ml@home tip – Netflix language options: Trick to set the Spanish from Spain audio option

A year ago we signed up for the Netflix free trial month and were won over by this streaming service. For a reasonable price, we had found an alternative to Majority Language television thanks to Netflix’s language option that comes with most programmes it has on offer.

The only little frustration we had was that the Spanish language option was South American Spanish. No matter how hard we searched and tried every available account setting option, we could not find any Spanish from Spain option.
Now, for non Spanish-speakers, this might not sound important. However, to us it is very important as there are important vocabulary, idioms, pronunciation, and accent discrepancies. And since we want our daughters to identify to their Spanish roots, these discrepancies were a drawback to our bicultural education.
Hence, we favoured the English language option instead of the Latin Spanish one.

Last Christmas, we travelled to Spain and took our tablet along with a few downloaded cartoons to entertain our daughters on the plane. Once in my husband’s family, we connected our tablet to their wifi and -though this was not our intention in taking the tablet with us on this trip- used Netflix there with the Spanish language option.
The Netflix App detected our location and automatically switched the language to… Spanish (Europe)! And ever since we returned to France, Netflix (both App on the tablet and the website on my computer) systematically offer Spanish from Spain. Through disuse, the Latin Spanish has disappeared from our language list.

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Hurray! The print screen of our Spanish(Europe) audio option.  (Sorry everything is in French: Next step is finding a way to get absolutely all of the text on my Netflix account in English or Spanish! 😛 lol)

So if you ever come across this problem, do not forget to take your tablet along and use Netflix for a couple of minutes whilst on holidays in Spain. :). And if Spanish is not your minority language, you might still want to try this trick if you have a similar issue with your minority language on Netflix. 😉

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Education tips – A different kind of storytelling : Making up interactive stories with props

One evening, we sent our 2 daughters off to bed together. My husband was up for reading our usual bedtime story routine, but that night he felt inspired and silly. 😛

The girls were a bit overexcited, so to catch their attention, and instead of having the girls arguing over what book to read (being 6 and 2, they do not always share the interest in the same books), my husband grabbed a soft-toy vegetable basket.
He started telling a crazy and hilarious story about the aubergine he christened “La Berenjena Manola”, and her adventures with other food from the basket: Watermelon spraying its peeps, bitter Lemon playing the villain, Pineapple and its spiky-hairstyle, Banana playing hide-and-seek, Bread-Roll trying to eat others up… To be honest, the plot might be pretty predictable to any rational adult, but to young kids it is a sheer delight. Add a pinch of audience participation and the success is guaranteed.

La Berenjena Manola

The level of giggles emanating from the bedroom was heart-warming, though I will concede to you that it might not always be very appropriate to sooth a child to go to bed. 🙂

But here are all the benefits derived from such a jolly narration:

  1. You captivate your young audience – and when they are entertained, children listen… and learn.
  2. Your audience will absorb every word you say – My youngest has recently named one of her favourite soft toys… “Manola”!
  3. Your audience hears a different vocabulary from what they might hear when you read them a more traditional bedtime story.
  4. Your child gets to participate and hence uses and develops their minority language (ml).
  5. You create memorable memories which foster a fondness for the ml. This fondness will create a disposition in your child to use their ml.

Tips:

  • Let your imagination run loose! The sillier the merrier!
  • Do not hesitate in going a bit crazy; kids love craziness!
  • If your child needs more of a quiet time at bedtime, then why not use these stories at another time of the day?

Any extra tips or ideas? Share them in the Comment section.

Food for thought: one learns a language better hearing real-life conversations

The young lady who conducts weekly activities in English with my eldest daughter has recently made a very pertinent comment to me. Through her experience of teaching English to children, she had noticed that speaking in English to the child is not enough. To be able to speak the language, the child actually needs to witness real-life conversations.
Cartoons in the minority language (ml) is no substitute to real-life discussions that children can relate to.
In fact, many of us grown-ups tend to use this technique when learning a language in adulthood and abroad.

This was a very interesting point of view that had never occurred to me before. Yet it is a fact that any child develops his/her language skill through observation of their environment in their very early years before finally developing chatting skills at around age 2.
The bilingual child needs the opportunity to take a step back and observe a conversation in which s/he is not an actor, like s/he did as a baby. It gives them the chance to pick up communication patterns, and not just stringing words.

Her comment was an eye-opener. As I am the only English source in our home, my eldest daughter does not get much chance to hear me have a conversation in our ml. My youngest has a slight advantage in that she hears her eldest and me chatting, and this could indeed be one of the reasons she speaks English better than her sister at the same age. My eldest does not have the same chance as her little sister’s language skills are still not fully developed for her to pick things from.

This idea of exposing the bilingual child to real-life conversation is definitely valuable and though it is yet unclear to me how to increase my daughters’ exposure to them in my personal circumstances, I felt it was important to share it here. To share this food for thought with other bilingual families.

Here are 5 ideas from the top of my head:

  1. Join your local ml community so your child gets the opportunity to hear people speaking your ml, even if there are not so many children-orientated activities.
  2. Invite ml speaking friends over on a regular basis and ask them to play the game and exclusively speak the ml with you and the kids.
  3. Organise a ml chat group – if you are fortunate enough to have English or Spanish as your ml, maybe you have relatives willing to speak it and you could arrange chat groups at home, with the kids around. Not only will your children hear you speak the ml with others, they will also witness how your ml is valued and some are eager to learn it.
  4. If your spouse speaks the ml, why not use the Time & Place strategy and ask them a hand by having all your meals in your ml?
  5. Make Facetime/Skype calls with ml friends and let your child overhear you – WhatsApp and other messaging systems seem to have taken over the good old chats. I recently asked a friend to arrange such call, and though she is a fervent WhatsApp user, at the end of the call she was very enthused by the experience and said she wanted to renew these calls more often.

Have you any more ideas to expose our kids to real-life conversation without actually being an actor? Please share your ideas in the Comment section

Tips for Parent – Visit the minority language country when your child is 2.

Just before the summer, a bilingual mum told me that her daughter’s minority language (ml) had drastically expanded when visiting their minority language country when her child was aged 2. She explained that 2 is a critical age in terms of language development, and that she was convinced this trip had been critically important in her child’s language development at that key age.

Having heard this, I looked forward to our holiday in Spain this summer since our little one is 2 and had already shown significant language developments before the holidays.
Well, I am happy to report that the 3 weeks my little one spent in our ml country have indeed enabled her ml to skyrocket. Before the summer, she made short sentences and showed a clear preference for English (the ml she speaks with me) to Spanish (which she speaks with her dad). Her Spanish bloomed and she now makes long sentences which regularly leave us speechless. This confidence in one language has benefited all the others. And her newly acquired skill of long sentences has passed on to her other 2 languages.

I recently heard from this bilingual mum who had given me this tip. This summer he travelled again to her ml country, this time with her 2-year-old son along with her daughter. Again she happily reports the trip had been very beneficial in strengthening her 2-year old’s ml. Given these results, I felt this was a worthy tip to share. 🙂

Have you any similar tip you would like to share? Please use the Comment section and let us know about it!

Culture tip: magnetic puzzles of your minority language country

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Available on Amazon

At the beginning of the summer holidays, I came across this beautiful magnetic puzzle of Spain and its regions. I fell in love with it as I could see its potential as a playful way to get my daughters familiar wit their other country and its culture.

When looking at raising a bicultural child, you will want them to be familiar with their minority language (ml) country, its map, regions, cultural features. To do so, forget the old boring geography classes during which you had to learn everything off by heart. Nothing better to put off your child! 🙂 This puzzle is a very playful way to get a child to know their other country and gives the opportunity:

  • for the child to use their reading skills int their ml when playing alone,
  • for the child to visualise all these abstract grown up concepts of places,
  • for you to spend time with them to help them but also discussing that map, bringing it to life with family anecdotes. Showing where the grandad was born, where you grew up, where lives such and such relative your child is particularly fond of…. Children love being able to relate to what they are being told.

My eldest has taken a great liking to it and has very quickly picked up all the places relating to the anecdotes. I am considering purchasing the British version to get her to know this country a little better, even though I cannot claim to be from there.

Minority language parent – 6 reasons to consider going part-time at work.

Over a year ago, I have decided, like many other French mums, to go part-time at my job. French labour and social laws make this opportunity very accessible for many mums. I opted for a 4-day week with the same day off as my eldest’s school schedule. The aim was to help us out with our work life and family life balance, as we had been struggling a lot since the birth of our youngest. Going part-time has relieved a lot of our stress, which obviously benefits the kids as they have more relaxed parents and a more serene home environment. What I had not fully appreciated, however, was that it would also benefit my children’s bilingual education.

Part-time work comes in all shapes and sizes, depending on your job and country. It could consist in taking a day off, having shorter working-days, working only half-days…
It works particularly well when the schooling system includes short-days or a 4-day week, as you might be able to match that schedule through part-time work. And if not, part-time will still be the opportunity for you to get house chores out of the way, enabling you to spend more quality (minority language -ml) time with your child at the weekend.

Part-time obviously entails a decrease in earnings, however if you have the chance to go for it, here are some of the advantages with respect to your bilingual journey:

  1. More time to expose to the ml – particularly interesting for OPOL families: if you are the ml parent you can turn your home into ml whilst the other Majority Language (ML) parent is out. 😉
  2. De-emphasising the ML – your child spending more time in your home speaking the ml means less exposure to the ML, hence de-emphasising it to the benefit of your ml.
  3. You have the opportunity to set a homework routine – many bilingual parents struggle to set such routine as children and parents are often too tired after a long day at school and the office. Working part-time might provide more time to set such routine in more favourable conditions.
  4. Time to enrol your child at ml activities – More time might be the opportunity to look into possible ml activities. For instance, last year we had an American student coming in to have playful activities with our eldest, so our daughter got to speak English with a native, and develop her language skills. This experience has definitely made a huge difference in her English ability.
  5. More time to play with your child – and as you know, there is no better way for a child to learn than through play! 😉
  6. More quality time with your child – as mentioned above, since you have more time to manage the chores, you are less stressed out, making you more available for your child at the weekend and hence spending higher-quality time together. The greater the bonding, the greater the emotional tie your child will develop to your ml and desire to speak it.

Have you gone part-time to rear your kids? Share your experience and ideas to make the most of it in the Comment section.

Captive Reading Ideas: Jokes

As a bilingual mum rightly pointed out to me, jokes are an excellent resources to expose children to a language and it subtleties. For instance, through their use of puns, children discover the 2 or more meanings a word may have.

Hence, jokes are ideal for captive reading, and even more fun if done on a whiteboard as the child is provided with the opportunity to write their guess (or just go and tell you directly, if they do not know how to write yet).

My eldest daughter is still a bit young (6 at the time of writing this post) to get jokes, especially on her own, but I have good hope that with her starting primary school this September she will become familiar with them in the playground, paving the way to the use of minority language jokes on our captive reading whiteboard. 🙂

Where to get ideas:

  • Internet – the web provides ample kids’ jokes websites.
  • Books – Some joke books could be an easy-at-hand resource to have home.
  • Create your own – if you are feeling creative.

Games Ideas : Happy Families

Happy families 2The first Saturday back from our summer holidays in Spain, we resumed our weekly family board games night, to hour eldest daughter’s great delight. 🙂 We introduced to her our brand new Happy Families game that we had got for her over our holidays.
As a child, I had always enjoyed this game and it had been on my games shopping list for a while.
We had one of those great family times and all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Age: 5+

Pre-requisites: Deduction skills; Reading skills can come in handy too.

Number of players: 2-5

Game play:

  1. Give out 5 cards to each player.
  2. The rest of the deck of cards serves as a “pool”, sitting in the centre of the table.
  3. Playing clockwise, the youngest player starts by asking another player of his/her choice for a card s/he needs to complete a family in his/her possession. If s/he gets the card in question, s/he gets to request a new card from the players. Otherwise, s/he gets to draw a card from the pool.
  4. As families are reunited, they must be placed down facing upwards in front of the player. The player with most reunited families wins.

Happy families 1

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Blogs I follow: Spanglish Easy

Just at the beginning of this summer, I came across the brand new Spanish blog of a lovely Spanish primary teacher who lives in the UK, where she rears her 2 little ones in English and Spanish.
This mum’s blog, www.spanglisheasy.com, seeks to empower non-native parents wishing to rear in another language.  Her insight as a non-native primary teacher in the UK is ever so valuable.

Within a day of joining her Facebook group “La Escuela de Spanglish”, I came away with a precious tip to help me get my youngest to tidy up her toys after several failed attempts, and singing along in English! The spirit of this group is like no other. I am no Facebook group fan, and yet it is the only group I am active in. The group has a human size and feel, unlike other groups I have joined where there seems to be a crowd and you cannot really get to know other members’ profiles.

If you like practical tips and need help in teaching your minority language to your child, do visit SpanglishEasy and La Escuela de Spanglish. 🙂