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.
Identity and getting to know the culture
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.