Dispelling myths about bilingualism

When facing language-skeptics who tell you that you are confusing your child raising them bilingual, you can kindly let them know that…

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Games Ideas: Hangman

During a conversation with one of my monolingual neighbours whose daughter is a schoolmate of my eldest, my neighbour explained that she thinks playing Hangman with her daughter last summer had involuntarily triggered her daughter’s reading skills.

My 6-year old being an early reader, I thought Hangman would be a very appropriate game to help her strengthen her reading skills.
It has been a huge hit with my daughter who requested it be included in our Saturday Family Board Games night!

Age: 5 and over

Prerequisites: Phonics, Blending, Early Reading skills, Deduction skills.

Number of players: 2-4

Game Play:

  • 1 player thinks of a word and draws a line for each letter on a blank sheet of paper.
  • The other player(s) has to guess the word 1 letter at a time. If there are several other players, it is advisable they take turns to make a letter guess.
  • If a letter is guessed correctly, the 1st player fills in the blanks with that letter in the right places. If the guess is wrong, the 1st player draws one element of the gallows and hangman.
  • The level of detail of the picture is up to the players, but with young children the more details might be the better so as to give them ample opportunities to guess right.
  • The player to guess the correct answer thinks of the word for the next game

Hangman

Tips:

  1. Write down the letters given during the guessing so as to avoid repeating them and speeding up the hanging!
  2. For children who are not yet comfortable with spelling the word they want to make you guess, ask them to pick it from one of their books. My daughter would not own up to it and make up the most ridiculously unguessable made-up words. The minute I told her to pick one from her story books and I guessed it right, she had the most beautiful smile on her face! 🙂
  3. Move on to phrases once your child is comfortable and has developed good reading skills.

ml@h tip: Think about looking up for Majority Language games in the minority language

A tricky hurdle when you opt for the minority language at home (ml@h) strategy is trendy Majority Language (ML) toys and games. For example, my daughter was obsessed with one of her friend’s board games, and I felt bad about not getting it for her for Christmas just because it was in the ML.
However, it occurred to me to search for the maker of the game and the game’s name in our minority languages (ml). The French name of the game was “Croque carotte” (something along the line of “Bite the carrot”, since it is a rabbit themed board game) and the maker is Ravensburger. Hence I google-searched carrot in English and Ravensburger, and discovered its (completely carrot-unrelated) English name: “Funny Bunny”.
I ordered it online on Amazon, and my daughter’s expression of delight when she unwrapped the gift was priceless. 🙂

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So never rule out an ML toy for its language straight away, and take the time to look it up in the ml. Finding it in the ml is like winning the jackpot: your child will be happy to get the toy they are after, you will preserve your ml environment, the toy will be an extra tool for your child to learn the ml, your child will be eager to use that toy and hence more likely to pick up the ml derived from it.

Nowadays, with globalisation a lot of products exist in many languages. It would be a shame not to give it a shot looking it up in your ml and make the most of this advantage!

A bit of bilingual fun: 11 Things Bilingual Kids Will Understand

A humorous post about 11 Things Bilingual Kids Will Understand I would like to share  about the fun side of being bilingual. 🙂

Number 3 (You’re bilingual… not a dictionary. Sometimes you find yourself forgetting a word in either language) is definitely the story of my life to this very day!

How many of these do you identify to or think your bilingual monkey will identify to? 😉

Games Ideas : Simon Says

About a month ago, I discovered all over again one of my childhood games: “Simon says”. We recently played it at my 6-year old’s birthday party and it was a hit too.
Looking at it today from my bilingual mum’s perspective, I appreciate all its language-related value; creating the need to understand and to speak.

Age: 4+

Skills: Listening comprehension, oral skills, rapidity.

Number of players: 2+ (the more the merrier!)

Game play:

  • 1 player is “Simon” and instructs the other player(s) to perform specific actions.
  • The other player(s) must carry them out provided the order issued was formulated with “Simon says…” at the beginning. For example, “Simon says touch your nose”.
  • Players lose if they perform actions formulated without “Simon says” at the beginning.
  • The winner is the last player who stands, and who in turn becomes the next “Simon”.

My eldest daughter loved giving orders, preferably silly ones! 😉 It gave her serious fits of giggles!
My little one joined in though she is still a bit young to understand everything, but I could tell from the sparkles in her eyes it amused her to participate.
Great quality family time ahead!

Tip:

  1. The sillier the actions the better! Kids learn best having fun, and they will want to learn their minority language if the learning is entertaining.
  2. Make the most of it with your younger ones to revise some concepts such as the body parts (“touch your nose”, “point to your belly”,…) or colours (“bring something blue”…)

Handling the arrival of Majority Language homework in a minority language home

The summer holidays are here and I can hardly believe that next September, my eldest will be entering Year 1 at our local Majority Language (ML) school. As parents, we are naturally curious and a bit apprehensive of the novelty. But what I personally fear the most is the arrival of homework in our home life.

Two years ago, we took the drastic turn for the minority language (ml) at home strategy with a strict ban on the ML, so as to trigger the need in my eldest daughter to use her minority languages. So as you can imagine, I do not look too keenly on the return of my archenemy in my home. In fact, I have been worrying so much about it that over the last 6 months, my husband and I have been thinking over our approach to handle this situation

The strategy
We have opted for the “Time & Place” strategy to limit the use of the ML in our home. To make it a bit of an event and visual, last February we purchased a desk for our daughter. She took to it straight away, and as if a sign of fate, the teacher e-mailed half-term break homework. This was the opportunity to put our approach into practice.
One of the homework was counting and singing the weekdays nursery rhyme in the ML. These I managed to free the house from by doing them as we walked down the street! That made less ML in our home! 😉
The second homework was a jumbled letter reading. I had my daughter sit at her new desk, and reminded her that it was for her to be seated comfortably to be able to concentrate on her homework. Then, I asked her if she remembered the house rule on the front door (i.e: the little flags mentioned in Our Story). She said yes and that it was only mls at home. So I explained that the only exception to this rule that I will tolerate will be when she is sitting AT this desk WHEN she has some homework to do. We proceeded with this exercise which she did well though it raised the question of the language used for homework supervision.

The lingua franca
September will be a real test. Ideally, I would like to stick to the ml when explaining the homework to my daughter. However, I might hit 3 difficulties:

  1. Reading – obviously, I will not be able to avoid having to use the ML if my daughter stumbles deciphering an ML word.
  2. Alphabet letters – as I discovered with that first homework experience, using the ml as lingua franca for the homework can be tricky since some letters’ names are the opposite in the ML. E.g: the English “J” is pronounced like the French “G”.
  3. French – though this will come at a later stage in primary school, I will also face teaching the ML.

Nevertheless, I would love to use the ml to help my daughter with her homework and will continue doing so, adjusting to needs and situation as we go, since is not always possible to anticipate everything. Having been schooled in the ml, it could be an opportunity for my child to pick up the ml vocabulary for what she is studying, killing 2 birds with 1 stone; besides our limiting the ML invasion in our home.

The other hurdle
There is another hurdle I had not thought of until recently: my youngest daughter! I had thought of isolating myself in the bedroom with my eldest to supervise her homework whilst my husband looked after our youngest in the living room, well out of ear-shot of the ML. Unfortunately, I recently realised that this was not realistic, since before dinner we parents rarely hit home at the same time. And since the homework will have to be done before dinner time, whoever will have picked the kids up will have to handle both kids on our own. At present, our youngest is only 2 and rarely wants to stay alone in another room. So we will be confronted with 2 extra difficulties:

  1. Ensuring the little one does not disturb her big sister’s concentration – too far we have thought of a solution: giving her, her own baby homework in the shape of puzzles, mazes, colouring-ins, etc… to make her feel like she is part of that homework time.
  2. Our youngest will be exposed to the ML from the homework – much harder to prevent unless we can entice her to go and play in another room or go on a treasure hunt around the rest of the house!

How do you handle ML homework time in your ml home? Share your tips on the comments section.

Captive Reading Ideas – Guessing game

It is well known that children learn best playing. So make the most of it and start a guessing game using a whiteboard. Leave a fun question, within your child’s reading level and see if they try to write an answer or comes up to you with the answer.

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Where to get ideas from:
– Fun facts in books or internet; e.g: ScienceKids
– Question & Answers about animals from quizz books or internet; e.g: SciendKids
– Children encyclopediae or Usborne books.

The unsuspected power of a relaxing colouring-in session with your child

In this busy lifestyle modern life is pressing on us, we often rush through things. The other day, I was reminded of this by my eldest daughter who, as she opened our mega-sized coloured pencils box, beckoned my company. So, a bit reluctantly to be quite honest with you, I grabbed my own colouring in and went and sat with her at our dinner table. We spent the most agreeable half hour of quiet time, discussing as we coloured away.

At this precise moment, I realised that even colouring in is an opportunity to expose my child to more minority language (ml), but also to foster the need to use it by having a conversation. Whilst colouring in her world map, my daughter asked questions about it, or the animals featuring on it. She also described what she was doing and commented why. As for me, I had not-so-innocently chosen a fancy design of Big Ben -the London landmark- to colour in. My choice generated questions from my daughter which in turn fostered a discussion.

It was the first time I stepped back from my stressed-out mum attitude and realised:

  1. I actually enjoyed this side-by-side colouring in session.
  2. How much valuable linguistic import it created.

We had had colouring in sessions in the past, but I usually let her at it on her own, or never took the trouble to chat so much, to describe. I had never taken so much retrospect on this activity’s value language-wise.

The quick take-away from this experience is to “Take the time” and participate in our children’s play, whatever it is; even in the less sophisticated activities such as colouring in! The more time spent, the more exchanges, the more ml exposure. It took me 6 years to realise this…try to avoid wasting as many ml opportunities as I did and when your child calls you to colour in, hit your coloured pencils fast! 😉

Captive Reading Ideas – Talk about their day

Children usually enjoy finding out about their day. So I regularly use colourful chalk-markers to leave messages on our bathroom mirror about the day’s upcoming event or countdown to something my eldest daughter looks forward to, such as her birthday party or the end of school term. I add a little illustration to make it look even more fun. 🙂

Captive Reading Ideas - Talk about their day

If your child takes to it, you can even leave a question about their day. The first time I did so, I enquired as to whether my daughter had enjoyed her swimming lesson. As soon as she read the message as she went to brush her teeth to go to bed, she came running to me to hug me and reply. A sweet moment, and also a different way to get them talking about their day, since more often than not kids refuse to talk about it when asked at pick-up time. 😉

Where to get ideas from:

  1. Their school timetable
  2. Their activities
  3. Family events or outings

Tip: Messages do not have to be on a daily basis.  Some children might never grow tired of them, others enjoy them more when they are not part of a routine but come as a surprise.  Adapt to your child’s personality.