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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language.

multilingual family interview

You are a bilingual or a trilingual family living abroad.  You and your spouse have been speaking your mother tongues since the child’s birth.  And here you realize that the school time is approaching soon. You are worried how your child would do at school, since you did not teach your child the country language. 

How would he go to school in the community language?  Will he be able to communicate?  What can I do to help him?  These and many other questions I asked Richard and Agnieszka, English and Polish speakers, who found their home in Spain.  They are successfully raising trilingual children, who speak English, Polish and Spanish everyday.
 


Question 1:  Where do you live now and where did you live before?


Answer:  We live in Madrid. We moved here from the Netherlands in 2006 when our eldest was 18 months. He was born there. We moved without children to the Netherlands from Poland in 2003.

Question 2:  How many children do you have and what are their ages?


Answer:  Gavin will be 10 in 2 months , Veronica is 7 1/2, and Nicolas is 3 1/2.

Question 3:  Please describe your multilingual family language situation. Who speaks what language? What language approach do you follow?


Answer: My (Richard's) native language is English. Aga's is Polish. But we both speak these languages and Spanish pretty (Aga very) comfortably. My Polish is the worst, but still I almost never fail to understand conversations involving our kids.
Aga and I both only ever speak our respective native languages to the children (unless, rarely, we want some third party to understand). And the children universally speak to us in that same language.
The children (notably Veronica at the moment) do however quite often mix languages - but the syntax and base vocabulary make the language that they are fundamentally speaking very clear. The mixing is largely attaching endings from one language to words from another and in non-basic vocabulary.
Agnieszka and I speak to each other in Polish and English in roughly equal proportions.

Question 4:  At what age did your children get exposed to the community language and how (daycare, playgroups, television at home…)?


Answer:  Our kids were all introduced to Spanish in nursery school. All went for at least a year before starting school proper - which starts very early here - almost universally in the September of the calendar year when the child turns 3. Neither Gavin nor Veronica had any problems of note by the time they reached school (not even much in Nursery). Nicolas seemed to adapt similarly well to Nursery. But when he just recently started school he was slow to start speaking to his teachers. This problem seems now to have considerably faded.
Television I see as an important way to broaden their exposure to English (and Polish). But they do watch a reasonable amount to TV in Spanish.

Question 5.  What language Gavin and Veronica started speaking to each other? Did their language preference change over time?


Answer:  Until I guess about 18 months ago they still spoke to each other regularly in all three languages, Spanish having arrived last, but around then I noticed that they switched to almost always speaking Spanish.
I suspect that the first language that they spoke to each other was probably Polish, but in fact I don’t remember, so it may be that they used Polish or English depending on the context. I guess Polish because Veronica had a Polish woman looking after her during the day when she was 1-2. But at this point Gavin’s English may still have been better than his Polish.
Currently Gavin and Veronica Speak only (or almost only) Polish with Nicolas.

Question 6:  How old were the children when started a nursery school? Did I understand right that they were about 2 years old?


Answer:   Gavin was about 20 months, Veronica about 28 months, and Nicolas about 27.

Question 7.  What school did your children go to (bilingual immersion school, regular school...)?


Answer:   Bilingual in theory – part of a Madrid programme for bilingualism in state-funded schools. They are taught almost half the time in English (from 6 years old). But there are almost no other non-Spanish-native pupils, and English is not used at all apart from in lessons.

Question 8.  What languages as subject do they study there?


Answer:  English is taught from 3, and more seriously from 6. I worry a bit that this could bore our kids, but it doesn’t seem to have been a big problem yet. Gavin, I believe, has mostly learned only spelling in lessons at school, so I expect it is or will be, at best, a significant waste of time.
They are also taught French, at low intensity, from 6.

Question 9.  When your children went to school, how did they integrate? What was their proficiency level of community language? Were you and / or teachers concerned?


Answer:  We had sent them to nursery specifically to help avoid this sort of problem. And it seemed to work better than I expected. Even just one year.
The teachers were a little concerned initially – but positive. Gavin’s first teacher – a veteran of probably 30 years’ experience and a very good teacher it turned out – shocked me by telling me that he had NEVER had a non-Spanish-native child in his class. There are almost no immigrants in the area we are in.
However Gavin and Veronica may have been a little quiet at first, but when I ask about their level of Spanish I was told it was indistinguishable from that of the other kids. As mentioned earlier, Nico was even more quiet, but is now improving.

Question 10.  What did you do, if anything, to support your children at school?


Answer:  I use Khan Academy with both Gavin and Vero for maths. But with regard to language there has been no need.

Question 11:  What language do you speak to them, when you help them with homework?


Answer:  (Richard) English, throwing in the odd Spanish word to make sure they know it for class. Except when (only occasionally) helping with Spanish language homework in which case I speak Spanish mostly.

Question 12:  What do you think is important for a parent to do or pay attention to in order to insure that children’s knowledge of the community language is enough for performing well at elementary school?


Answer:  For us nursery was enough. More recently I also allow them to watch a fraction (maybe 1/3) of TV in Spanish. This primarily so they have the vocabulary (mostly character names etc) to talk to their school-friends.

Question 13:  Many parents are worried, that their child might have a communication problem with peers. That they are going to be teased because of an accent or inability to express her/himself in the community language at the same level as kids of their age do. Could you share your experience in this regards?


Answer:  Our kids have not to our knowledge experienced this sort of problem. Any trouble with peers has been for other reasons. We may be helped in this regard by the fact that 'school' in Spain starts so very early. Some kids are still well short of turning three - and so presumably some native monolinguals also barely speak.

Question 14:  How did you help the kids to understand how to separate 3 languages and improve their speech skills?


Answer:  We didn't do anything specific here other than try to expose them to plenty of all three languages through different media.

Question: 15:  In what language did your children learn to read and write first? Did you teach them? If yes, how did you do it?


Answer:  English. I taught Gavin and Veronica before the school started on reading. But I taught only reading - almost no writing. I used phonics books from a couple of different series (Jolly Phonics and Oxford Songbirds principally) then used a lot of Usborne graded readers. In addition I used flash cards (also from Usborne), showed then a nice BBC series, Alphablocks, and more recently used the online learning game Reading Eggs.  (Click to read more about mentioned phonics resources)

I would like to thank this wonderful family for the interview and for this unique opportunity Richard and Agneszka are giving us to learn more about what awaits us, parents to be and parents with small kids.

If you would like to share your family experience,  whatever it is good or bad,  feel free to contact me

Are you successfully raising bilingual or multilingual children? or do you have regrets about something you have not done on time? Please do not keep it for yourself, share it with other parents, by writing a comment or by contacting me for an Interview or by joining great contributors in the Life Story series. You will help thousands of readers!



Resources for Teaching Phonics and Reading to Children:


Alphablocks is children's educational television program. It aims to teach children how to spell with the use of animated blocks representing each letter.

Phonics with Alphablocks on Amazon

Alphablocks on YouTube




Jolly Phonics is a systematic synthetic phonics program designed to teach children to read and write. Children learn the letter sounds, rather than the alphabet. They are then taken through the stages of blending and segmenting words to develop reading and writing skills.

Jolly Phonics on Amazon

Jolly Phonics on Youtube

 
Oxford Songbirds make phonics fun! Series of 60 stories by Julia Donaldson. Levels 1 to 6 .

Oxford Songbirds on Amazon








Usborne First Reading - book series by Usborne publiser that is based on the principles of synthetic phonics. There are 7 books in each series and each book in the series builds on material in the previous books.

Usborne Very First Reading on Amazon 
Usborne Start to Read pack on Amazon

Usborne Very First Reading website -  learn more about the books, how they work. Information for parents and teachers. Plus resources with extra reading and wring practices. Printable sheet of practice words, fun activities and recording of the sounds of 44 phonemes



 
Reading Eggs - online reading application, where children are able to progress at their own rate.

Visit Reading Eggs website for more info.

Reading Eggs on Amazon




You might also like reading:

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

Teaching the letter sounds before letter names.

Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?

Life Story. Our trilingual story: It’s all Greek, Italian and French to me!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Good Reads: to set mood for Halloween - Gobbolino, the Witch's Cat book, audiobook, song with notes


Multilingual Reads - great books that you can find translated in different languages!



Halloween is approaching and I have a great chapter book that would put your child into the Halloween mood! Gobbolino, the Witch's Cat  is a children's novel written by Ursula Moray Williams, an English writer. It is translated into Italian, Spanish, German and Russian. Plus it is available as an audiobook in all those languages!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Life Story. Our trilingual story: It’s all Greek, Italian and French to me!


Welcome to Life Story series. Collection of stories from parents and multilinguals around the world! Today's guest is Marina -  bilingual by birth and now multilingual mama - who is telling us about her experience in raising trilingual children in Brussels. 


 

Marina Kaffe:  I was born in Italy and raised in Greece. My father was Greek but spoke at home (very good) Italian with my mum so at home it was Italian for me and outside Greek. It was a piece of cake to learn both. I went to university in Italy and perfectionized it there. I actually dream in both languages, some words are definitely easier in one or another language. I have, I would say, definitely a bilingual mind, split and bipolar. English I learnt at school very soon and then at the Uni. I also speak French but in no way fluently. I really find great and lots of fun learning new languages and this I think I have definitely taken because of my bilinguality.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

List of children's books in Polish language - Lista książek po Polsku dla dzieci

 
Childrens_books_in_Polish

Big thanks to Emilia Pallado, who sent me this great list of children's books in Polish language so I can in turn share it with all of you! Emilia is a mother of two trilingual children, who are bilingual in Polish and Spanish from birth, and have been learning English at school.

Dear Emilia - Thank you! Dziękuję! Gracias!


Książki dla dzieci od urodzenia


Marta Bogdanowicz (opracowanie) – Rymowanki – Przytulanki

Jan Brzechwa - Wiersze i bajki

Julian Tuwim - Wiersze dla dzieci

Aleksander Fredro - Paweł i Gaweł

Maria Konopnicka dzieciom

 


Książki dla dzieci od 3 lat


Monday, August 18, 2014

How to develop early phonemic awareness and reading readiness by using language play with kids from birth to preschool.



As I already mentioned in the 7 principles to keep in mind while teaching your child to read, before child learns to read he needs to learn how to separate  phonemes (speech sounds). It is better for parents and kids to start working on it as early as possible, since in reality it does not require anything special.  So what can you do to help your child develop phonemic awareness? - It’s quite simple: just sing, read and play. Play using the language and play with the language!

When your child is born, start singing to her/him. 

The first recorded lullaby is dating around 2000 BC. According to the researchers, lullabies prepare child's ear and brain for language.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Life Story: Sometimes knowing a language is worth it for its literature alone.

 
It is easy to learn languages as a baby and be bilingual from birth. But many of us, including the parents raising those lucky bilingual children, have a different story. Some were born and raised monolingual until leaving the country as teenagers, some - as adults. Andrey left his home country when he was 10 years old and moved to US with his parents. There he started a new life and learned a second language. He has also learned how to preserve his mother tongue and this gave his life a different spin - he started translating the poetry and putting his own thoughts into rhyme. He is also raising a bilingual daughter.



My name is Andrey. I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. I remember my childhood, as most kids remember theirs, carefree and easy-going. I spend most of my summers with my grandparents, either from my mother’s side, in Pishchulino, a small village some five hours drive south of Moscow or from my father’s side, in Pyatigorsk, a city in southwestern part of Russia, known for its mountains and mineral springs. In Pishchulino, I learned how to collect mushrooms, pick berries, and play card games. In Pyatigorsk, my cousin and I would make water guns from old shampoo bottles, and run around with local kids, spraying one another. During the long winter months in Moscow, I would spend a lot of time outdoors, playing in the snow. My brother, who is six years older than I am, always had many friends and he would reluctantly drag me with him from one party to the next.


As a child, I did not ever think about the economy, politics, the army draft that was looming over my brother’s head, or future in general - that was my parents’ job, and so it was somewhat of a surprise when they had decided to follow my aunt and uncle and immigrate to New York.  I was ten at the time. I remember feeling anxious and excited at the same time, elated and depressed. I did not know what awaited me on the other side of the ocean. I knew that the chances of me coming back to Russia in the near future were slim. The evening before we left,

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What language multilingual family speaks at the table?


Every evening the whole family is gathered at the table. We speak to each other. Kids laugh at their misbehaves.  I am getting stressed that they do not eat and that my son, who is learning to cut food with a knife, periodically waves with it and his sister follows him with a fork.  All things are like in a common family with two or more little children on board. The only difference, we add more turmoil -- we speak three languages at the table.  My children and I speak Russian to each other, my husband speaks Italian with them and English with me. Sometimes we become as laud as Italians in a restaurant, when one table tries to outshout  the others, with the only difference -- we are all seating at the same table -- in our home!

Soon our children, who are 2 and 4 years old, will grow up. The chaotic dinners should get more civilized tone. (I started writing this post some time ago, now the kids are almost 3 and 5 years old and have made significant behavioral progress :) ) Every month we are slowly getting  a chance to discuss topics that are interesting to all four of us. We use our "language scheme" (Father + Child = Italian, Child + Child and Child+Mother = Russian, Father+Mother= English) and it works for us so far. We do not get bothered by not speaking the same language. The questions I have:

Would things stay the same way after a couple of years?
Would we all feel comfortable having a conversation in all three languages at once?

It won't be a problem for me as I speak well our trilingual family languages Italian, English and Russian. It might be a slight problem for my husband. Hopefully his level of Russian will improve together as children master the language.  Everyday he tries more and more to join our conversation in Russian. The children are slowly learning English and, who knows, one day they might actually join our, for now parents only, conversations in English.

I wonder how other multilingual families "language at the table" situation evolved over time. Did you come to the common denominator and stop on one language? Or you still use all the multilingual family languages? Does it bother you not to have one single language at the table? Please leave a comment for me and readers to know what you think.

You might also like reading:

What language should I speak to my child in public? - Multilingual parent dilemma.

A family vacation, multilingual style. Are you in?

Naming languages with their proper name.

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

What should we do when reading becomes a book eating?

 
Does your child sit still and listen to the book you read or stays with you for a second and then starts running around picking up toys to play?  Or perhaps, even worse, he is chewing on the books checking how they taste?
In Bilingual children: How to read to a baby?  I gave some  tips on how to keep your child's attention while reading;  and I am very excite to introduce Alicja Pyszka-Franceschini, who is raising a trilingual child in Polish, English and Italian. Today she’s sharing  some great ideas on how to help you to deal with little lions at home :) 




"I really would like to read to my toddler but it’s really difficult. She moves so much or when I start reading to her she grabs the book and tears it apart,” a friend of mine said to me. I really knew what she was talking about as my little toddler was doing exactly the same thing. Pulling, biting and tearing the pages ferociously as if turning into that young and wild lion that I’ve just attempted to read to him about.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More delight, less doubt.
Bringing up a trilingual child – the beginning

 
by Alicja Pyszka-Franceschini

I just came back from the hospital with my small and beautiful little boy. He was an easy-going newborn who settled himself into a nice routine very quickly. I loved holding him in my arms late at night and absorbing his peace. Blissful, wonderful peace. I felt enormously happy. I felt rewarded, blessed and enriched; but my fortune was not made of money, but of affection and attachment that strengthened and deepened with every day, unconditionally, unremittingly, and peacefully.


It was in this peace of a quietly breathing newborn baby, in a room that smelled of baby shampoo, just after midnight, that I realised that I want to bring up my son as a trilingual child, that the biggest gift my husband and I can give to him is the gift of languages, an opportunity to enter and explore his parents and grandparents' cultures and to draw strength from them.

But there are other reasons too.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Good Reads: books about Prostokvashino by Uspensky. Read or watch cartoons with English subtitles.



If you ask any child in Russia, who is Uncle Fedor, there is a big chance you will receive an answer that’s full of excitement!
Uncle Fedor is a little but very independent boy, who left the house together with his new friend - the cat. This cat not only speaks people's language and cross-stitches, but also knows the proper way to eat an open-face sandwich so it tastes better!
This wonderful story was written by Eduard Uspensky in 1973. Almost 30 years ago! And it is still loved by children.

You can also find it translated in many other languages: