domingo, 1 de abril de 2018

UPDATE : Januaray - Easter 2018 / Enero - Semana Santa 2018

Summary First quarter 2018 / Resumen  primer trimestre 2018

This is a review of Marc's language and learning for the first quarter of 2018.

A boy from England joined the class in January just for this term. His mother is Catalan and speaks to him in that language. The family have moved back and forth between Catalonia and England over the last 15 years, and are now settled in Bath. The idea of coming here for the term was to give the children extra experience in a Catalan school and get an immersion in Catalan and Spanish.
Agora also does 30% of the classes in English.
Marc became his buddy for this term and they spoke to each other in English.
The term in the country of origin is an excellent option. However, it can be very costly, especially if you do it through an organization. To cut costs, the cheapest way is to find low cost accommodation and go to a state school.  Obviously, if you have family in the country, that will save on accommodation and food  bills.
It works out more economical to do a full academic year. With an organization such as New Link, the 9 months can cost between 13-15,000 euros, and includes everything except flights and extra spending money. It's a big investment. Children generally do this year away when they are 14. 

This Easter, in the village where we stay most weekends, Marc met a boy who also lives in England and has a Catalan mother. He speaks fluent Catalan, but said that he can't really speak Spanish well.
Marc also complains that he finds Spanish "strange" despite doing classes at school, some programmes on TV, and hearing his mother speak to me.

At school, this boy learns French and Italian. The languages depend on the availability of teachers.   Again, with Marc he spoke in English as they'd met previously during the summer.
Marc is comfortable speaking in English with children who come from England even though they might speak Catalan due to speaking in a natural English and in an English accent.

I've found that spending time in the heritage language country is a key factor in the child mastering the language. Once again, if you have family in the country, it's worth taking advantage of this and  having the child spend extended periods of time there.

Language update
Errors and how to deal with them
Marc exhibits total mastery of  English for his age, taking into account that he's trilingual and in all the languages there is some 'contamination' or 'code switching' (the preferred term in linguistics).
He uses idioms all the time, and makes spontaneous plays on words. He uses all the tenses perfectly now, even "wish". "I wish you wouldn't tell me off all the time."  "I wish it were Sunday", etc.

Whenever a mistake comes up, I point it out. For example, 
Marc: "We ended out playing football. "
Me: "We say "ended up, but you know that don't you?
Marc: "Yeah, we ended up playing football."

Normally, these repetitive errors are erradicated. If the child doesn't get enough exposure the errors won't go away, so it's worth pointing them out in a 'matter of fact way'. There's no need to make a bg thing of it.

We've been focussing on Spelling, which is his weak point. We're working through Carol Vorderman's 10 minutes a Day Spelling Ages 7-11. The goal is to finish it before is birthday in May. And his birthday present will depend on it!! We're also be working on Vorderman's English Made Easy for 10-11 year olds, which isn't "easy" and includes malapropisms and Spoonerisms!

Regarding reading, I wanted him to start a Harry Potter novel, but he doesn't fancy it. Instead, he's started a Star War's novel called "Death Troopers", which is a gruesome tale about zombies aboard a spaceship that's adrift. It's the most advanced book he's read so far, and new words are coming up, for example "whack" or others that he didn't recognise in written form"throughout", which I'm sure we've used before.

Don't limit your child's English to just speaking the language. Being literate is also important to make the child's language richer.

sábado, 13 de enero de 2018

UPDATE for 2017. Connected again. Progress and Plans

Después de un año sin poder entrar en el Blog he encontrado la forma de hacerlo.

En esta actualización hablo de sus progresos como siempre, las fuentes del idioma, influencias americanas y ¡como planificar la semana para estar con tus niños!

After a year without being able to get into the Blog, I’ve finally found the way to do it.

This is a brief update of the last year with the usual tips and learnings for other parents, both native and non-native.


The biggest change I’ve noticed over this last year is Marc changing from child to older child both cognitively and behaviourally. There are many subtle clues in the maturing process, in the complexity of language and its use, social interaction and becoming more autonomous (finally).

Examples of languages

The difference between a monolingual native and a bilingual native is that there’s always going to be an influence from the two or three languages. It’s a trade-off that’s always worthwhile. There will nearly always be the main strongest language which will be the language of the place you live.

I hear cross over language in English and Catalan that’s often because of direct translation.

In Catalan “ una carta vermella” (a red card in English) instead of “targeta”, or in English “How is it like?” instead of What is it like?  

His English is complex and native like in both language use and pronunciation.

Language examples: a wobbly tooth, I scraped the back of my hand

Expressions: He’s is bloody tall; Don’t get me wrong… ; She’s gonna fricking gonna fall off her perch (American euphemism), I was like a sore thumb at a finger party (American expression and new for me!).  It won’t be OK, it’s Murphy’s law. It’s lashing it down in Terrassa (raining hard. An Irish phrase I use) The list goes on and on.

The higher the exposure from both the native speaker parent(s) and other media, the richer and more complex the output language will be.

At school this year I’ve asked the English department to push him further, especially his writing skills. He’s already completed a long essay in English and we checked it together. The main area to work on is spelling and that’s going to be our objective till Christmas.

Planning language exposure

Some parents might think that planning to be with your child to give exposure to a language is somehow too scientific. You can look at it as planning to be with your child(ren) and that will help them speak the language better! If you’re raising your child in a minority language where you live, it makes sense to keep in mind language learning opportunities and keep exposure as high as possible as this is the only way to increase language level.

Weekly Planner

As I’ve said before having a calendar where you plan times to be with your child is really useful and can make sure that you prioritise your child(ren) over work for example (when possible). Instead of sitting at your desk you are obliged to organise your time to see your child.

In my case I try to do half the school runs. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. That means I spend an hour each morning with him and several hours after school. I can plan in activities to do together such as reading and games or looking at interesting things on the internet in a café after school or visiting shops or going 10-pin bowling for instance.

You can also plan in phone or SKYPE calls if you’re not going to arrive in time to see them.

Because there’s a huge difference between growing up in the 80s or 90s and now in the two thousand and teens. Access to technology and internet has revolutionised everything. The struggle for parents now it seems is managing time spent on devices (mobiles, tablets and computers) as well as video games. This has substituted to a large degree keeping kids away from hours of television (my case in the 70s and 80s). Further to this point, this year, Marc has started using a tablet in the classroom.

At the same time, and as I’ve repeated over the years on this blog, technology can play a crucial part in helping parents bring up their children speaking another language. The distant culture and language can be imported into the home via internet in a way that was impossible up to the end of the 90s. 

Regarding technology, here are a few things I’ve noticed:

1)      The Filmon TV app  no longer connects through Chromecast. Even the dedicated Chromecast app doesn’t work. This is a known problem and they are “working on it.” This is a nuisance as casting programmes onto the TV means we watch programmes in English together, even if it’s Match of the Day or X Factor.  There are also children’s programmes here, so I hope they get it fixed.

2)      Netflix. People have been talking about this but I only got it this summer 2017. There is a huge offer of films, documentaries and TV series. They can be seen in their original language with a choice of subtitles in different languages. There is a whole section of films for children and all programmes have an age appropriate warning.

Marc likes the American sitcom Jessie (very American), and we select films and documentaries to watch. Normally we watch an episode of a series per night or part of a film (not all of it). This means there’s input every evening. I would definitely recommend this.


Life at school and American influences

Last year (2016) there was a group of 6 American boys that went around with. Of these 6 only 2 are at the school this year. The result of being around them was that his English became influenced by the Americans.

This was noticed by his cousin and husband who visited this April.

 The influence was apparent in intonation patterns, such as questions without auxiliaries: “So, you are going out tonight?” And vocabulary “This sucks/stinks”. “We all met up at recess.”

 It has to be said that there’s a lot of exposure to American language and culture in Britain and Ireland in general and this does influence the English spoken there.

Although Agora International School is trilingual (Catalan, Spanish and English) rather than just an English-speaking monolingual school, many foreign parents send their children to the school even if their level of Spanish is low.

One of the American children had come from an American school near Barcelona, where Spanish is taught as a foreign language. At Agora, many subjects are taught in Catalan, but despite this, the kids seem to cope, and parents are happy for their children to get immersed in a foreign language before returning to their countries of origin. I haven’t noticed any traumatised children!

American Input

Marc gets a lot American English input from many sources. When children are younger the CBEEBIES on the BBC gives a lot of choices in British English. And later on, there are programmes for teens. But for Tweens, we haven’t seen anything we like so much.  TV series: having graduated from Sponge bob and similar he’s watching series such as Jessie. We’ve started watching the new Star Trek series Discovery on Netflix. So, we have a new episode plus the ‘After Trek’ programme that discusses the episode every week. Yep, a bit nerdy, isn’t it?!!   

Documentaries. It’s possible to find age appropriate documentaries on Netflix. We watched on about the projects to get humans to Mars.

British English input comes from watching Match of the Day that has highlights of the English football league and some talent shows such as Britain’s got Talent and the X Factor.

Internet. Youtube. A huge variety of videos in English ranging from tutorial ones for certain games, e.g. Minecraft, to funny ones, e.g. about animals to clips from series “American Dad,” and others that are age inappropriate. Access to the internet by children through so many sources is a massive challenge for any parent these days, and one we’re looking at right now.

Video Games. Minecraft (just weird music and noises!), Star Wars Battlefront, Moto GP. I’ve set all the games to English.

Films. Practically all the films or movies we watch are of American origin. And there’s a multitude of choices on Netflix.  

Books: Captain Underpants, The Wimpy Kid, Horrid Henry…

For 2018 the plan is to graduate to the very British Harry Potter and other more grown-up novels to bring his reading skills up a level.  

Now I'm back and connected I'll be updating this blog on a more regular basis. 

The best of luck. If you have any questions or need any suggestions let me know.


sábado, 4 de junio de 2016

Up to 9 years old May 2016 - Hasta los 9 años mayo 2016

Summary . This is an update of activities and language till the end of May 2016, which includes a look at reading material, games, TV and a look at how to schedule language routines and input into your week and year.
En esta actualización hasta finales de mayo 2016, hablo de lectura, juegos. TV y como crear un calendario de rutinas e inputs linguísticos cada semana y año. 

As Marc is getting older his language is getting more complex. He's able to play with language more, including imitating voices and accents. He loves imitating Yoda's way of changing the word order of his sentences, known as Yoda Speak. So, "you can learn to speak like Yoda" is rendered : 
"learn to speak like Yoda you can. placing the subject and verb at the end of the sentence. 
As you would expect, use of conditionals and irregular verbs is getting nearer to perfection. 
His use of idioms is increasing, for example, "you look tired Daddy, why don't you have a snooze or get some shut-eye." or "It's a piece of cake."  
If he doesn't know a word, he asks. In Britain's Got Talent, he didn't know the word "overshadow". When teaching the words, try and give more examples. It's always funny when the children start using these new words and phrases; something which adults seem to do less frrequently. 
He still plays in English, and the only exception I've noticed is when he played in Spanish using a game he's played with a friend in Lleida. 
Any mistakes which are made are usually bilingual speaker errors, where a phrase or structure is translated literally. 
Regarding pronunciation, the only word that is resisting 'standardisation' is "worry", where he says the 'o' similar to the'o' in orange. It sounds a bit American.  I just thinks he likes saying it like that! 

In the video below he explains his dream house. He loves drawing, so I try to get him to label and / or talk about what he's drawn.    One of the buildings outside the house is labelled 'Strip'. He explained that this was a striptease place! I said, What's that? and he replied, 'a place with chicks dancing!!! And he didn't get that from me!! 

Marc gets most of his English input from me, but also from classes taught through English at school, and he now has an American classmate who joined the school in April. They get on well and he recently had a sleepover at the family's house. 

Understanding American English isn't much of a problem as most of the books he reads and the programmes and films he watches are in American English. This wasn't a conscious choice, there's just so much of it!    

He is mad into Star Wars, and he now has all 7 Star Wars videos and several books about the films. 
And we finally gave in and bought him a Play Station 4. One of the games is Battlefront based on Star Wars, of course!  I changed the settings to English so all games and instructions are automatically in English. This is all part of the strategy to maximise input in the heritage language. It's easy to get lazy. 

I made a first time ever exception to watching cinema films in Spanish for his 9th birthday as we were in Vic, and there are no original version cinemas there. Refusing to go would have been radical at this stage, and a two hour film in Spanish doesn't diminish his English! 

As mentioned previously, he likes Minecraft and is learning a lot of vocabulary about building materials. A bewildering amount in fact. Check it out!

Here are the book series he's reading. He's on his 6th Wimpy Kid novel. One of the main changes this year is that he reads on his own, and the latest book he's received from school doesn't have any pictures!!!! We're reading this one together. 

Wimpy Kid series

Star Wars Craze

More Activities for Spelling and Reading 
Spelling Game
Marc told me about a spelling game he likes and we've been playing it; e.g. in the car.
One person thinks of a word, and the other person has to think of one starting with the last letter of the previous word and then spell it. Example:
Black -
Knight - K-N-I-G-H-T
Telephone -T-E-L-E-P-H-O-N-E
These versions of songs are great as you can see the spelling -sound coincidence and comment on it. Marc was surprised by the way Charlie Puth in One Call Away sings the words " nothing on me, where 'me' rhymes with away. and "nothing" sounds like nuthang ! Very American and also a typical  way words are changed to fit a specific line in a song.

Spelling and Reading in general
Words are everywhere and if you provide enough material in English, whether books, songs or games, even PS4, you can focus on certain words and their spelling.

I think that if you want to take the language input seriously, it's a good idea to explicitly plan in the times you're going to  be with your child AND speak to them. This way, you can keep a check on how much input they're getting. 

I write the times I'm going to take or pick up Marc from school in my diary.  In my case this year, I've been able to stick to Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. I get to the school about 20 minutes early and we normally read a book together. We've been doing this since he was about 5 (I need to check back through this blog!) I pick him up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I try to make the times we are alone together from 5pm-7.30 or 8pm . We normally go to a cafe/ restaurant such as Viena, and have a snack and a chat and then either read, do some drawing, do some exercised from the Carol Vorderman series or even help him with his homework, even Spanish or Catalan!  We treat them like foreign languages and discuss the answers and explanations in English.  And sometimes we'll go bowling or windowshopping together. 

At the weekends, I try to do as many activities in common with him as possible, walking, riding a bicycle, playing football or othe sports, shopping, bowling, eating together, watching films and TV programmes together.  I also give myself time to myself, otherwise I'd go mad.   

The point is, by explicitly planning you make sure you spend enough quality time with your child. It's a win-win and you can then plan when you're going to spend time with your partner and children too. It's important to spend time alone with your child as they need that language input.  

If you have any comments or any questions, please feel free to write. 

miércoles, 9 de marzo de 2016

Marc becoming trilingual Update March 2016 - 8 yrs and 9 months

In this blog I'll talk about Marc's
1)current language progress
2) Different varieties of English  - American
3) Swearing ... again!
4) Reading and writing practice and what we've been doing with advice for parents.
5) Summer 2016
6) Cultural issues

1) Language update
As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, Marc is a de facto native bilingual Catalan - English speaker with increasing proficiency in Spanish.

The language points that I've noticed are

a) His correct use of the conditionals:

2nd conditional
If I were there
I wish I were
(notice the more acceptable use of 'were' and not 'was')
and the 3rd conditional
If I'd been there I would've done something else.

He hadn't been using the would've done, but this has 'appeared' and seems to be consolidated now.

B) Use of idiomatic language
He used so many phrases that he's learned from me, books and films / TV now that I've lost count.
When a new idiom comes to mind I use it and then see if he picks it up.
Dad: The cat's in seventh heaven, isn't it?
in the end he's also started using this. Children seem to take new phrases and use them  easily.

He makes the odd 'mistake' . The words begins by (instead of 'with') .   These are mentioned in a diplomatic way. "We'd say "begins with..." . so it begins with a 'B' , doesn't it?

2) American English
Just like the UK and Ireland. there is a lot of input from American English on TV and in films and even the books he's reading so, as you might expect, he uses some American words and phrases.
We learned the work 'recess' in a book (breaktime), and then later in the week, he used recess instead of break! He's also using US past participles:  'gotten' instead of 'got', and 'snuck' instead of sneaked.

There is a new American boy in his class who has joined from the American school, and Marc purposely used the American words he knows, e.g 'recess' , 'soccer' instead of 'football', etc.

This awareness of other varieties of a language comes from a parent's desire to expand the child's linguistic and cultural knowledge. If your child is living abroad, you can't expect them to speak in the same way as a child in the UK, so as long as it is English, then that's fine with me! BUT, I always point out the use of American words so that he's aware of the differences.

3) Swearing
While we try to limit and stop bad languge, as has been pointed out in other bilingual family books published by Multilingual Matters, adult language ultimately gets out. He gets some input from internet when he watches (sometimes unsuitable) videos, Minecraft tutorials for example and some films. Obviously, a lot of this language comes from me! Recently he's started using 'Jesus' and 'Jesus Christ'. It's inevitable and is a sign of language 'progress' and also a sign that the child is a language mirror and you are the linguistic role model.

This is where we've seen a significant moment; that is, he's started reading on his own, to himself, because he enjoys it. This is great for him and also a reward for me to see the years of (mostly) patient insistence on reading pay off.  Once, I even had to take the book away from him so he'd have dinner!!

The second improvement is that now he reads aloud with more meaning and not just repeating the words. See video. I also show you a way of helping the child when they don't know a word, in this case 'proposterous', and then we use it so that the meaning sticks.

The secret to reading, which I've set out over the previous entries in the blog, is to work through the levels, to reward the child, and to be regular and flexible. Recently, when he hasn't been in the mood, I've read a page and he's read a page. He also gets a model to copy. it's worked very well.
and use every opportunity to read when words come up in instructions and on internet pages.

I've asked the school to get him to write more often in class. The current activity is reading a book and summarising it. This, and spelling, and two ongoing areas to improve on.
The books we've been doing are very boy oriented as you'll see by the titles:

The Captain underpants series.
The Wimpy Kid series
He loves both and they are unsimplified as well as being American English.

We're also using two Carol Vaudermann books,
Maths Made Easy
10 Minutes spelling a day. We did a page from this this morning, and he really is improving, I'm relieved to say!

Summer 2016
For the first time in 3 years Marc won't be attending his cousin's school in the summer.
 I've decided to give him a break. However, after telling him he said he wouldn't mind going back again!! I've booked other dates to go with him to English including a visit to the Arsenal stadium. It doens't look like we're going to be celebrating anything there though.

He supports Arsenal and Barça and says he dosen't know which he supports in the coming Champions League match!! Sadly, after the first match he was teased at school because he also supports Arsenal and he's 'too English'. Children notice everything and can be cruel.

These are issues to be ready for on the bilingual journey.

lunes, 30 de noviembre de 2015

AUTUMN 2015 - 8.5 years  -  OTOÑO 2015 - 8.5 años

Marc's Language Profile  8 years of age.

Language Proficiency
Due to 8 years of carefully planned exposure to English, Marc's level is trilingual native. 
He switches naturally from Catalan to English to Catalan without any effort.  

For the first time I feel that Marc is now a consolidated native English speaker. Between the ages of 7 - 8 children make a noticeable cognitive leap that is apparent in everything from their realtionships with parents, family and friends and language and learning abilities. Marc's main areas to work on are his reading and especially writing. His spelling is atrocious! This is why I'm putting even more emphasis on it this year. Mistakes he makes in English are very few and are usually Catalan translations in English as I've mentioned in previous posts.  To be fair if he doesn't know the word in English he asks. The same thing occasionally happens in Catalan when he translated literally a word or phrase from English. This is NORMAL for bilinguals, and not an excuse

 His weakest language is Spanish. He gets input from hearing his mother speak Spanish and Spanish television which is on when I'm not at home. In Agora, the languages are split 30% each between English, Catalan and Spanish and he is likely to improve his command of Spanish in the coming years. In some ways, you could say that he will learn Spanish without his parents. 

He sounds native in both Catalan and English. He speaks with his father's southern English standard accent. At schoool in England his classmates found it hard to believe that he's from Spain. 

Identity and getting to know the culture
In the last year he's become more aware of his identity. "I'm half English and half Spanish". Nurturing both cultural identities is important, especially for building strong ties with the minority/heritage language.  If children feels proud about the language they will be happier to speak it. And when they mix with people from the heritage language country, they will feel a connexion and feel less foreign which is his case. 

There is no need to 'hide' either identities related to the languages. you can be proud of both. This year we went to the UK twice and Ireland once.

What we did this year.
In the summer after he finished school and had stayed at his cousins' house we went to Devon and Cornwall for a few days. We didn't meet many local people as it was full of tourists like us!! Here's a photo from Lands End. 

We spent another long weekend in Poole in October and then repeated Halloween in Dublin. The strange thing is that most of the time, Marc's Catalan aunt(11 years in Dublin) speaks to Marc in English and he replies in English. Halloween is a big celebration in Ireland and this year we took advantage of the occasion to visit friends, family and the housing estate and the houses I lived in there. I lived in Dublin for 11 years, and he's interested in seeing where I lived.

Non-Native speaking parents   - 
Padres no nativos que quieren hablar en inglés con sus niños. 
1) que tengas un nivel proficiency como mínimo. 
2) que fomentes una actitud positiva hacia la cultura del idioma
3) no dejes de hablarlo y no cambies el idioma. 

I know several parents who are non-native speakers of English who speak to their children in English and their children speak to them in English too. Quite an achievement that some native speaking parents do not even manage.
The idea of identity is more difficult in this case. However, it is still very important to foster a positive attitude towards the culture behind the language. If the parent has learnt English in the UK for example then learning about the UK and contact with the country will help to strengthen the emotional link with the language. Children, once they become teenagers, amy rebel and stop speaking the language as it might seem unnatural to do so. This will depend on the language level and the previous work on showing the positive aspects of speaking the language and link with the language country. And, if the language is a manjor once, it will also be easier.

It is also a good idea to ensure that your language level is high enough to start this life long project in the first place as this will be your communication channel. If you start mixing, the language will liely end up being lost or weakened. Also, you need to keep up your level by continuing to maintain contact with it and continue learning new phrases and vocabulary. The child can only repeat what it learns from you and any films or TV programmes that are watched.

Although I love having succeeded in raising Marc in English, I would've have loved to have raised him in Spanish if we'd lived in the UK. I would've been more challenging and 'fun' somehow.
It's important not remember that if you're a native speaker in another country, the heritage language is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child.


As mentioned above, I feel that Marc's speaking skills are at a native level for this age. However, he doesn't get as much practice writing and reading as he would in the UK.

The important thing is have a routine and a specific series of books in mind.

For writing we're using Carol Vorderman's ENGLISH MADE EASY. some of the book is definitely NOT easy. so, we're using the 7-8 years old one which also builds confidence.

We previously used her SPELLING MADE EASY book. Due to the amount of homework he's now getting, I've had to narrow the choices.

I get him to write and spell as much as possible spontaneously. Fopr example  if  a new word comes up when we are talking I give him the spelling and get him to spell it back to me. It's a continuous process.

As I've mentioned previously, for young children, there are two types of books: those you read to them (harder) and those they read themselves or to you (easier).

The big change is that he enjoys reading and reads books in English on his own. He currently loves "the Diary of a Wimpy kid".  So this is his self-reader.

I get him to read out loud to me as I can monitor his progress. We've read Minecraft stories"Diary of a Mincecraft Zombie", and one of the Captain Underpants stories, which I read to him the first time.   We nomrally read for 15 minutes in the car outside the school when I take him. The latest is a  HORRIBLE HENRY book (we've also seen the film). Here's a recent  example (November 2015) . I'm trying to get him to read the sentences with meaning and use the puntuation marks properly.

The books you read to them are above their comfortable reading level. We read a non-fiction book, SPILLING THE BEANS on CHARLES DARWIN. There are other books in this series I'd like to read.   Now we're reading a comic from the Adventure Time series, which is different. This time we take it in turns to read the different parts.  He could also read this on his own if he wanted.
this book has a lot of American slang, so I also give him the British English equivalents.
The important thing is to choose books they are interested in to motivate them.

I've also asked the school to make him write more in class and to give him a weekly writing task. So far, this hasn't worked. He is now allowed to read his own English novel rather than the too easy graded reader the rest of the class has to. It's an important concession and one that not many schools are willing to make. In my opinion having a native speaker child reading 'baby' books and learning colours and names of animals is demotivating and even insulting.



Once again we repeated the two previous years. I took Marc to Poole in the UK after he finished the Spanish school year and he went to his cousin's local state school.

He was put in his older cousin's class (the year above) as the school preferred him to go with his cousin and a teacher who already knew him. As this was only for 3.5 weeks it wasn't a problem and at the end of every school year the classes are more 'relaxed'.

He said he enjoyed the classes and was able to keep up. although being in a year higher made it more difficult.

When he's in Poole for the summer he often picks up phrases. This year it was 'literally', as in "we were literally there all day", or with 'actually and 'basically' all in the same sentence'. Actually he was literally beating all the other boys at football basically. The point here is that children only really pick up this language if they mix with native kids in the home country. Accent wise, he picked up less of a Dorset accent as his standard southern English accent is now very stable and assimilated.

As I've said in previous blog entries, any European citizen can send their children to a state school in the UK. The main problem is accommodation. If you can sort this out and combine it with a holiday, the experience is very worthwhile for the child, although the child must have a level that permits them to participate in the classes.

SCHOOL IN THE UK.  Should you or shouldn't you? 

The advantages of 3 or 4 more weeks in a UK school after Spanish school term has finished far outweigh the disadvantages. The linguistic and cultural gains are invaluable. The question is if parents are willing or able to make the 'sacrifice' to allow this to happen.

For the Irish option, due to the holidays there, you'd have to do the last week of August and the first ones in September.
Outside Saint Joseph's school in Parkstone, Poole at the end of June 2015 with his older and younger cousins.

martes, 2 de junio de 2015

7 1/2 years old New Term September 2014 - January 2015 - New Stage .Nueva Etapa

After the summer I needed to think about a new plan. The main thing to take into account is the age of the child and their potential.
A developmental leap
I've noticed a developmental change in him as he moves from  small child' to young boy in the way he thinks and behaves. The typical change from 6-8 years old. For example, he has serious doubts about Santa Claus and the other Spanish / Catalan Christmas characters. This means that you have to find more challenging tasks and activities for them. He's now starting to understand plays on words and jokes. Following up on a Knock Knock joke in an English Book, we found many more on internet which he found funny and likes repeating:
Knock Knock jokes on an internet site
Speaking level. Playing games with the language
As mentioned before, he sounds native and his level of English shows all the features of a bilingual native speaker. I add 'bilingual' because there will always be an influence from the languages in both directions, sometimes voluntary and sometimes not. Sometimes a word will come to your head in one language and not the the other. These lapses are normal. I get them sometimes in either language!
This has happened in restaurants where he didn't have a word he wanted in Catalan or Spanish. "Daddy, how do you say 'dessert' in Spanish?" The amount of exposure to English from myself as well as Cartoon Network and related children's video and YouTube videos on Minecraft means that he speaks English naturally adding American words and phrases due to a lot of exposure through the above.
Inevitably, swear words appear and that's something he picked up in England last summer and from me! Phrases like "Flipping hell, it was freezing in painting class tonight!" appear.
We also try and find words that rhyme when we are speaking in a playful way which enriches his language.   For example. Me:  "Marc, I sold something on eBay and I thought .... no way" Marc: " No way but you sold it today .... far away...   Me: You say!   etc... it's spontaneous and something you'll either do or you won't, a bit like singing! If you do it, you'll really boost their level, if you don't, then that's a pity.

To get children to speak fluently give them as much exposure and practice as possible which means getting involved with their activities and playing with them!! There's no secret. The more the better. And gently correct through reformulating their phrases (repeating back what they said in the correct way).
You can also hear your own phrase and accent coming back to them (although without enough exposure, the children will not pick up the native parent's accent.
In the my case I've relaxed my pronunciation and "allowed" southern English features to enter my speech which I hear Marc using, such as missing of the 'h' between words. Daddy, come' rer (here). I can't find i' (it). He actually pointed this out to me this morning. He seems to have an above average ability to mimic people and imitate sounds, and this is one of the reasons he speaks with an English accent and children with similar language exposure don't.
I was reminded of this in a company I teach in. The receptionist (with an English mum) was born and brought up here, yet speaks with a perfect English accent. She pointed out that her brother speaks English with a Spanish accent. Individual differences can account for this.
In this next video you see me interacting with him as he plays on the minecraft game. Some of the above 'relaxed' features are present. Can you hear them? In one case I overcompensate with a strong iT. !!!

Next I speak about another VERY important learning area.

We had finished the Oxford Reading Tree series up to Level 8. This is VERY RECOMMENDED.
It gives parents an easy to follow course, and you can see the progress as the child advances through the levels.  Once they finish level 8 they are ready to read other types of simple children's books on their own. I decided to reread the Mister Men series. I had read them to him when he was younger and from September he started to read them back to me!! It was a good from a psychological point of view, and I pointed out what he was doing.  We read "Space and Planets" from the Jackdaws Anthologies pack (stage 8-9), and he's found that quite easy.
 To try something different we're now reading a Minecraft Novel especially written for children as he's a big fan of the internet game. The idea is to find books that are motivating as well as educational.
We may try more from the Oxford series at a higher level. He's on track for his age level but not above. At the same time he's also studying Catalan and Spanish, so slower progress in English is to be expected. This is why you absolutely must make an effort and get children to read as often as you can.
According to the Oxford Reading tree scale, he should be reading Stages 10-11. Check out this useful site for further information.   
It's also good to read to them, for example at bedtime and get into that habit. We've just finished Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory and The Glass Elevator. In the end, they'll read these books themselves.

I've also learned about having to be flexible and change the plan. I really like the Carol Vorderman series of books - Also VERY RECOMMENDED  for the same reasons as the Oxford Reading Tree.

I started using ENGLISH MADE EASY  for 7-8 year olds (he completed the previous book level) but he found it hard and it was demotivating. I also think some of the exercises are for older children, e.g. homphones, homographs, editing and proof-reading. This is also because he finds writing  hard and it's the area I'm finding the most challenging to get him to improve.
So, I went back to SPELLING MADE EASY for ages 6-7 which he finished quickly and we're now doing SPELLING MADE EASY for 7-8 year olds which he also finds quite easy, and he's feeling motivated again. The books have stars to stick into columns. When he completes a column I get him a reward like a ten pin bowling game or a toy he wants. It's important to actually keep your promise!
 After we've finished these books we'll try the ENGLISH MADE EASY 7-8 again, . I get him to write as much as possible when the exercise asks for it, but it's a struggle sometimes, often because he's tired after school.

In a later blog entry, I'll talk about using other Carol Vorderman series books: Science and Maths.
In the video you can hear a short clip of him reading in the restaurant.

The picture below shows the Minecraft book and the SPELLING MADE EASY 7-8. We did a few pages of each after school this week. We're working on him reading in a more natural manner. If you're not teaching them to read and write in English and they go to schools where there is little English, they will fall behind. English spelling needs a lot of work. Give the children the time they deserve!!

Minecraft novel and English
Spelling Made Easy

An Oxford Reading Tree and The Mr Men and Little Miss series that he has read
The books from the Carol Vorderman series we've been using.


lunes, 1 de junio de 2015

Jan -MAY 2015 up to 8TH BIRTHDAY / mayo 2015 - hasta los 8 años

I describe aspects of his language acquisition up to his 8th birthday in May and
give some ideas, opinions and reminders about how to guarantee progress and
how to avoid mediocrity. I also talk about the internet and bad language.
And I talk again about:

Hablo de sus progresos hasta su 8 cumpleaños y doy mis opiniones sobre escuelas internacionales privadas, como estudiar de verdad en Inglaterra y como optimizar la adquisición y  evitar la mediocridad. Trato también el uso del internet y palabrotas.


As children get older they will continually surprise you with opinions, language and knowledge that you don't know the origin of ! Once they've passed the 'magical' belief age of 6-7, one can start to notice more mature conversation, languge and opinions. Here's what's been happening in from January to May this year with some relevant language issues that have appeared.

Establishing routines
More than ever I feel that having established learning routines has been one of the key strategies in Marc reaching native trilingualism.
Here are some ideas.
PLANNING to be WITH your Child(ren) (Language Contact Time). and not confusing extra work with being an obsessive parent who 'hothouses' their child. 
Look at you schedule for the week and write the times you're going to be with them.
In the my case I've reserved Monday and Wednesday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons with Marc. Fridays are more difficult and are only possible when I don't have classes.
On Mondays and Wednesday mornings, we get to school 20 minutes early and I get him to read our current story out loud and then we discuss it and go over any new language.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to a cafe and have a chat about his day and have a snack. They we'll often do a few pages from a Carol Vorderman book. We finished the spelling book and are now working through the Science book.
Children really do need lots of practice spelling in English. And Marc is no exception. We s¡finished it in time for his 8th birthday, which was the goal

In the evenings, as well as playing a game with him, anything from chess, Ludo (Parchis) football or Scalextric, we watch his favourite Cartoon Networks programmes: Adventure time, Regular Show, Uncle Grandpa, etc. and suitable children's films or series on DVD.
And every night I get him ready and put him to bed. And if he's not too tired I read him a book that is above his reading level.

INTERNET  and bad language!!
Like most youngsters, Marc has already got the hang of finding his favourite sites on the internet, namely, Minecraft and related tutorials, Adventure Time and related sites, a game site for kids in English: Friv (he got this from his Computer clases at school), and there have been some less aceptable choices that he found, such as 'yo' mama..', as in yo' mama is so stupid she gave back a doughnut because it had a whole in it."

I've made a point of him always using English speaking sites only, which he does.
However, many videos come up on YouTube and he's picked up some swear words.  This has been dealt with in many other Bilingual books, and as they say, it's inevitable that they'll pick uyp bad language either from internet, films (if chosen poorly) and especailly from school. I stress that he should NOT use bad language AT ALL, and he does use euphemisms such as this is flipping hard.

The Internet needs monitoring, but as much as you do at home, you can't control devices that come into school. This is a new problem that needs solutions.


1. Extra Reading and 'academic' work, etc in English outside school is obsessive.

Sadly, I've heard parents say that this sounds obsessive. However, if you actually look at the time spent on reading (20 mins two or three times a week) and spelling or Science (twice a week), it's very little BUT very necessary if you're really serious about your child making progress. Also, some parents think reading is something unpleasant!

Reading and learning are fun. Or at least, treat it like that and your children will think the same. If they ever feel really tired, you don't have to force anything on them. The problem in the end is the parent feeling either uninterested, too tired or too stressed. . Most books on bilingualism are written by teachers or linguists and obviously it's easier for us as it's our 'vocation'. But, I really have to make a very big effort sometimes too.

If you want your child to learn the language WELL, you need to spend time with them and instill routine and a minimum of discipline,  something which many parents seem unable or unwilling to do.  You even need to think about reducing hours at work and earning less!! Think of your priorities.
 The other option is doing little and seldom and being blasé and inconsistent in using English. Medicrity breeds mediocrity. Be aware and don't fall into the ridiculous  discipline = cruelty trap. You can be firm but fair.  If something is worth doing, then do it well.

Why do they need any extra English at School if they already speak English with their parents?

Some parents have asked me why Marc needs to learn subjects in English at School if he already seems like a native speaker. This is a bit like asking why children in England learn subjects in English at school!

It depends on what you want for your child. If you want them to be proficient in say, Science in English, then studying it in Catalan or Spanish isn't going to meet that objective. Also, most parents don't have time to teach their child every subject in another language at home. Another point is that learning a language is a lifetime activity and isn't like learning to ride a bicycle. You can't say, "ok, their level is good enough today and will be like that forever, let's just speak in Spanish from now on!" This "language is like learning to ride a bicycle" concept is difficult for some people to get rid out.  I've even Heard of children who arrived in Spain from the USA with a native level not speaking English ever again due to no exposure. Language really is that fickle.

The 'secret' is the following: Proficiency for bilinguals or trilinguals is a continuous process. Yes, it's hard work. So, keep your expectations in step with reality. The less they do, the worse they'll get.

If they make mistakes in the weaker language they shoud stop speaking it.
Some teachers and even Doctors (who shouldn't give an opinion on this), believe that children would be better off as monolinguals. Normally they are monolinguals themselves.
 Being a bilingual is a trade-off in some sense. You'll never be absoutely perfect in two languages,and I'm thinking Spanish - Catalan as a good example.
Marc still occasionally uses the wrong word in English due to the influence of Catalan, and so do many adults.  BUT, the 'errors' are a small sacrifice for the large return of speaking two or three languages. The advantages are huge and it's only lack of knowledge in this area that causes the erroneous and misinformed opinions. I hope this blog helps fill the gaps.

PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS - Do non-native kids really learn English and is it worth sending your English speaking child there?
Spanish parents who send their non-native kids to private "International" schools, wonder if they will learn English. My own experience at Agora, Sant Cugat is that by the time they are 8, they can understand normal conversation for their age. I remember one of Marc's friends who came to stay when he was 6 year's old. He told me to speak in Spanish as he didn't understand me! However, fast forward two years and this time he understood me and even replied in English. And he doesn't have a gift for language.  The level they reach will depend on their own natural learning ability. However, whatever their natural level, they will certainly reach a much higher level than the state schools with perhaps an hour or less of English a week.
As I said above, the subjects taught through English are very useful for English children as well, and supplement what an English parent can teach them. It's great to discuss Marc's science class with him after school, which is taught be an American teacher.

 Agora is also well known in Spain as one of the best schools for both gifted children and special needs children, eg. with dyslexia. It's strong in its 'humanitarian' focus unlike some other private schools that tend to see children as  'clients' only.    

Sometimes, I feel that discipline in the classrooms could be better, and this is something that needs addressing in many private schools that may feel they don't want to lose their 'clients'.
     I strongly recommend Agora for both English native and non-native parents. It is usually ranked in the top 5 in Spain, which is a good sign in itself.

As with previous summers, I'll be taking Marc to the UK to study the last month of the school year at his cousins' school. It has always worked out well, and he's actually looking forward to it.
The cultural and linguistic experience is second to none. Please see my previous summer entries about contacting the local council to get your child a place at a state school in the UK and my account of his experience.

Once again, the 'obsessive and cruel' parent brigade will criticise this. In the end, it's more about the parent not being willing to make the effort to plan this more than the child not wanting to do this. They'll have an amazing experience that they'll want to share with you.  Most children will attend Summer Camps or English intensive courses anyway. In the UK, the last month of the year is far more relaxed and usually includes excursions. They also finish at 3pm.

If you're really interested in your child reaching native level, then spending time in the UK is the best option as all the children who have done this have shown.

viernes, 26 de septiembre de 2014

7 years old - After the summer ¿Vale la pena que pasan tiempo en Gran Bretaña? Septiembre 2014

Marc pasó un total de  7 semanas en Inglaterra entre su abuela y sus primos. Estuvo el último mes del año escolar en el colegio de sus primos.
Comento a continuación los pros y las contras que he encontrado y de enviar un niño a un colegio  en el  extranjero.
Marc spend a total of 7 weeks in England between his grandmother and his cousins. He attended the last month of the school year in his cousins' primary school.
I'll discuss the pros and cons that I found and of sending a child to a school abroad in the summer

Marc completed a full month in a primary school in Parkstone, Dorset. If you live in Spain you can take advantage of the UK school year that finishes around the 24th July. Therefore they can attend school from the last week of June.
The advantages of this are the incredible opportunities for the child to get massive exposure by  learn subjects through English. His teachers were very pleased with his learning and commented on the fact that it must be difficult to learn in English if he normally goes to school in Catalan/ Spanish.
 Although it's certainly true that learning in more tan one language presents a challenge, it depends on how well you prepare your child for learning in British school. As he already does three subjects in English at his Catalan school, this is not new. Also, we read every day in English, try and do as much writing as possible and in general he gets 3 hours interactive speaking with me every day plus much more at the weekend.
The question that comes up is "Isn't it "cruel" for them to go back to school in the summer?"
It's a question of weighing up the pros and cons. If you want your child to reach a native level of English it's nearly essential. Also, school is till 3pm and the end of term in Britain is not as hard as the rest of the year with school trips and other less "academic" activities. And if you are both working parents then you need to send your child to some form of holiday club.
It depends on the parent's attitude to parenting and what they consider 'cruel' is.
In the end, I've realised that the vast majority of heritage language speaking parents are just not that interested in their children speaking their language or speaking it well. And I can't expect other parents to be as interested and 'fascinated' as I am. I just feel sorry for the kids who are missing out on a great opportunity.

The challenges for sending your child to your country are of course cost in the end. That includes having someone to do the childminding and take them to school. Getting into the school takes a bit of effort, but is 'merely' a bureaucratic process.
The child may also complain. But, as said above, most children need to receive some form of childcare. And if you add an incentive gift or holiday on completion of the schooling then that makes it easier to accept for them. Marc missed having his toys and things around him and the familar surroundings of home. We'll be thinking over what we did this year and seeing how we can 'improve' in any way the following summer. But, we are definitely planning on repeating the experience.
I made a lightening weekend trip back and surprised him by picking him and his cousins up from school. We also kept in touch by Skype and phone and his mother was in the UK with him for several weeks so, he didn't miss us too much.

Language Progress and lapses and why this is normal
Marc sounds English and again picked up many characteristics of the local children's speech during the stay as well as words and phrases that children use (not me!).
In general, I don't find that he has any problems expressing himself in English, and probably finds it easier to talk about certain subjects in English than in Catalan due to speaking to me. e.g. various sports and games.
Now and again he has certain lapses in both languages. Sometimes the easiest of words that just didn't come to him. He asked me "How do you say 'dessert' in Spanish? He talks to waiters in Spanish normally! And "How do you say 'green pen'?" Parents who are against bilingualism would use this as an argument, but are ignorant of the fact that this is normal even for monolinguals. A Word just doesn't come to your head. It's not because you don't know it. Just this week in a conversation I couldn't remember the work "acera" (pavement) in a conversation, even though I've used it hundreds of times.
He's used 'observe' instead of 'check this out' or 'look', which is the catalán or Spanish equivalent. In the end, it's a process and any small lapses along the way are more than justified to be bi or trilingual.

  The cultural part of a visit to a country shouldn't be ignored. We coincided with the 30th Annual Robin Hood Festival norht of Nottingham. He was fascinated with an old man pretending to be a wizard. He had plenty of conversations with people at the fair. It was worth the 'effort'.


sábado, 12 de julio de 2014

7 years old - English School JULY 2014 in England / Julio 2014 Ir a una escuela en Inglaterra

Como asistir a una escuela pública en el Reino Unido  (English summary below)
Tal y como lo habíamos planificado, fui con Marc a Bournemouth el 23 de junio para organizar su estancia en la escuela pública donde van 2 primos suyos. Acaban el curso escolar el 23 o 24 de julio en RU. Por tanto los niños, en España por ejemplo, pueden asistir durante un mes.

Recuerda que los ciudadanos del EU pueden asistir a una escuela pública en el Reino Unido de forma gratuita. La pega más grande es el alojamiento cuando no tenemos familiares ni amigos que les cuide durante la estancia. Por lo tanto, necesitarás alojamiento y que un padre esté con el niño.  En nuestro caso tanto mi madre como mi hermana y familia están en la misma ciudad. Aún así, tanto mi mujer como yo estamos unas semanas durante su estancia para acompañarle en los primeros días y para los últimos días.
Hay algunos padres que dicen que no es 'justo' que el niño haga entre 3 ó 4 semanas adicionales en una escuela normal. En Inglaterra la jornada es de 9 - 15.15h aproximadamente. Y a partir de finales de junio las clases son más relajadas. Además hay excursiones unos días. Hacen también música, plástica y Educación física. A los padres que trabajan y les interesa que los niños aprendan un idioma, tendrán que asistir a un curso intensivo o a un Casal o a un campamento de verano. Aunque juguen más en un Casal, la verdad es que si quieres que aprendan inglés como nativos además de vivir otra cultura y que hagan amigos en otro país es la opción más viable y eficaz y de sobras compense el 'sacrificio'. Aunque Marc ya tiene un nivel nativo bilingüe, su inglés siempre mejora aún más durante la estancia y aprende temas en asignaturas que no hace en Ágora. Está muy contento y feliz durante su estancia.
Como hacerlo - Unas soluciones en verano si os interesa
Quería destacar las opciones que no sea la tradicional "curso de inglés en el extranjero" para niños a partir de las 11-12 años con un bajo nivel de inglés. Dependerá del nivel las opciones que hagan.  Si el niño tiene un nivel alto,sacará mucho partido en un curso en una escuela 'normal' para niños del país.
1) A partir de los 12 años hay empresas como NEW LINK que ofrecen una inmersión en Instituto en ciudades como Southampton donde asisten a clases con nativos (pregúntame si te interesa). Hay como mucho 3 españoles por clase y no se mezclan. La duración es de 3 semanas en julio. En Irlanda se puede hacer lo mismo, pero por el calendario escolar, tiene que ser a partir de la última semana de agosto. El coste es de 2500€ aprox.

2) Hasta los 11 años hay que acompañarles. Si hacéis 3 semanas de vacaciones en julio 'solo' hay que encontrar alojamiento. Hay empresas que organizan el intercambio de pisos / casas y te saldría gratis.
Si no sois nativos del inglés podrías aprovechar el tiempo asistiendo a cursos de inglés por la mañana! Y por la tarde hay tiempo para ir de compras, hacer turismo, etc...

3) La opción que probamos cuando tenía 5 años era el CASAL inglés o Holiday Club para los padres que trabajan. Es como en España pero a partir de la última semana de julio cuando el año académico acaba. No son gratis pero son privados y por tanto no hay que contactar con los ayuntamientos para pedir plaza.
Mirad las entradas en este Blog para julio/ verano 2012 y 2013 para más detalles.

La clase de Marc con sus profesores (está a la izquierda delante de la profesora). Marc's class with his teachers in the school (seated on the left in front of the teacher) 

Marc hizo una excursión a Swanage en un tren de vapor con su clase.
Marc on the school trip to Swanage, including a steam train, ice cream and Punch and Judy show.
July 2014 - School
Marc has gone back to his cousin's school again, but this year he's in a class for his age, whereas last year we felt that the children were a bit older. I've prepared him all year with reading and writing activities and some maths so that he'd fit in and would be able to keep up in class.
 The last few weeks of the year are more relaxed than the rest of the year but still include maths and English as well as art, music, PE and school trips.
People say it's hard or "unfair" on the child to continue school after they finish in Spain. However, most children do some sort of summer school or camp, and many do English courses. The school day ends at 3.15pm so there's a lot of time to play. And we shouldn't conceptualise 'school' as being boring or not fun. Learning is brilliant!   
If you really want your child to be a native bilingual, there is no better option than a long stay in the UK, Ireland, The States, etc. especially if they can attend a normal school, holiday club or summer camp with native speaker children only.  Many parents will avoid this due to the effort and organization involved and required.  Our personal experience is that the benefits for language proficiency and experiencing and learning about the culture first hand  far outweigh any disadvantages.  You've never had it easier. The blog contains all the inside information and everything you need to bring up bilingual / trilingual children. There may be a financial cost and time and effort required but giving them the gift of two languages and cultures is priceless. It's up to you.