Speaking in Tongues documentary challenges America to think differently about bilingualism

While in multilingual Europe people tend to see fluency in more than one language a distinct advantage, in some countries it can be a political hot potato. Nowhere is this truer than in the United States, where the growth of Spanish speaking in particular has proven controversial.

It’s a common idea that a single official language glues a nation together and that exploring other languages might somehow undermines this. Even progressively-minded people sometimes assume that encouraging bilingualism to flourish among immigrant groups will leave them marginalised and socially disadvantaged. Yet the makers of documentary Speaking in Tongues uncover something very different.

For example, language learning has a positive effect on intellectual growth and cognitive development, improving a child’s understanding of his/her native language and that students in language immersion programs learn to read, write, speak, and listen in English just as well or better as students in all-English programs.

The film begins with an ordinary first day of public school kindergarten – expect the teacher speaks only Chinese to primarily white and Asian American students. They are taking part in a language immersion class, where they receive 90% of their instruction in Cantonese. While this might sound gruelling, the children are clearly curious and enjoying themselves and, remarkably, their school will test first in English and mathematics among the district’s 76 elementary schools.

“Sometimes a small idea has big implications” say the film’s directors Marcia Jarmel & Ken Schneider in a statement. “Consider America’s resolute commitment to remaining an “English only” nation. It turns out that our attitudes about language reflect much bigger concerns: that language is a metaphor for the barriers that come between neighbors, be they across the street or around the world. Our idea in making Speaking in Tongues was to showcase a world where these communication barriers are being addressed.”

Speaking in Tongues follows the linguistic journey of four students: Durrell is a 2nd grader at Starr King Elementary where and his classmates are already reading and writing in Mandarin. 7th grader at Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, Kelly Wong reads and writes both Cantonese and Mandarin. Jason, is maintaining a great grades in middle school, testing above grade level in both English and Spanish. Julian is a sophomore at Lowell High School where he is currently taking the highest level of Chinese offered in the school district. There stories all reveal the potential strength of a multilingual America.

People in the USA can rent the Speaking in Tongues documentary online via Amazon Prime here: Speaking in Tongues (Home/Personal/Nonprofessional Use Only)

To learn more about the documentary, to arrange a screening, visit:

http://speakingintonguesfilm.info

What are iGCSEs and why can they help bilingual families?

iGCSEs are becoming increasingly popular in UK-based bilingual families as a way to gain a language qualification earlier than 16 or as an additional subject outside the school system.

Typically bilingual children are more than capable of passing a GCSE examination earlier or in a language not typically offered by schools. iGSCEs (‘International’ GCSEs) can help by allowing subjects to be studied at home instead.

Books tailored to iGCSE language exams are increasingly common.

Books tailored to iGCSE language exams are increasingly common.

The iGCSE is the world’s most popular international qualification for 14 to 16 year olds and is frequently used in schools overseas with education systems derived from the UK’s or in private international schools used by ex-pats. Like any other GCSE, it is recognised by universities and employers worldwide. The iGSCE is also popular with children that are homeschooled or privately tutored.

Cambridge International Examinations is a major provider of iGCSEs. They offer qualifications in over 70 subjects available at Cambridge IGCSE and 30 of these are languages.

For many of these languages it is possible to either complete the course as a native speaker or as a foreign language learner, so useful for bilingual children who either fancy a challenge or who simply want to convert their second language into an ‘extra GCSE’ easily by choosing the foreign language option.

Although designed for schools, as they are exam-based and do not include coursework, iGCSEs are ideal for home schooling and distance learning. They are ideal for anyone seeking a qualification without having to attend full or part-time classes.

As the iGCSE is assessed by examinations it is often considered to be similar in style to the older O-Levels qualification than to the current GCSE in England, and current government Education Minister, Michael Gove has encouraged more mainstream UK schools to offer them on the basis that examinations are more ‘rigourous’ than courses with a large coursework component.

Remember, the iGCSE itself is merely an examination and qualification. The student will need to follow the syllabus by themselves, perhaps with the aid of their parents, or work with a tutor. If this is a problem there are an increasing number of online distance learning courses from a variety of providers that use the iGCSE and books to guide you through the topics needed to pass.

Are you currently working towards a iGCSE language qualification with your children? Let us know how you’re getting on in the comments.

Bendigedig! Bilingual Welsh eBooks hit the iPad

The big-selling Apple iPad is becoming an increasingly popular way of delivering fun language learning and now Savvy Books and Parthian Books have teamed up to create a new series of bilingual Welsh-English children’s eBooks.

The series helps young readers and their parents share in the joy of learning the Welsh language together. The first eBook, Wedi Dy Weld Di! – Found You Rabbit!, is currently available for download from Apple’s iBookstore. The book is specifically designed for the iPad but will also work on an iPhone or iPod Touch, with a free sample of a few pages available to try before you buy.

Savvy Books’ founder David Clarke said: “Matching the sight of the written word to the sound of the spoken word is fundamental to learning any language. What is so exciting about interactive eBooks is they let family members gain confidence by learning at their own pace, repeating words and sentences as often as needed.”

This book is a fun way for children and parents to learn Welsh together.

This book is a fun way for children and parents to learn Welsh together.

The book was written and illustrated by Hayley Acreman and translated by Welsh author and broadcaster Elinor Wyn Reynolds. It presents an engaging story about two best-friends, Rabbit and Duck, and their adventures in the countryside.

David Clarke from Savvy explains: “All eBooks in the Welsh Alive series highlight each individual word on the screen in perfect synchronization with the audio narration. Any word can be repeated just by tapping on it, and readers can switch back-and-forth between Welsh and English at any time. These are powerful language-learning features for both children and adults.”

The iBook can be downloaded here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/wedi-dy-weld-di!-found-you/id670891399?mt=11

Follow Bilingual Parenting online

If you use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, why not add us to your feeds?

As well as posting links to new content from bilingual parenting.com, we will be posting links to interesting articles on multilingualism from around the globe.

Got something to share? Why not Tweet us now!

https://twitter.com/BilinParenting

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bilingual-Parenting/149843408367320