Bright, colourful and musical Spanish language learning

Tren de vocalesLong gone are the days of chalky fingers and monochromatic lessons delivered in a monotone voice heavy with the local accent. Just like the monkey-man in 2001 A Space Odyssey set up a long chain of events when he realised that using rock as a tool was a lot cooler than trying to open a coconut with his teeth, language geeks all over felt the Eureka moment when the first computer entered their homes.  [Read more...]

Learning Spanish on a budget, a parent’s approach

lets-play-bingo-1-602195-mNowadays, most people realise the importance of knowing  how to speak a foreign language, and consequently they want their children to have this great gift as well. However, not everybody does speak a foreign language as an adult, are these monolinguals doomed, then, to have monolingual children? [Read more...]

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...]

Four years on… how are we doing?

I am sure that some of you who read our blog come back time and time again to see how we are doing, how are the children coping with the multilingual environment. It could be that you are planning the same, you are unsure of what to expect, you want reassurance there are other people out there doing the same, or you are just curious and want to follow our adventure through time. [Read more...]

It’s the Season to be Jolly…

Merry XmasIt is indeed the Season to be Jolly for those who celebrate Christmas. But of course as every year, I feel that cultural differences are at their peak here. I still find it strange to talk about cultural differences between two European countries so close in space and with so much history in common, but Christmas is lived differently in England and Spain. [Read more...]

Being a new Dad, six months on

Six months on the pace of baby M’s development is astonishing. She’s suprisingly agile and athletic – don’t know where she gets that from – and now just starting to ‘commando crawl’ a little. Arms are longer and able to grab at more objects. We need to be much more vigilant now but she’s now so much more interactive and aware.

She’s superfun and you can begin to teach her silly skills like how to shake a maraca or drum on the tabletop. A reading session with a simple book will hold her attention for quite some time and she’ll stroke the pages and point at the images.

Actually becoming a Dad, while giving a big sense of responsibility, is not quite as stressful as I thought it might be. There’s too much goofy nonsense to entertain us going on, too much outright fun. The only sad thing is having to go to work when M’s at her most energetic and delightful.

M’s just enjoyed her first experience of Spain and the searing summer heat of Madrid. I’m not sure whether her latin genes will make her a sun-seeker or her celtic genes a sun-avoider but she did suffer a little, poor mite.

Although Mama has been speaking to her in Spanish from day one, the rapid faster-and-faster conversations of people in Madrid clearly confused her – as people spoke there was a curious look on her face. She stopped her periodic babbling sessions as if unable to mimic her Spanish relatives like she could her British ones.

The famed latin love of children is no myth. Everyone we met wanted to have a hold of M and she was passed round half the barrio on numerous occasions. That she didn’t seem to mind – loads of extra attention and fun. It’s when everyone’s left the room that the grizzles start. He much older cousins took to a huge shine her and she repaid one by yanking a dangling earring as hard as she could – a hand she can yank with some force now.

Spain was an opportunity to pick up some Spanish children’s books, DVDs and music and she’s certainly enjoying a DVD of Spanish Children’s songs. I’m not sure the telly should be used to babysit a 5-6 month old, but, heck – it’s a way to add in more Spanish back in the UK.

Lidia has hooked up with various bilingual new mums back at home. M has little half-German, half-Russian, half-French chums to interact with. Lidia’s also met some parents who homeschool their children. Foreign people – whether Spanish, French, Polish – who have had any experience of UK state education at all seem quite stunned by the low standards, the lack of respect, the bullying. Poor education seems another ‘UK special’ along with excessive prices for key living costs and binge drinking. It seems foreign parents would have no problem sending their children to the nearest school back home, but here want to homeschool or, if funds allows, go private. It’s rather sad.

It’s a few years off, but the benefits of homeschooling seem to grow bigger in our minds the more we think about it. As there are many networks of homeschooling parents and kids, the detractor’s main argument against it – that children become isolated from their peers – is meaningless. In fact, homeschooled kids seem to interact regularly with a far wider cross section of the community, rather than be couped up in arbitrary age groups.

In terms of bilingual learning, we’ve largely used the ‘one parent, one language’ method with M so far, although I’ll quite often use my intermediate Spanish with her just for fun and because, living in England, M will get plenty of opportunity to hear English spoken. It’s also an opportunity and an incentive to improve my Spanish and take it to the next level. Surely all I need to is stay one grammatical conjugation ahead of the kid, right?

Language Acquisition in Bilingual Countries

Much of Spain is bilingual with various regional languages spoken.

When faced with the decision of bringing up our children bilingual or giving up and just live with the main language of the country, we are influenced by many factors. One of the reasons for giving up for many people is social pressure. Despite the increasing research out there showing that learning two languages at the same time “won’t confuse” your children, many people still would throw this back at you.

However, we forget often that there are many countries and smaller areas out there where learning at least two languages is the norm. We have several examples in Spain, where there are four official languages cohabiting together with Castilian, and a couple of unofficial ones!

In this article, I’d like to introduce you to my cousing, Paula. She is a bilingual Spaniard. However she didn’t start her life as a bilingual. Her first mother tongue is Spanish and she became bilingual in her second language when she moved to Catalunya at the age of 7, and learnt to speak Catalan to a native standard.

This is what she says about her experience bringing up two bilingual children, in a one-parent-one-language household:

My experience as a bilingual mother is very good. I’ve never had any problem at all. My children got used to communicate in both languages equally. They chose the language they use depending on who they’re talking to.
It was a bit more difficult for me, because I started to hear spoken Catalan when I was about 7 years old. I was lucky because I had a teacher in school who always spoke in Catalan, so that meant that I had to pay more attention to be able to understand what she was saying.
Now, I do the same thing that my children do. I just choose my language depending on the person, and I just switch from one to the other without even noticing.

Mi experiencia como madre bilingüe es muy buena, no he tenido nunca el más mínimo problema.Los niños se acostumbran ha expresarse en los dos
idiomas por igual.
Según con quien hablen utilizan con idioma o bien otro.
A mi me costo un poco más, pues yo empecé a oír el catalán cuando tenía unos 7 años, lo bueno para mi fue que la profesora que tenía en el cole
se expresaba siempre en catalán, ello implicaba que yo prestaba más atención para poderla entender.
Actualmente me pasa como a mis hijos dependiendo de la persona que hablo inmediatamente uso catalán o bien castellano sin darme cuenta.

La meva experiència com a mare bilingüe és molt bona, no he tingut mai el més mínim problema.Los nens s’acostumen ha expressar-se en els dos
idiomes per igual.
Segons amb qui parlin utilitzen amb idioma o bé un altre.
A mi em va costa una mica més, ja que jo vaig començar a sentir el català quan tenia uns 7 anys, una cose bone per a mi va ser que la professora que tenia a l’escola
s’expressava sempre em català, això implicava que jo parava més atenció per poder entendre.
Actualment em passa com els meus fills depenent de la persona que parlo immediatament ´parlo castella o bé català sense donar-me compte.

Obviously the experience is going to be different for a child growing up in a bilingual country, where he is going to be exposed to both language quite a lot of the time. A bilingual child growing up in England for instance, will be exposed to English for most of the day in the outside. This is why it’s important to get as much input in the second language as you can.

It would be great to hear of people with experience in a bilingual country.

Four Months on…

Little Baby is here already, growing fast and tall. At the moment the only thing she’s worried about is where her next feed is coming from. She doesn’t mind what language we speak to her as long as she gets fed!

She’s already trying to communicate by grunting and grabbing. It’s cute to see how she “talks” to her dollies or her granddad, in her baby language talk that only she understand.

In terms of mummy’s plan of talking to her in two different languages, well this is what we have got up to. We have set a more or less fixed routine so some days we speak only Spanish and some days only French, but when daddy is home we speak English to daddy.

I’m also trying to set up a group of like-minded parents and with good French level who want to speak to their children in French. The group would be something like a support group, so we can meet, organize activities for the children, sing French songs, etc.

There are a couple of people on the group so far, and I need to do some marketing to get the word out.

There are also some language activities around which sound interesting, groups where they teach nursery rhymes in French to kids, or French classes for toddles and little ones. I think these are brilliant in terms of the fun factor, although this shouldn’t be the only activity for immersion. I’ve read somewhere recently that for a kid to really become anything like bilingual, they need to be exposed to the language at least 1/3 of their waking time. So, unfortunately one hour a week of nursery rhymes is hardly going to do the trick. Although, I still believe it’s great in terms of the fun factor for baby and parent, and the social factor as well. Getting out and about and meeting other parents is also important.

So, anyway at the moment we are sticking to our program of one day French one day Spanish. I’m collecting baby books and nursery rhymes in both languages. Our local second hand bookshop has a very good section, and sometimes you can find French and Spanish baby books.

At the moment songs are the most important. As Baby enjoys music and seeing me jumping about and doing funny faces. But the main thing is that nursery rhymes in any language are really aimed to teach babies words and actions, so they’re perfect for learning without studying!

And that’s all for now.