Children’s theatre in Spanish

Stories and storytelling are very important for children. Of course, they love cartoons, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love theatre or plain story telling better when presented to it. If you have the chance to travel abroad to the country where the language your kids are learning is spoken, find out about local venues for children’s theatre. It’s a great experience.

Screenshot 2014-08-18 09.10.03In Madrid I’ve just discovered a little venue in the centre, Lavapies, called “La Escalera de Jacob“, where they put up small plays for children as well as adults. They have two small stages, and a café upstairs. It’s great if you want to take your child to see a play, but your friend or partner doesn’t feel like going, or he needs to stay upstairs with the baby, as they can stay cosy in the bar upstairs, or sitting outside on the “terraza” during summer.

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Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, the Chinese counterpart of Dora de Explorer

ni-hao-kai-lan-characters-mainImageNi Hao in Mandarin Chinese means hello. I’ve known this ever since I started working for a Taiwanese company many years ago. However, in all my language obsessed mothering years, I’ve never even attempted to teach my children any Chinese, not even as a dinner party joke (look at my cute children, they can dance and say “hello” in Chinese!). But, one day, my eldest daughter (4) looked at me with that mischievous face she has when she’s doing something clever or a bit naughty, and smiling said to me “Ni Hao”. At first, me being me, thought, at my age, my hearing was failing me, and she probably was saying something different that sounded like “hello” in Chinese. [Read more...]

Review: A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker 4th Edition

51+pw1vgunL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_With this new edition, the new classic Colin Baker’s Guide to Bilingualism presents us with answers to the most common questions that parents with bilingual children are faced with. At the same time it introduces new information adapted to the times like bilingualism in the digital age and incorporating the latest research in multilingualism, neonatal language experience, language mixing and the effect of siblings.

The structure of the book is easy to follow, the material is divided in sections that deal with the main aspects of the bilingual family like education, language development, problems, or reading and writing. Each section contains the most common questions that come up among bilingual families and the author’s answers.

All in all, I think Colin Baker’s A Parents’ and Teacher’s’ Guide to Bilingualism is a good basic manual to have for all of those parents to be who are pondering the pros and cons of bringing up their children bilingually. It answers most of the common questions about the subject, and dispels many of the myths.

Review: Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family by Xiao-lei Wang

51yc9AbzaTLRaising bilingual or multilingual children requires dedication and hard work. It also raises an important issue, what to do with Literacy.

It is likely that the children in a multilingual family will attend a school or some form of formal education in the country where they are living, where they will be taught to read and write. The teaching of the home language or heritage language as Xiao-lei Wang refers to it will fall almost exclusively on the parents, even if there is a supplementary school in the heritage language that the children must attend.

In most cases, the teaching and the development of Literacy in the heritage language or languages, the main instruction and assistance will come from the parents themselves. This is a daunting task for most people, especially if they haven’t had any experience in education before, but it is more so when the task takes place in a foreign country and possibly in one or two other languages.

Xiao-lei Wang’s book, Read and Write in the Multilingual Family, is a good manual to accompany you on your multilingual trip. It is informative, giving examples of real case scenarios, but its main strength, in my opinion, is that it is designed as a manual, even giving you tasks and opportunity to reflect on your practice and what you have been doing at the end of every chapter.

The book also includes three sections that deal with different age groups, 0-5 years, 6-11 years and 12 to 18 years. It gives lots of practical ideas for each age group, and it includes bibliographical references with each chapter, giving you the opportunity to learn more about a particular aspect of Literacy development.

It is not often that one finds a book so inspiring, and given that I intend to bring up my children not just multilingual but also multiliterate, I will certainly keep this book close to me throughout my children’s formative years.

Review: Salsa, Spanish resources for children

Learning a foreign language in the family is not an activity exclusive to families with one or two bilingual adults. People who don’t speak a language or who speak it to limited proficiency can also make language learning into a fun activity to do with their children. Nowadays we have many resources at our disposal and thanks to the world wide web you can literally take advantage of resources created on the other side of the world.  [Read more...]

Review: Bilingual Siblings by Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert

bilingual siblingsWhen we had our our first child, as many other bilingual families we wondered how she would take to learning two languages. There is a lot of planning and work in raising successful bilingual children, thing are not that simple, as they are many different factors to consider. After the first child come the second, and for some families a few more. How does the language balance inside the family change with several children, is it easier to maintain the minority language given that there are more potential speakers in the family, or is it even more difficult because children bring in from the school the majority language? [Read more...]

Review: Growing up with Languages by Claire Thomas

One of the problems that bilingual or multilingual families encounter quite often is isolation. They may be living in a world filled with people, work colleagues, classmates, neighbours and family, but quite often they are quite on their own when it comes to being bilingual.

Growing Up with Languages

Growing Up with Languages

Some communities are more diverse than others, and will offer the bilingual family a wealth of resources and support groups that will help them. There may even be quite a few families on the same situation. However, many families will find themselves in a foreign country, or speaking a minority language that is not the norm where they live. Some of us have also chosen to teach their children a third language, that is not a local language where we live.

This is what the book by Claire Thomas, “Growing Up with Languages“, talks about. In the words of Jean-Marc Dewaele from Bircbeck University in London, this book looks at the lives and the trajectories of multilinguals and lets them talk abut their experiences. And Xiao-lei Wang from Pace University, USA adds that the book takes a unique approach in addressing the complexity of multilingual families through the voices of multilinguals.

Growing Up with Languages is a unique tool to get an insight in one go into hundreds of lives of multilinguals. See what they experienced, bad or good, and see their results. Personally, I see it as a way of testing the waters, looking at the different approaches other people have taken and their successes and failures, so it can help me plan better form our future as a multilingual family.

The book is divided in 6 parts:
Different types of family and issues that only affect some kinds of family
Issues at home that will affect most, if not all, families at some time
Education
Language Policies and Politics
Interviewees as Adults
Overall Analysis and Recommendations

Each part also includes different chapters with a summary at the end of each one that helps to bring the ideas together and gives you a general idea of the problems and successes that every family experienced.

As bilingualism is not an exact science, all the information available on the book comes from actual interviews with members of bilingual and multilingual families.

All in all, the book makes for interesting reading material for families who are considering bilingualism or who are already doing it, but need some pointers or are looking for reassurance that they are on the right track. It’s helpful division in parts and chapters means that your time, like that of most other families with kids, is restricted, then instead of reading in order, you can start by those chapters and sections that most interest you.

Let us know if you have read or are reading this book, Growing Up with Languages, what are your ideas?

Has Santa visited you with a new iPad?

fairy-lady-13387787If he has, rejoice yourself, the iPad opens the doors of new and great possibilities of language learning. I am not talking about those tiresome and boring “teach yourself a language” easily and without effort in 5 minutes, but thumping the screen with your index finger, but how real games and resources for native speakers can do the trick for your little ones. [Read more...]

MacSpeech Dictate dictation software for Mac

MacSpeech is pretty incredible software.

We’ve been blogging about how children acquire languages but recently my Apple Macintosh has been also starting to understand words of itself, thanks to MacSpeech Dictate.

MacSpeech dictate is current-generation voice recognition software that listens to your voice and prints your words to the screen. This type of technology has been around for ten years or more but in the early days was more of a gimmick – it made so many errors that even a slow typist may as well have entered the text by hand.

MacSpeech dictate is different however and truly credible way to get words into a computer quickly. You need to spell out things like punctuation, which can slow you down, but when talking in general prose this method is as fast as the best touch-typists.

Before you start using the software you pass through a brief training exercise that simply involves reading text on the screen. This is so MacSpeech can calibrate itself to your voice and individual way of speaking. It continues to learn when you start using it and you can add additional vocabulary, which is useful for specific jargon, brand names and the like.

It also has a practical purpose as M likes to sit on my knee when I work on the computer. With one arm wrapped around baby and a knee jiggling for entertainment I clearly can’t type. MacSpeech solves that problem and, with the supplied headset, doesn’t often get thrown even by the occasional yelps and babbles from baby.

This entire blog speech was written using MacSpeech. If you’re a slow typists or don’t always have the luxury of having both hands free, it’s worth checking out.