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Monday, April 7, 2014

7 principles to keep in mind while teaching your child to read.

Parents these days face many difficult decisions, no matter if their kids speak one language, two languages or three languages. One of them is whether or not teach children to read in an early childhood, before the school's formal education starts. Some parents decide to wait,  thinking that kids will otherwise get bored at school, some step in and provide the reading instructions before elementary school  thinking that being "prepared" will help children along the way.

I can understand both parents' positions; nevertheless, experts on this topic see a great benefit in engaging children in pre-reading activities early in life and at preschool. Doing some rhythm and phonic related activities that help children slowly establish letters-sounds connection and  prepare them for more formal instructions.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A family vacation, multilingual style. Are you in?

Would your family go on a joined multilingual family adventure? Are you afraid that vacation fun will be lost in translation, if you try to share with other families whose children speak a different language?  Read on, there is something to think about before you plan the summer vacation.

Who does not like summers? A summer beach vacation is one of the greatest experiences for every member of the family.  Parents are more relaxed (if not, getting a drink at the beach bar would really help!) and do not nag the kids. The kids are playing with a sand, water, and do not bother the parents. No one gets bored on the beach!  And this is where I am heading to.
Last summer we went on vacation with our English speaking friends. It is an English and German speaking bilingual family that consists of father, mother and two cute girls, who are about our Russian-Italian speaking children's age.  It was interesting to watch how the kids' relationship developed. All children spoke their native languages at first, but then, after realizing that "the message" does not get through, they started explaining themselves in the language their friends would understand. Our kids tried to speak English and the friends' kids - Italian. The sign language  combined with the native language worked well to fill the language knowledge gaps! They had so much fun playing in water , building sand castles and sharing toys.

 The children loved the time they spent together, and now are looking forward to another joined vacation this year.

This kind of multilingual vacation is good because:

- it widens child's horizons. The child learns about other languages and cultures,

- it generates an interest and creates stimulus to learn a new language and to proficient the already acquired ones,

- it develops communication skills.

It is important to make children aware of the existence of other languages not only by talking about them, but also by bring them in direct contact with their speakers. It will help kids later at school to realize why they need to learn all the verb conjugations. Kids always need to be challenged to promote development. In fact our friends' daughter is really eager to learn Italian now. She is only 5 years old and Italian language is already on her to-do list!

If you like beach as a destination for your vacations, another good way to expose you children to other cultures and languages is just by traveling with them to other countries' beaches.  For Portuguese you could go to Brazil (easy to access from the Americas) or Portugal, if you are in Europe. For Spanish - beautiful Mexican, Argentinian and Spanish beaches. For English - Florida, California or Hawaii.  For German - beach of the Northern and Baltic Sea would do a great job. For French - Cote d'Azur, Bay of Biscay, Tahiti. For Italian - hundreds of beautiful Italian beaches and amazing islands.  For Russian - the Baltic and Black seas, for Hebrew - the Red Sea of Israel. For Croatian - Croatia.   For Greek - Greece and hundreds of fantastic Islands.  For Arabic - Egypt's Read sea, Tunisia or Morocco. There are so many countries with beautiful beaches!

Where have you been with your kids around the world?
Our family already visited beautiful beaches of Italy, France and Portugal. Where should we head next?

You might also like:

How much time do we have to influence a child's minority language development?

Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?

What should I order? Mortadella alphabet!  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings.

The moment  you think  you figured  it all out and  your multilingual family found the right balance between the languages for your one and only child, you realize the baby #2 is on the way. And everything you planned so perfectly may go the way you were not expecting! Every parent with 2+ kids would tell you that dealing with two kids is much more complex, it's not really 1+1... So, the main question you never really thought of before: What language would the siblings speak to each other?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Planting a language tree.
Does passive language learning work?

Our family, like many other multilingual families, follows a language strategy in which parents speak to each other in a language different from the one they speak to their children. My husband and I communicate with each other in English, I speak Russian to our children, and my husband speaks Italian to them.

In our multilingual family set up children are exposed to English language mostly passively with very little active interaction. I always believed in the power of passive language learning; however, I was still wondering if it can bring any good results. My children are now 4,5 and 2,5 years old, and everyday I see more and more

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Life Story: My Three Languages – English, Spanish and Quechua

(Please contact me, if you are interested to participate in the Life story series and write about your experience as a bilingual or multilingual child and/or a parent).

This is a story of  Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou.  She is trilingual and speaks English, Spanish and Quechua, an indigenous language of the Andean region in South America. Her multilingual parents did not speak all three languages to her, but only English.  Nevertheless, the multilingual environment she was surrounded by shaped her life in a unique and a beautiful way.

Monday, January 13, 2014

What should I order? Mortadella alphabet!

Apparently there is nothing as easy and fun as teaching  your child letters using an aromatic Italian mortadella! One evening I was preparing appetizer for kids, I took a big piece of  mortadella, the Italian heat-cured meat sausage,  and

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 - Raising a Trilingual Child Blog Posts in Review

The 2013 year is behind the shoulders. It was the first year in the life of this blog.

Thank you everyone for joining me! I appreciate your positive feed back! 

Even though my children and my ambitions to teach them three languages (Russian, Italian and English) kept me busy, I tried hard and I managed to find time to share my thoughts, ideas and discoveries with you.

Pregnant bellyI started the blog with the post Raising Bilingual / Multilingual child. Where to start?  describing our family strategy: Exposing our kids to languages  and created the multilingual family Language Strategies page for your reference.

Baby reading
I believe reading is essential in teaching a child speaking and developing a rich vocabulary. Guess when did I start reading to my child? You can find the answer in Bilingual child: when to start reading? post and the tips are in How to read to a baby?

Do you know anything about virtual babysitters?  Skype has opened a virtual window between our living room and Russian speaking grandparents. I am so thankful my parents could support me in many ways: virtual babysitting is one of it. Preserving grandchild - grandparent bond and keeping up the minority language with video calling.

mother walking with strollerHow do you call the languages you and your spouse speaks? I believe Naming languages with their proper name  also helps children to separate the languages easily and gives a wider view without limiting to only family boundaries.

As a parent teaching children a minority language I learnt how not to pass on an opportunity to expose them to new words: Walking with your baby and showing him the world.

Baby mouthHa ha ha or correcting your child's pronunciation problem. post was born after a lot of worries about my son's wrong pronunciation of the Russian letter "X".

I asked myself and answered a question: How much time do we have to influence a child's minority language development?

When my younger child started speaking I was wondering what language she would speak with her brother: What language do multilingual siblings speak to each other?  I am so glad that as of today it is still Russian - the minority language and hope it will stay this way for at list one more year.

I should stress once more that it is important to be proactive in introducing new vocabulary in minority language: Being proactive in exposing your child to the new vocabulary .

I answer the question: Should I correct my child speaking?

As parents speaking a minority language, we also need to work on being a good example for our children: How to prepare yourself to be a speaking model for your child.
Many of us have ups and downs on the way to multilingualism. The right motivation helps a lot in staying on track, but this is the reality: "No English!" Motivation is the key.

Drawing and wood toys for language learningSome fun activities for language development were born while interacting with my daughter: Mixing art, material objects and imagination - a recipe for language development.

My friend asked me a very good question I found an answer to: Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

I welcomed Amalia, a guest on my blog pages with her amazing  Life story: A Journey to Multilingualism. If you are bilingual or multilingual from birth and would like to share your story, feel free to contact me via email: trilingualchildren [at] gmail [dot] com.

Child cuting paper makes russian letter "Б"Many of you agreed that Teaching the letter sounds before letter names helps in facilitating teaching a child to read.

If you know good documentaries about nature, please share them in the comments of  A touch of nature on a rainy day post.

boy opening christmas presents
If you are expecting a child and/or still have to figure out how to merge the multicultural traditions, reading the post When to give your child Christmas presents - an international family challenge. might give you some ideas and help you to make the right decision.

Russian BooksMy children enjoy reading books with me and I am glad that many blog readers found very useful the Russian children's books list . You can also review my kids favorite Russian cartoons and movies at the end of the book list. Some more resources in Russian:  Russian winter season kids songs  and books review.

Happy holidays to everyone! 
Let the 2014 bring you love and happiness!

Monday, December 16, 2013

When to give your child Christmas presents - an international family challenge.

boy opening christmas presents

As many multicultural families, our family was also challenged with making a decision about how to celebrate Christmas. Before the children were born I did not think about when I should receive and give Christmas presents. I lived so far from my country of origin, from my friends and from the traditions I grew up with, that I simply joined my husband and our friends for December 25th celebration. But then the kids were born and this has change me 180 degrees. I wanted so much to share with them the joy that I lived through year after year in my parents home. I wanted to see my children's smiles as they discover the presents under a Christmas tree, as I did back then. I wanted them be exited to decorate a Christmas tree. I wanted them to look forward to the winter holidays the same way I did.  Not only because it was a present time, but because it was the time full of magic!

Before my son's first December has approached I talked to my husband. We discussed our values. I told him what was important for me and he shared what was important for him during the Christmas time and this is how we decided to celebrate our Christmas and New Year.

Since I grew up during the Soviet time, there was no Christmas celebration. Everyone celebrated a New Year. Everything Western world does for Christmas, Russians did  and still do for a New Year. There are big family gatherings, dinners, parties, fireworks, carnivals you name it! Everything but there was no church of cause.  The Italian traditions are different from what I am used to. One day I will write a post about a Christmas  celebration in Italy to give you more insides. So we had to compromise and this is what we stopped on.

Our international Italian-Russian family starts decorating the house inside and outside in early December. For the moment we do not do the nativity scene, that is called "presepe" in Italian, but a Christmas tree. And we decorate it with ornaments  that I picked at the local store and that my parents brought from Russia, my very very old child-safe paper and plastic ornaments that are so dear to me. (The glass ornaments have to wait until the kids are older). Even thought the Christmas tree is ready for December 24th, the children can find presents under it only on New Year. They still receive plenty of present from Italian relatives on Christmas day and do not feel excluded. I would not want them to!

PanettoneWe celebrate Christmas Eve within our family by preparing a nice traditional dinner and join our Panettone and Pandoro. The time we spend in Germany made its imprint on out taste buds. We do not see Christmas table without Lebkuchen and Stollen, the German traditional sweets! This year I plan to include my family tradition and bake some sugar filled "Plushki". Just writing this brings me back to the time I spent with my grandfather  preparing the sweets. He actually was our family's great cook!
Italian relatives for lunch on Christmas Day. Christmas sweets list for us does not became exhausted with two Italian traditional sweets:

The New Year celebration is a little party for our family with "Spumante" ( Italian champagne)  for the big once and sparkling water for the small. The kids stay up until they feel tired and ready to go to bed on their own will, just to wake up in the morning to tier apart the wrapping paper from the gifts. Big thank you to Russian "Ded Moroz" or Italian Santa for brings presents to us, parents, as well and hanging chocolate mini-Santas all over the tree to make the kids day! 

The new year started, but winter holidays celebrations for our family are not over yet. January the 7th is the Russian Orthodox Christmas day, which we also celebrate with a nice meal, even though I never celebrated it as a child. I believe children need to know that other religions do exist, and they can start learning about their differences from this simple thing - different days of celebrating birth of Christ.

Now you have learned how our international family celebrates Christmas and New Year. If your multilingual family is faced similar challenge and have to make a decision, I hope answering the following questions will help you:

What celebrations and rituals are important to you?
What can you do to support your spouse traditions?
When do you give children presents and how would you do it?
What do you need to explain your children about your traditions and possible differences?

Happy holiday season to you all!

You might also like reading:
Can babies distinguish foreign languages? 
How to prepare yourself to be a speaking model for your child. 
How to read to a baby?  

Monday, November 4, 2013

A touch of nature on a rainy day.

I am not a supporter of putting children at front of a TV screen; however, I see a significant benefit in watching movies, cartoons and documentaries in the case of promoting non community language abilities in children. I do limit TV time as much as I can and prefer to snuggle  with my kiddos on the couch with a book instead. That said, I see a need that bilingual children / multilingual children have in that special world that cinema gives them. It works as one more minority language point of reference for them, a strong one that  should be provided especially when only one parent speaks it.

We set a rule for our children that limits the Italian TV exposure to weekends only. During the week they are allowed to watch programs in the languages they are less exposed to in everyday life, such as English and Russian.

I tried to show the cartoons that follow the interests of my children by acting proactively, as I write in Being proactive in exposing your child to the new vocabulary. I first read a book with my son about first planes and boats and he just loved the vision of the Russian ice breaker "Arktika" crushing the thick ice and polar bears running around that he became really interested in boats. I try to provide as much information as I can to feed his hunger for knowledge.  This days we watch cartoons and videos about sea life and pirates.

Turning on the TV gives me a break to run the household errands, but I try not to just leave the children in front of the screen. I find it important to participate in this activity at least by watching some parts together. My children often call me and ask me to stay to share their excitement with me. Also watching a program together it gives even more topics to discuss and, thus, promotes the conversation and the minority language development.

Some of the English languages nature documentaries we love to watch all together on weekends, and they become a rainy day savers, or we love to be in direct contact with nature otherwise :)
EarthFight series;
Frozen Planet series;
The Life of Birds series;
The Living Planet: A Portrait of the Earth  series.

Would love to hear about your family favorite documentaries and cartoons. You are welcome to check the list of our favorite cartoons in Russian language out.

You might also like:

How to prepare yourself to be a speaking model for your child. 
What language do multilingual siblings speak to each other?  
How to read to a baby?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Teaching the letter sounds
before letter names.

When my son was 4 month old, his Russian grandmother gave him a lots of books. One of them was "Russian Alphabet for boys", a colorful book with letters and pictures with a rhythm next to each letter. That was the time when I started thinking: Should I teach my son letter sounds or  letter names?  Thinking that letter names can't really help one to learn reading and can wait a few years, I decided to go for letter-sound correspondence.

Starting with one book, I later added more alphabet books into my son's library. I followed my son's natural interest in learning letters and reading books. By 18 month he could recognize and read all of the letters without a mistake. He looked for Russian letters everywhere: on the labels of water bottles, boxes of cereals... I still remember when at the doctor's office he was scanning an info post for the letters he knew. He was so excited to read them out loud !

Child cuting paper makes russian letter "Б" I was concerned that my son would get confused with the Italian and Russian alphabet . Some letters look similar, but they sound differently. The labels were written in Italian and I could not say it is Russian. Then I found a way to avoid the confusion. I was saying, "You are right! This Italian letter "p" looks like the Russian letter "r".
These days I try to read some simple words with my son, who is now 4 years old. He reads book's covers, chapter titles, short words. He still likes his wood letter cubes. I periodically use them to make a morning surprise for him. I lay out  several words different in length on the breakfast table as my good morning to him. He smiles seeing them and starts reading. I just love this moment!

This summer my son discovered how he could talk and keep things secret from his sister -- through word spelling! We started with some simple and short words such as "sok" which mean "juice" in English. I see the result, my son is eager to spell the words now more then ever before.

If your child has smaller siblings or relatives, you could show him the advantage of spelling words that the others children do not understand. This can motivate him to think more about the way words are build. Look at that special light in the child's eyes, when he discovers the power of spelling. I will never forget that light in my son's eyes!

All the above is of course comes from the Russian language perspective, since I teach it to my children; however, it could be applied to other languages as well. My experience shows that looking at the words from the letter sounds perspective and developing phonological awareness skill in your child early in life has its benefits.  Only recently I became aware of a methodology, where children with autism and other disabilities are taught letter-sound correspondence before the letter names were introduced to them; thus, a possible confusion is avoided.

If you teach your child Russian: please check the Russian book's list for Letters and Activity books.

You might also like reading:

When to Start Reading?
How to Read to a Baby?
How much time do we have to influence a child's minority language development?