YouTube as a resource for language learning

As well as off-colour clips of puking pets and teenage narcissists and that ‘Leave Britney Alone’ clip, YouTube is a great hunting ground for foreign language videos in practically any language and there’s plenty to capture the imagination of the budding bilingual baby.

It’s easy to find modern cartoons and children’s programmes but also some seriously old school stuff. Lidia has found some interesting shows she hasn’t seen since childhood. I’ve recently learned that some of my favourite childhood cartoon shows – like Dogtanian and Willy Fogg - were actually created in Spain and only later dubbed into English.

Here’s Dogtanian – AKA Dartacan – in the original language!

Many new devices now allow you to view YouTube videos on your TV, from things like the Apple TV
to Windows Media PCs. Turning a computer into a home media centre is now a pretty popular thing to do, storing all your music and movies in one place and surfing the internet, including popular video sites, from the sofa.

Before to access loads of foreign language TV, you needed to be a bit of a satellite TV buff and have your dish pointing towards the right bit of the Sky. I can see a day when the traditional TV broadcast will be a thing of the past and you will be able to bring up pretty much any film or TV show on your internet-linked TV or PC from any country, in any language. The internet makes it trivial to access Spanish media.

Looking for bilingual baby sitters?

One thing Lidia and I are trying to remember is that raising our daughter is not some ‘personal project’ to elevate her against her peers in some kid of horrible competition. We see it as vital for to to fully access both sides of her culture, which will enable her to have more choices and richer experiences later.

Of course, in our case, we have two native tongues – Papa speaks English, Mama Spanish – but some parents may be have reasonable fluency in another language and want to pass on what they know sooner rather than later when little one is most alive to language acquisition. One trend in the US, picked up by the New York Times, are parents who do not speak another language to any fluency themselves but are seeking ways to expose their children to different language early on:

When Maureen Mazumder enrolled her daughter, Sabrina, in a Spanish singalong class a year ago, she hoped it would be the first step in helping her learn a second language. But the class did not seem to do the trick, so Ms. Mazumder decided to hire a baby sitter, one who would not only care for her daughter but also speak to her exclusively in Spanish.

Ms. Mazumder, whose daughter is nearly 3, has company. Although a majority of parents seeking caretakers for their children still seek ones who will speak to their children in English, popular parenting blogs and Web sites indicate that a noticeable number of New York City parents are looking for baby sitters and nannies to help their children learn a second language, one they may not speak themselves.New York Times

Is it a good idea? Why not! Anything that exposes children to another language, whether its foreign babysitters, foreign films or music can only help develop an enthusiasm or awareness.

Lidia, who is highly fluent in French, is keen to expose little one to that language, perhaps a little French, German and Russian too, languages with while she also has some knowledge.

Are you a parent with fluency or perhaps no fluency in a language that you are trying to teach your child? Leave a comment and let us know what techniques you are using.

Does bilingualism protect the brain?

Many pieces of scientific research have suggested that keeping the mind active can play a part in guarding against mental decline in old age. Everything from crossword puzzles to read books has been suggested as good ways to achieve this positive effect.

It’s hardly surprisingly that being bilingual has been said to be another powerful way to protect and strengthen the mind.

Researchers from York University in Canada carried out tests on 104 people between the ages of 30 and 88.

They found that those who were fluent in two languages rather than just one were sharper mentally.

Writing in the journal of Psychology and Ageing, they said being bilingual may protect against mental decline in old age.

The bilingual brain is a powerful one according to research.

The bilingual brain is a powerful one according to research.

It seems that juggling more than one language keeps the mind sharper. Statistics from Wales have shown that Welsh-English bilingual children tend to do better in exams than those who only speak English. The fact that this strengthening of the brain could have long lasting and profound effects is certainly interesting and another reason for enabling our little one to grow up with two languages.

Homeschooling a bilingual child?

A few weeks back we attened a talk on home schooling. Both of us have, for various reasons, become deeply sceptical of the state education system both in terms of its quality and ideological agendas so were intriguigded to
learn more. We had both been influenced by alternative views of education such as ‘unschooling’ and the books of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto.

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