back what they said in the correct way).
ACCENT
You can also hear your own phrase and accent coming back to them (although without enough exposure, the children will not pick up the native parent's accent.
In the my case I've relaxed my pronunciation and "allowed" southern English features to enter my speech which I hear Marc using, such as missing of the 'h' between words. Daddy, come' rer (here). I can't find i' (it). He actually pointed this out to me this morning. He seems to have an above average ability to mimic people and imitate sounds, and this is one of the reasons he speaks with an English accent and children with similar language exposure don't.
I was reminded of this in a company I teach in. The receptionist (with an English mum) was born and brought up here, yet speaks with a perfect English accent. She pointed out that her brother speaks English with a Spanish accent. Individual differences can account for this.
In this next video you see me interacting with him as he plays on the minecraft game. Some of the above 'relaxed' features are present. Can you hear them? In one case I overcompensate with a strong iT. !!!


Next I speak about another VERY important learning area.

MORE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF READING
We had finished the Oxford Reading Tree series up to Level 8. This is VERY RECOMMENDED.
It gives parents an easy to follow course, and you can see the progress as the child advances through the levels.  Once they finish level 8 they are ready to read other types of simple children's books on their own. I decided to reread the Mister Men series. I had read them to him when he was younger and from September he started to read them back to me!! It was a good from a psychological point of view, and I pointed out what he was doing.  We read "Space and Planets" from the Jackdaws Anthologies pack (stage 8-9), and he's found that quite easy.
 To try something different we're now reading a Minecraft Novel especially written for children as he's a big fan of the internet game. The idea is to find books that are motivating as well as educational.
We may try more from the Oxford series at a higher level. He's on track for his age level but not above. At the same time he's also studying Catalan and Spanish, so slower progress in English is to be expected. This is why you absolutely must make an effort and get children to read as often as you can.
According to the Oxford Reading tree scale, he should be reading Stages 10-11. Check out this useful site for further information.
https://www.readingchest.co.uk/book-bands   
It's also good to read to them, for example at bedtime and get into that habit. We've just finished Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory and The Glass Elevator. In the end, they'll read these books themselves.

FURTHER ENGLISH - SPELLING AND GRAMMAR
I've also learned about having to be flexible and change the plan. I really like the Carol Vorderman series of books - Also VERY RECOMMENDED  for the same reasons as the Oxford Reading Tree.

I started using ENGLISH MADE EASY  for 7-8 year olds (he completed the previous book level) but he found it hard and it was demotivating. I also think some of the exercises are for older children, e.g. homphones, homographs, editing and proof-reading. This is also because he finds writing  hard and it's the area I'm finding the most challenging to get him to improve.
REWARDING THEM
So, I went back to SPELLING MADE EASY for ages 6-7 which he finished quickly and we're now doing SPELLING MADE EASY for 7-8 year olds which he also finds quite easy, and he's feeling motivated again. The books have stars to stick into columns. When he completes a column I get him a reward like a ten pin bowling game or a toy he wants. It's important to actually keep your promise!
 After we've finished these books we'll try the ENGLISH MADE EASY 7-8 again, . I get him to write as much as possible when the exercise asks for it, but it's a struggle sometimes, often because he's tired after school.

In a later blog entry, I'll talk about using other Carol Vorderman series books: Science and Maths.
In the video you can hear a short clip of him reading in the restaurant.

The picture below shows the Minecraft book and the SPELLING MADE EASY 7-8. We did a few pages of each after school this week. We're working on him reading in a more natural manner. If you're not teaching them to read and write in English and they go to schools where there is little English, they will fall behind. English spelling needs a lot of work. Give the children the time they deserve!!


Minecraft novel and English
Spelling Made Easy
 

 
An Oxford Reading Tree and The Mr Men and Little Miss series that he has read
 
The books from the Carol Vorderman series we've been using.





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

lunes, 1 de junio de 2015

Jan -MAY 2015 up to 8TH BIRTHDAY / mayo 2015 - hasta los 8 años

Summary
I describe aspects of his language acquisition up to his 8th birthday in May and
give some ideas, opinions and reminders about how to guarantee progress and
how to avoid mediocrity. I also talk about the internet and bad language.
And I talk again about:
 PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS and
 PLANNING AN ENGLISH SUMMER.

Resumen
Hablo de sus progresos hasta su 8 cumpleaños y doy mis opiniones sobre escuelas internacionales privadas, como estudiar de verdad en Inglaterra y como optimizar la adquisición y  evitar la mediocridad. Trato también el uso del internet y palabrotas.


LANGUAGE LEARNING 

As children get older they will continually surprise you with opinions, language and knowledge that you don't know the origin of ! Once they've passed the 'magical' belief age of 6-7, one can start to notice more mature conversation, languge and opinions. Here's what's been happening in from January to May this year with some relevant language issues that have appeared.

Establishing routines
More than ever I feel that having established learning routines has been one of the key strategies in Marc reaching native trilingualism.
Here are some ideas.
PLANNING to be WITH your Child(ren) (Language Contact Time). and not confusing extra work with being an obsessive parent who 'hothouses' their child. 
Look at you schedule for the week and write the times you're going to be with them.
In the my case I've reserved Monday and Wednesday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons with Marc. Fridays are more difficult and are only possible when I don't have classes.
On Mondays and Wednesday mornings, we get to school 20 minutes early and I get him to read our current story out loud and then we discuss it and go over any new language.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to a cafe and have a chat about his day and have a snack. They we'll often do a few pages from a Carol Vorderman book. We finished the spelling book and are now working through the Science book.
Children really do need lots of practice spelling in English. And Marc is no exception. We s¡finished it in time for his 8th birthday, which was the goal


In the evenings, as well as playing a game with him, anything from chess, Ludo (Parchis) football or Scalextric, we watch his favourite Cartoon Networks programmes: Adventure time, Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, etc. and suitable children's films or series on DVD.
And every night I get him ready and put him to bed. And if he's not too tired I read him a book that is above his reading level.

INTERNET  and bad language!!
Like most youngsters, Marc has already got the hang of finding his favourite sites on the internet, namely, Minecraft and related tutorials, Adventure Time and related sites, a game site for kids in English: Friv (he got this from his Computer clases at school), and there have been some less aceptable choices that he found, such as 'yo' mama..', as in yo' mama is so stupid she gave back a doughnut because it had a whole in it."

I've made a point of him always using English speaking sites only, which he does.
However, many videos come up on YouTube and he's picked up some swear words.  This has been dealt with in many other Bilingual books, and as they say, it's inevitable that they'll pick uyp bad language either from internet, films (if chosen poorly) and especailly from school. I stress that he should NOT use bad language AT ALL, and he does use euphemisms such as this is flipping hard.

The Internet needs monitoring, but as much as you do at home, you can't control devices that come into school. This is a new problem that needs solutions.

ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTION

1. Extra Reading and 'academic' work, etc in English outside school is obsessive.

Sadly, I've heard parents say that this sounds obsessive. However, if you actually look at the time spent on reading (20 mins two or three times a week) and spelling or Science (twice a week), it's very little BUT very necessary if you're really serious about your child making progress. Also, some parents think reading is something unpleasant!

Reading and learning are fun. Or at least, treat it like that and your children will think the same. If they ever feel really tired, you don't have to force anything on them. The problem in the end is the parent feeling either uninterested, too tired or too stressed. . Most books on bilingualism are written by teachers or linguists and obviously it's easier for us as it's our 'vocation'. But, I really have to make a very big effort sometimes too.

If you want your child to learn the language WELL, you need to spend time with them and instill routine and a minimum of discipline,  something which many parents seem unable or unwilling to do.  You even need to think about reducing hours at work and earning less!! Think of your priorities.
 The other option is mediocrity.ie. doing little and seldom and being blasé and inconsistent in using English. Medicrity breeds mediocrity. Be aware and don't fall into the ridiculous  discipline = cruelty trap. You can be firm but fair.  If something is worth doing, then do it well.

ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTION 2. 
Why do they need any extra English at School if they already speak English with their parents?

Some parents have asked me why Marc needs to learn subjects in English at School if he already seems like a native speaker. This is a bit like asking why children in England learn subjects in English at school!

It depends on what you want for your child. If you want them to be proficient in say, Science in English, then studying it in Catalan or Spanish isn't going to meet that objective. Also, most parents don't have time to teach their child every subject in another language at home. Another point is that learning a language is a lifetime activity and isn't like learning to ride a bicycle. You can't say, "ok, their level is good enough today and will be like that forever, let's just speak in Spanish from now on!" This "language is like learning to ride a bicycle" concept is difficult for some people to get rid out.  I've even Heard of children who arrived in Spain from the USA with a native level not speaking English ever again due to no exposure. Language really is that fickle.

The 'secret' is the following: Proficiency for bilinguals or trilinguals is a continuous process. Yes, it's hard work. So, keep your expectations in step with reality. The less they do, the worse they'll get.

ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTION 3 
If they make mistakes in the weaker language they shoud stop speaking it.
Some teachers and even Doctors (who shouldn't give an opinion on this), believe that children would be better off as monolinguals. Normally they are monolinguals themselves.
 Being a bilingual is a trade-off in some sense. You'll never be absoutely perfect in two languages,and I'm thinking Spanish - Catalan as a good example.
Marc still occasionally uses the wrong word in English due to the influence of Catalan, and so do many adults.  BUT, the 'errors' are a small sacrifice for the large return of speaking two or three languages. The advantages are huge and it's only lack of knowledge in this area that causes the erroneous and misinformed opinions. I hope this blog helps fill the gaps.

PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS - Do non-native kids really learn English and is it worth sending your English speaking child there?
Spanish parents who send their non-native kids to private "International" schools, wonder if they will learn English. My own experience at Agora, Sant Cugat is that by the time they are 8, they can understand normal conversation for their age. I remember one of Marc's friends who came to stay when he was 6 year's old. He told me to speak in Spanish as he didn't understand me! However, fast forward two years and this time he understood me and even replied in English. And he doesn't have a gift for language.  The level they reach will depend on their own natural learning ability. However, whatever their natural level, they will certainly reach a much higher level than the state schools with perhaps an hour or less of English a week.
 
As I said above, the subjects taught through English are very useful for English children as well, and supplement what an English parent can teach them. It's great to discuss Marc's science class with him after school, which is taught be an American teacher.

 Agora is also well known in Spain as one of the best schools for both gifted children and special needs children, eg. with dyslexia. It's strong in its 'humanitarian' focus unlike some other private schools that tend to see children as  'clients' only.    

Sometimes, I feel that discipline in the classrooms could be better, and this is something that needs addressing in many private schools that may feel they don't want to lose their 'clients'.
 
     I strongly recommend Agora for both English native and non-native parents. It is usually ranked in the top 5 in Spain, which is a good sign in itself.

PLANNING THE SUMMER
As with previous summers, I'll be taking Marc to the UK to study the last month of the school year at his cousins' school. It has always worked out well, and he's actually looking forward to it.
The cultural and linguistic experience is second to none. Please see my previous summer entries about contacting the local council to get your child a place at a state school in the UK and my account of his experience.

Once again, the 'obsessive and cruel' parent brigade will criticise this. In the end, it's more about the parent not being willing to make the effort to plan this more than the child not wanting to do this. They'll have an amazing experience that they'll want to share with you.  Most children will attend Summer Camps or English intensive courses anyway. In the UK, the last month of the year is far more relaxed and usually includes excursions. They also finish at 3pm.

If you're really interested in your child reaching native level, then spending time in the UK is the best option as all the children who have done this have shown.






viernes, 26 de septiembre de 2014

7 years old - After the summer ¿Vale la pena que pasan tiempo en Gran Bretaña? Septiembre 2014

Resumen
Marc pasó un total de  7 semanas en Inglaterra entre su abuela y sus primos. Estuvo el último mes del año escolar en el colegio de sus primos.
Comento a continuación los pros y las contras que he encontrado y de enviar un niño a un colegio  en el  extranjero.
Summary
Marc spend a total of 7 weeks in England between his grandmother and his cousins. He attended the last month of the school year in his cousins' primary school.
I'll discuss the pros and cons that I found and of sending a child to a school abroad in the summer

Marc completed a full month in a primary school in Parkstone, Dorset. If you live in Spain you can take advantage of the UK school year that finishes around the 24th July. Therefore they can attend school from the last week of June.
The advantages of this are the incredible opportunities for the child to get massive exposure by  learn subjects through English. His teachers were very pleased with his learning and commented on the fact that it must be difficult to learn in English if he normally goes to school in Catalan/ Spanish.
 Although it's certainly true that learning in more tan one language presents a challenge, it depends on how well you prepare your child for learning in British school. As he already does three subjects in English at his Catalan school, this is not new. Also, we read every day in English, try and do as much writing as possible and in general he gets 3 hours interactive speaking with me every day plus much more at the weekend.
The question that comes up is "Isn't it "cruel" for them to go back to school in the summer?"
It's a question of weighing up the pros and cons. If you want your child to reach a native level of English it's nearly essential. Also, school is till 3pm and the end of term in Britain is not as hard as the rest of the year with school trips and other less "academic" activities. And if you are both working parents then you need to send your child to some form of holiday club.
It depends on the parent's attitude to parenting and what they consider 'cruel' is.
In the end, I've realised that the vast majority of heritage language speaking parents are just not that interested in their children speaking their language or speaking it well. And I can't expect other parents to be as interested and 'fascinated' as I am. I just feel sorry for the kids who are missing out on a great opportunity.


The challenges for sending your child to your country are of course cost in the end. That includes having someone to do the childminding and take them to school. Getting into the school takes a bit of effort, but is 'merely' a bureaucratic process.
The child may also complain. But, as said above, most children need to receive some form of childcare. And if you add an incentive gift or holiday on completion of the schooling then that makes it easier to accept for them. Marc missed having his toys and things around him and the familar surroundings of home. We'll be thinking over what we did this year and seeing how we can 'improve' in any way the following summer. But, we are definitely planning on repeating the experience.
I made a lightening weekend trip back and surprised him by picking him and his cousins up from school. We also kept in touch by Skype and phone and his mother was in the UK with him for several weeks so, he didn't miss us too much.


Language Progress and lapses and why this is normal
Marc sounds English and again picked up many characteristics of the local children's speech during the stay as well as words and phrases that children use (not me!).
In general, I don't find that he has any problems expressing himself in English, and probably finds it easier to talk about certain subjects in English than in Catalan due to speaking to me. e.g. various sports and games.
Now and again he has certain lapses in both languages. Sometimes the easiest of words that just didn't come to him. He asked me "How do you say 'dessert' in Spanish? He talks to waiters in Spanish normally! And "How do you say 'green pen'?" Parents who are against bilingualism would use this as an argument, but are ignorant of the fact that this is normal even for monolinguals. A Word just doesn't come to your head. It's not because you don't know it. Just this week in a conversation I couldn't remember the work "acera" (pavement) in a conversation, even though I've used it hundreds of times.
He's used 'observe' instead of 'check this out' or 'look', which is the catalán or Spanish equivalent. In the end, it's a process and any small lapses along the way are more than justified to be bi or trilingual.

  The cultural part of a visit to a country shouldn't be ignored. We coincided with the 30th Annual Robin Hood Festival norht of Nottingham. He was fascinated with an old man pretending to be a wizard. He had plenty of conversations with people at the fair. It was worth the 'effort'.


 
 

sábado, 12 de julio de 2014

7 years old - English School JULY 2014 in England / Julio 2014 Ir a una escuela en Inglaterra

Como asistir a una escuela pública en el Reino Unido  (English summary below)
Tal y como lo habíamos planificado, fui con Marc a Bournemouth el 23 de junio para organizar su estancia en la escuela pública donde van 2 primos suyos. Acaban el curso escolar el 23 o 24 de julio en RU. Por tanto los niños, en España por ejemplo, pueden asistir durante un mes.

Recuerda que los ciudadanos del EU pueden asistir a una escuela pública en el Reino Unido de forma gratuita. La pega más grande es el alojamiento cuando no tenemos familiares ni amigos que les cuide durante la estancia. Por lo tanto, necesitarás alojamiento y que un padre esté con el niño.  En nuestro caso tanto mi madre como mi hermana y familia están en la misma ciudad. Aún así, tanto mi mujer como yo estamos unas semanas durante su estancia para acompañarle en los primeros días y para los últimos días.
Hay algunos padres que dicen que no es 'justo' que el niño haga entre 3 ó 4 semanas adicionales en una escuela normal. En Inglaterra la jornada es de 9 - 15.15h aproximadamente. Y a partir de finales de junio las clases son más relajadas. Además hay excursiones unos días. Hacen también música, plástica y Educación física. A los padres que trabajan y les interesa que los niños aprendan un idioma, tendrán que asistir a un curso intensivo o a un Casal o a un campamento de verano. Aunque juguen más en un Casal, la verdad es que si quieres que aprendan inglés como nativos además de vivir otra cultura y que hagan amigos en otro país es la opción más viable y eficaz y de sobras compense el 'sacrificio'. Aunque Marc ya tiene un nivel nativo bilingüe, su inglés siempre mejora aún más durante la estancia y aprende temas en asignaturas que no hace en Ágora. Está muy contento y feliz durante su estancia.
Como hacerlo - Unas soluciones en verano si os interesa
Quería destacar las opciones que no sea la tradicional "curso de inglés en el extranjero" para niños a partir de las 11-12 años con un bajo nivel de inglés. Dependerá del nivel las opciones que hagan.  Si el niño tiene un nivel alto,sacará mucho partido en un curso en una escuela 'normal' para niños del país.
1) A partir de los 12 años hay empresas como NEW LINK que ofrecen una inmersión en Instituto en ciudades como Southampton donde asisten a clases con nativos (pregúntame si te interesa). Hay como mucho 3 españoles por clase y no se mezclan. La duración es de 3 semanas en julio. En Irlanda se puede hacer lo mismo, pero por el calendario escolar, tiene que ser a partir de la última semana de agosto. El coste es de 2500€ aprox.

2) Hasta los 11 años hay que acompañarles. Si hacéis 3 semanas de vacaciones en julio 'solo' hay que encontrar alojamiento. Hay empresas que organizan el intercambio de pisos / casas y te saldría gratis.
Si no sois nativos del inglés podrías aprovechar el tiempo asistiendo a cursos de inglés por la mañana! Y por la tarde hay tiempo para ir de compras, hacer turismo, etc...

3) La opción que probamos cuando tenía 5 años era el CASAL inglés o Holiday Club para los padres que trabajan. Es como en España pero a partir de la última semana de julio cuando el año académico acaba. No son gratis pero son privados y por tanto no hay que contactar con los ayuntamientos para pedir plaza.
Mirad las entradas en este Blog para julio/ verano 2012 y 2013 para más detalles.



La clase de Marc con sus profesores (está a la izquierda delante de la profesora). Marc's class with his teachers in the school (seated on the left in front of the teacher) 

Marc hizo una excursión a Swanage en un tren de vapor con su clase.
Marc on the school trip to Swanage, including a steam train, ice cream and Punch and Judy show.
July 2014 - School
Marc has gone back to his cousin's school again, but this year he's in a class for his age, whereas last year we felt that the children were a bit older. I've prepared him all year with reading and writing activities and some maths so that he'd fit in and would be able to keep up in class.
 The last few weeks of the year are more relaxed than the rest of the year but still include maths and English as well as art, music, PE and school trips.
People say it's hard or "unfair" on the child to continue school after they finish in Spain. However, most children do some sort of summer school or camp, and many do English courses. The school day ends at 3.15pm so there's a lot of time to play. And we shouldn't conceptualise 'school' as being boring or not fun. Learning is brilliant!   
If you really want your child to be a native bilingual, there is no better option than a long stay in the UK, Ireland, The States, etc. especially if they can attend a normal school, holiday club or summer camp with native speaker children only.  Many parents will avoid this due to the effort and organization involved and required.  Our personal experience is that the benefits for language proficiency and experiencing and learning about the culture first hand  far outweigh any disadvantages.  You've never had it easier. The blog contains all the inside information and everything you need to bring up bilingual / trilingual children. There may be a financial cost and time and effort required but giving them the gift of two languages and cultures is priceless. It's up to you.

domingo, 11 de mayo de 2014

UPDATE REPORT MAY 2014 - 6 years 11 months

Resumen. en este post actualizo el progreso de Marc desde principios de 2014 hasta su 7 cumpleaños en mayo 2014. Repaso las actividades pedagógicas y lúdicas que hace en inglés e incluyo comentarios sobre la visita de 2 sobrinos y mi madre en semana santa.
Recuerda que explico mi situación particular en inglés viviendo en Cataluña, pero podrías usar las técnicas e ideas para cualquier combinación de idiomas.
Summary. In this post I give an update on Marc's language progress from the beginning of 2014 until his 7th birthday in May 2014. I go over the teaching and fun activities I'm doing with him in English and talk about the visit from his grandmother and niece and nephew at Easter.

General overview
He seems extremely comfortable in English, speaking fluently and accurately with an English accent and also playing in English on his own. He prefers his favourite television programmes in English, and when we stayed in a hotel recently he asked to change the language to English on the Spanish channel Boing.  This is no accident of course, as I've insisted on all TV programmes and films he watches at home being shown in English, and I also imagine that he does this as he expects I want it like this. If we 'have to' watch a sports event with a Spanish or Catalan commentary we do our own commentary in English!

School
He'll be finishing year 1 primary in June. Agora International school is a useful supplement for the children of English speaking parents  as there are 3 subjects taught in English as well as English itself.  This year there's an American boy and two English girls with whom he speaks to in English.
Despite the cost, due to the English input and the high standards of its academic, sports and cultural syllabus as well as the importance given to good behaviour and moral ethics in society, we find the fees justifiable. Only Europa Sant Cugat comes close to being an 'effective' choice for English parents.

Creating a language island at home for the heritage language can't be overstressed. If you are serious about your child speaking another language, the home should be associated with the target language and should act as a linguistic trigger the moment the children (and the adults) walk in the door. It's an environment we can control and we should take advantage of this. Don't waste the opportunity, especially when they are young.

INPUT
TV and Films
Without overdoing it we let him watch children's TV everyday combining this with traditional games and toys. The one important change is his 'migration' and preference from BOOMERANG with Scooby Doo, Mr Bean and Tom & Jerry (not much talking) and Looney Tunes to CARTOON NETWORK (CN) which has programmes with a content for older children although there's some overlap. I've tried to get him interested in CN before but he wasn't that interested. In the end, the child chooses what he or she wants to watch but it's worth trying the other channels to give them a taste.

The programmes on CN have a higher linguistic input. Examples are Gumball, Uncle Grandpa, Ben 10 and Johny Test. They are all American with the occasional English carácter. Normnaly a baddie!
Don't underestimate the importance of these programmes as the passive input becomes active output if you give the child enough opportunities to talk to you.
We have a subscription with SKY to get more children's programmes.

Computer
It seems that all of a sudden he's computer savvy and very soon we're going to have to control his use of internet! He is able to look for programmes and songs he likes on YouTube.
He likes Minecraft and has become more efficient at using it with help from his 8 year old cousin.
The names of the materials appear when you hover the mouse over them and I get him to read them and also get him to tell me about what he's doing.

 Watch actively
If you watch the programmes and the computer games with them rather than using them as a 'babysitter' then you get more interaction and it all becomes less passive. Ask questions: " What's going to happen next?" "Why didn't they use that weapon?!"  "Do you think aliens really exist?!"



BOOKS and Writing
We've been following the Oxford Book tree series as before and have just started level 9. These are books he reads out loud. We often do the Reading outside the school in the car in the mornings I can take him and at the weekend.
 I realise that I'm finding it hard to get him to write. So, we're using Carol Vordermann's ENGLISH Key Stage 1 course for 6-7 year olds to get him used to writing and spelling. We do a page at a time and he gets a Star to stick on the exercises he's finished. We done about 8 pages so far. I try to make it as fun as possible as he's not enthusiastic about doing it!!
Thirdly, I'm Reading a Geronimo Stilton book to him which I do most nights. This is at a level above his own Reading ability, and also introduces new vocabulary and interesting facts.


Language Progress
In the beginning I was adding all the new language he was acquiring but now it's difficult as he has a consolidated language store equivalent to an average native speaker of his age. He's adding new phrases and words to his lexis all the time from the sources mentioned above. I sometimes add idioms or proverbs that come to my head: "Every cloud has a silver lining" (no hay mal que por bien no venga). And I repeat them a few times and we talk about what they mean. The 'errors' he makes are either typical for a monolingual native speaker , e.g irregular past tense verbs, superlative adjectives (I noticed this in his older cousin), or he sometimes translates phrases directly from Spanish or Catalan which I pick up on and unlike a year ago I now deal with them overtly and directly such as:
"in English we'd say xxxx ". Remember that due to lower input you need to give some feedback, but never do it in a negative way.

VISIT FROM FAMILY
His 8 year old and 11 year old cousins visited at Easter and he played with them a lot, everything from football, playground activities, toys, Minecraft, watching cartoons together, etc. the extra exposure from children really helps and probably contrast with my more adult imput. He asked me what 'instantly' meant, which his cousin had used. I was surprised as I thought we'd used it but maybe I never do! Thus, multiple inputs are important!

SUMMER
He'll be going to his cousins' primary school in England for the last 4 weeks of the term, which finishes on 23 or 24th July in England. EU children have the right to attend the state schools in the UK. The main handicap for parents is organising acommodation and care of course. the experience itself is unbeatable. Through my school www.advantagelanguages.com we can organise 3 weeks in an English secondary school with accommodation (from 12 years old).

If you have any questions please feel to let me know.





jueves, 30 de enero de 2014

NEW TERM SEPTEMBER 2013 TO NEW YEAR 2014 - 6 years to 6 1/2

RESUMEN: Aquí hago un resumen de los progresos de Marc desde el inicio del nuevo año escolar, septiembre 2013 hasta el año nuevo 2014.  Sigue mejorando sus expresiones en inglés, cada vez más sofisticadas. Ha llegado al nivel 8 de la serie Oxford Reading Tree. Hablo de nuevo sobre la importancia de la lectura y de escribir.
Entre otras cosas, hablo también de como organizar tus horarios para poder pasar suficiente tiempo con el niño.
Y, hablo de unas personas no nativas españolas que están criando sus niños en inglés.

I've noticed a couple of things. First, Marc is thinking in a more mature way, although he's still in the fantasy world of Father Christmas, etc.... He's also become more independent. All signs that he's growing up!
I'm not writing down everything he's saying theses days, mainly because he talks too much! His language development in all 3 languages is normal for a trilingual given the different levels of exposure. He's improving in Spanish through playing with other children. Neither Catalan or Spanish are of concern as he lives in Catalonia! In terms of English he still plays and even counts in English out loud at home with the occasional exclamation in Catalan or sometimes Spanish!
The errors in all 3 languages are 'normal' for trilinguals with direct translations being the most common.
 In English he uses phrasal verbs perfectly and has incorporated idioms and sayings into his speech: "Daddy, I beat you by the skin of my teeth." (por los pelos). As mentioned in previous blogs he picks up phrases from the televisión. From "Miranda" on the BBC he Heard the phrase to "Let the cat out of the bag" (descubrir el pastel), and tonight he spontaneously used it, although not exactly right. So, what I do now is explain new words or phrases as any teacher or some parents would. Also, notice in the video below the way he says the Word "Wall" which reminds him of the idiom, "and the writing's on the wall for Daddy" (señal de advertencia).

We still try and watch TV only in English when he's at home. He still likes Boomerang, so I'm suffering Scare School, The Pink Panther and Tom and Jerry (not much speaking though), and Scooby Doo. We've tried other channels but he knows what he wants for his age!

I've been working through the Oxford Reading Tree series, and this week he completed the last book of Level 7, and has moved onto Level 8. It's interesting to compare Stage 1+ with Stage 8. They still have large pictures but now have more text and a smaller Font ( see below).


The important thing is to be consistent and to have a goal. In the end he's been reading a book every 2 weeks. I also read books to him: e.g The Mister Men and Geronimo Stilton. In these cases I try and get him to read a word or two per page.
I've had a very heavy work schedule so finding time to be with him has been hard. However, I always try to build in time with him at least once a day for several hours or more. And much more at the weekends. If you can find things that you both like doing together then it's easy: e.g. a sport or hobby.
It can be an effort sometimes but the rewards for your child are enormous. What doesn't work though is the absent parent or the silent one. Since they need language contact you have to speak!


I have received emails from parents, some of whom are not native speakers asking for advice. Please send me an email if you need help! This month I met a mother (R.P) who is Spanish with a post Proficiency level of English who has successfully brought up her daughter (4) speaking English. And in fact we had the opportunity to meet and for the children to play together, which they did 100% in English. The girl speaks fluently and with a Spanish accent. This is natural and in fact the vast  majority of children with a native speaking parent also speak with the dominant language accent. So, don't be put off by imperfections. See it as learning a foreign language and not as trying to imitate a native speaker.   It's an amazing gift that you are giving the child. I would recommend that parents have at least a proficiency level of English and to keep improving their English as much as possible!
I've spoken about the cultural references of the heritage language: English in this case, and the links to the 'mother' country. This is obvioulsy not the case if you are Spanish. However, since language often has cultural references it can be  useful to teach children something about the country: e.g. The UK, Ireland, the USA, etc...
For example, in Autumn children have fights using chestnuts on strings, called "conkers", so Conker fights. This is one way of passing on the associated vocabulary and customs of a country. Here's a video showing Marc beating me! He's also wearing an English rugby top, further reinforcing the connection with the language country. Even if you're Spanish you could try this!

 
 
Marc has been accepted at this cousin's school in England again for 4 weeks from the end of June. Find out how they can learn more natural English abroad in my next post.