domingo, 23 de enero de 2011

SEPTEMBER - DECEMBER 2010 3yr 4 -3yr7months

September – December 2010 – 3 years 4 months – 3 years 7 months
I’ve condensed Marc’s progress from the notes that I’ve been taking into one blog for this final quarter of the year as I haven’t done a monthly update, partly through a shortage of time due to work commitments.

Summary and thoughts at the end of 2010

I’ve managed to keep up a diary of notes, mostly an scraps of paper, as well as film clips of him (which I haven’t edited yet) and I’m glad I’m persevering even though in busy periods the thought of writing up a blog or even reading to him at night means making a big effort. I’m trying to pitch this account at a non-technical level with a few exceptions to make it readable for everyone who’s interested in this subject.
I’m very happy with his progress and still surprised at how well he is doing; much better than I could ever have imagined, especially based on practically all other first-hand accounts I’d heard. However, due to the amount of information I had before Marc was born, I was able to stick to the rules that I’ve already mentioned, e.g the most important: ‘ not allowing the child to speak to you in the local language.

Being an English teacher as a foreign language means that I notice things that most non language-teachers wouldn’t and probably wouldn’t even be interested in. I’ve also realized that playing with children isn’t something that every adult ‘enjoys’ or finds natural. From speaking to and hearing many cases of foreign language speaking fathers, the lack of ‘enthusiasm’ for educational games and activities and the lower contact time that fathers have is responsible for the very low success rate that their children have.

The ‘effort’ of playing with him in English even when I’m very tired after a long day and sticking to the golden rule method of ‘only in English’ and using the ‘Intensive and structured’ inputs in a natural setting has paid off. Not only is he getting more time and attention than he would from most fathers, he’s also become a native English speaker. And to be honest, seeing the results is not just rewarding but exhilarating as well. He’s got one proud Dad!!
One of the main changes in his and our life this 7th September was him starting school, Agora in Sant Cugat. The main feature of this school for 3-year olds is that there is an English speaking assistant (non-native) in the classroom most of the day and the children think that she only speaks English. Only 30 minutes is dedicated to actual formal English instruction, which consists mainly of songs, which he sang to me when he came home from school. He also realized that the assistant’s pronunciation wasn’t right for some words,, eg. ‘chocolate’.
Even when I’ve had to work long days I’ve continued ‘to make the effort’ and be with him in the morning when I usually make him breakfast and watch Cbeebies together and then in the evening when I spend two-three hours with him having dinner together, watching a variety of children’s videos on youtube and playing games and then reading a bedtime story or stories to him in his bed.
One of the signs that he’s getting older is that we are beginning to be able to set up routines. This is another excellent way of introducing and consolidating language and phrases on a regular basis.
One of the big changes has been that on the majority of occasions he’s been going to his own bed to sleep and I’ve set up the ‘book, bottle and bubbies (sleep)’ routine which towards the end of October has become the norm. I’ve also introduced phrases which have got longer and longer right up to Christmas when we turn the light off:
“Ok, let’s tuck you in so you’re nice and warm and snug and cosy. So, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite. Sweet dreams and see you in the morning for breakfast. “ If I forget to say one of the phrases he reminds me to say it!
In the morning he’s been getting out of bed himself around 8 o’clock. So I often refer to the time. “You’ve got up at 8 0’clock again. You always do that don’t you? I got up at 7 o’clock, an hour before you.” Etc. Sometime we look at the kitchen clock and he makes an effort to work out the time. We also have a book with clocks in it which he likes. It focuses on the ‘o’clocks’.
Morning phrases are ‘wakey wake, rise and shine! What’s the weather like today?”
Cultural characters
We’ve introduced Jack frost and we found a cartoon about this character on youtube. One winter morning we found frost which he loved!
Another character is the ‘tooth fairy’ which is the ‘tooth mouse’ in Spain. He tries to say ‘ratoncito Perez’. This can be rephrased as ratoncito perex the tooth mouse and in this way he learns an English way of explaining it. He also knows that the tooth fairy comes to children in England not Spain.
He’s fascinated by space and planets as well as planes. For Christmas he got two DVDs. Planet 51 and Monsters and Aliens and Planet 51. This year he’s aware of Christmas time and getting presents. This gave us an opportunity to introduce words for Christmas things such as baubles for the balls on the tree and tinsel, which even his mother started to use in English!! He also liked the fairy lights which he got his mother to use as stage lights (another fixation) around a wooden box where he could perform!
We stayed in Spain this Christmas, and I was able to up the hours I spent with Marc. The second week of Christmas; first week of January I employed one of our English Nanny carers from Scotland for 4 mornings while we were working, mainly so he could get the experience of another English speaker.
Youtube videos
His favourite’s have been the Pocoyo series, which is originally Spanish but is read in English by Steven Fry. He also loves a Pink Panther episode called ‘shocking in Pink’ with a narrator who has an old fashioned PR English accent but uses American words such as ‘faucet’ (tap).
We’ve watched Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ many times as he enjoys the football element too.
And one by the Hoosiers : ‘Stop giving me choices’ which he sings and especially likes as his mother doesn’t!
Radio / CD
The car provides a source of input and he often asks ‘Who sings that?’
He’s able to detect and sometimes imitate American accents. I sometimes speak with different accents for fun, and he surprised me by identifying a French accent I did: ‘That’s French isn’t it? I don’t remember having taught him that although he have sung ‘Frere Jaques’.
We’ve also watched Woody Woodpecker which he loves. The possibilities on youtube or endless and it’s a great resource for showing new vocabulary. He looked at ‘conker fights’ (with horse chestnuts) to show him visually what a conker and a chestnut was.
The Sesame Street special appearance of Katy Perry singing ‘hot and cold’ with Elmo has been a favourite and he sings along with it.


The most noticeable aspect of his English in this final quarter of 2010 has been his increasing fluency and ability to express things. Listening to him as he stands in front of me and with a serious face explains himself in English amazes me: “Daddy I want you to stay here ok, and I’m going to get the 3 bears and then we can play, ok?
I’m starting to take for granted his knowledge of common objects and concepts such as colours and objects around the house. If he needs a word I try and help him or he just asks me. As he does when he hears a new English word. ‘What does frost mean daddy?’
It’s interesting the way he just accepts a correction and repeats it correctly back to me or repeats new words or phrases without any protest. His pronunciation is excellent as has all the features of a native speaker of his age. Some of previous characteristics have disappeared and he even tries to pronounce some Spanish place names with an English accent!! All this is so different from an adult learner!!
Interaction with his mother and playing alone
He continues to mix English and Catalan when talking to his mother, although she very rarely says anything to him or replies to him in English. This is fine in his case in Spain, but if I’d allowed him to do this with me he probably wouldn’t be speaking any English now as most of my informal talks with parents and studies have shown. It shows that he feels happy and confident in English and he’s has continued to play on his own exclusively in English barring one or two exclamations. So, even when I’m not with him he’s getting practice. It’s a very unusual occurrence and may be down to the amount of English he is exposed to at home including the television and music and the fact that his mother understands him.

Songs and music
They say music runs in the family and through exposure children imitate their parents. I’ve been singing to him since he was born and he seems to love music and instruments. We’ve watched American Idol and X Factor (please don’t report me for child abuse!) and over the months he came out with phrases he’d heard such as ‘he didn’t sing in tune!’ She’s rubbish!
Programmes like the Tweenies have a lot of songs on them and Boogie beebies combines songs with dancing and exercise.
This is an area I’m going to develop with him in 2011.
Inventing lyrics
I sometimes change the lyrics to songs and add new words to these melodies. He commented: ‘you’re making up the words’. And on a few occasions he’s changed the lyrics to songs. E.g the ‘hot and cold’ song by Katy Perry whereby he sings them the other way round and even more difficult he pointed up and said down and down and said up, etc. which as his Dad impressed me!!
Imitating accents
One day in September spontaneously he said ‘ladybird’ with an American pronunciation shown especially on the final ‘r’. It even caught him out and we both laughed. He repeated it and laughed. I noticed previously that he’d been exaggerating the final ‘r’ in some words, and I’d be interested to know if other children in the UK do the same. He then did this pronunciation at will, and produced the south of England pronunciation.
Example language
Here are just a few of the areas that have seems salient in this quarter.
Question forms
He is using past and present questions forms correctly in general although not 100% yet.
For subject questions he adds an auxiliary: “What did happen?” I repeat ‘ you mean ‘what happened?
This making language regular is a typical feature of native children and he has regularized many past tense verbs. ‘ He breaked it’ although at some stage he has used the past forms correctly which he will do again of course!
Typical questions
What does that mean?
Question tags
He’s using ‘is it?’ with his favourite phrase: ‘That’s not right, is it? Which I’ve used a lot.
I use question tags a lot and it’ll be interesting to see when he suddenly starts using and experimenting with them
He’s been using ‘but’ a lot, and it’s funny how he forces the use:
‘I’m going to have one chocky drink, but just one ok?
The related word ‘though’ has also started to appear.
‘Why?’ appeared on New Year’s Eve out of nowhere!!! Or so it seemed. So, now we get ‘Why?’ asked for every statement. Look, there’s a cat over there. – Why? It’s cold today. Why? Etc…
I think these questions are an important part of language acquisition and learning in general and as far as I can gather are universal in world languages for this reason.
Perhaps in the same way that saying ‘no’ and using ‘negatives’ is not just a bevavioural phase but also important for using the negative in a language such as English that uses auxiliaries. Or maybe not!!It's just a theory.
(Looking at the grey clouds) ‘The clouds are going to burst?
He’s relating words to different contexts more and more.
He sometimes uses positive phrases as a question which could have a Catalan influence but are also used by native English speakers.
Use of phrasal verbs
Daddy, I want to put this one on.
Although he’s starting to experiment and has said: 'wear this on’ and even ‘the plane is going to land up’ !!
Comparatives and superlatives
He’s getting lots of practice as he’s competitive!
I’m bigger/taller/faster or the tallest the biggest, etc.
Shape and size and similarity /difference
I cut them in half.
There’s not the same pattern. They’re not mathing. They’re odd (socks) this was a theme on the Tweenies.
He’s distinguishing and using many common words correctly now.
Watch vs clock for example and even said: ‘Daddy, put it one hour back’ (when we had to put our clocks back in October).
I’ve got him to say ‘basketball’ instead of just ‘basket’.
He’s still grasping ‘beat vs win’ “ I beated /won you” and various combinations. I always correct him.
I’ve only heard him mix up adjective nouns on 2 occasions. One of them was when I discovered a phrase he’d learned ‘el jet privat’ (private jet). I said ‘oh you mean ‘private jet’. What colour was it. He replied ‘an aeroplane black’ probably still in Catalan mode. Again, gentle correction reminded him and I haven’t heard him do this again.
His special subjects
Like most children and probably like many boys he enjoys technical things and he’s been fascinated by:
Aeroplanes (for some time now) drawing pictures of them and naming the parts: propellers, jets, boarding steps, wings, tail, etc.
Tubes and pipes and where the water goes when you flush a toilet or pull a plug out of a basin.
Swimming pools. From December he’s been drawing even more detailed pictures of swimming pools. We even looked up specific vocabulary such as ‘lane dividers’ and floats, etc.
Football pitches. He enjoys drawing them and they have the same basic shape as a swimming pool.
Never underestimate the importance of the child drawing and naming the parts and getting them to describe what they are doing.

Negatives and quantity expressions
He’s mixing up and experimenting with
‘anybody’ / nobody’ ‘anything / nothing'
Which shows why it's so hard for non-native learners to grasp!
As mentioned before,to all intents and purposes, he’s indistinguishable from a native English speaker of his age. He uses the schwa ‘weak’ sound always and the ‘No’ sounds very English, although it was strange in December when it started to sound Australian! Or was it me? I managed to record one instance of it. It sounded like ‘nigh ooh’ . But recently it’s disappeared again.
Around November I started to notice that he pronounced the unvoiced intervocalic ‘th’ sound as ‘s’ in some words such as ‘nothing’, ‘something’. I’ll continue to monitor this.
He makes an effort to pronounce words that also exist in Spanish in an English way, such as ‘Pocoyo’ although as mentioned he does watch this in English. When he has heard English films pronounced in Spanish he imitates this, e.g ‘Toy Story’. I always point out the English pronunciation and he uses that from then on with a few occasional slips.

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