domingo, 5 de febrero de 2012


October  2011 – December 2011 Aged 4 years 5 months to 4 years 8 months

Summary / Resumen

I’m becoming more aware of making sure I spend enough time with Marc every day and find myself organizing my schedule around his school timetable. It makes me realize that if you are a working parent, especially one with a variable schedule you really have to make an effort to spend time with the child and make sure that any time spent contains quality language input.

From more real experiences and from reflecting on my own intensive system , for the first time I’m beginning to understand why many parents, especially fathers, who although they’d like their children to speak their language,  are not willing to put in sufficient time and effort to ensure this happens.

INPUT

Mornings

When he’s at school my options are a morning or an evening input session. Due to working most mornings I make use of any class cancellations to take him to school earlier and spend about an hour with him from waking to walking into the school.  Instead of putting on the TV in the morning I sit with him and we talk about everything from the cereal he’s eating to the weather, how he slept, what he dreamt about or if he’s in a bad mood it means telling him off and correctional behaviour language.  In the car during the 15 minute journey I point out the weather features, the vehicles on the road and the traffic conditions, music on the radio and go over a book we read the night before and see if we can retell it. Also, we might talk about his school day and his relationship with his classmates and teachers.

In the evenings, I try to spend at least 2 hours with him even if it means cutting short work that I’ve planned. ‘Luckily’ he tends to go to sleep around 10pm and this means that even if I get back at 8pm I can still see him. I think there was only one day I didn’t see him because he’d fallen asleep.

The main problem I have when I get home is tiredness and as I’ve said before you need to dig deep to ensure that you spend language intensive time with the child, not just sit watching TV or eating dinner or watching them play in silence. At worst, we watch the English TV together interactively, and I usually choose quiz or talent shows such as X Factor or Britain’s got Talent as films or series in the evening usually have unsuitable language or scenes.

We sometimes watch cartoons on youtube and we started using the phonics song ‘A is for Apple, a, a, Apple, etc’ in December that he also gets in school. 



School

From this term the school is officially ‘International’ , which means about 40% of content in English which in theory should help reinforce the language but it’s too early to say how good the input is and how much use given that only one other boy is native English (also born in Spain of an English mother). Interestingly they spoke to each other in English at the beginning of term but according to Marc they don’t at the moment.  Accounts of what happen in school aren’t always accurate of course.



More input

I started using the DVDs we’d bought second hand in England in the summer which included the 3 Scooby Doo feature films and the Thunderbird’s movie. I see these as a step up in his repertoire as there are more ‘complicated’ plots. Another new film he got for Christmas was ‘CARS 2’ which was the first ever film he’d seen. For my taste, it’s a little difficult for very young children due to the plot and the language used by Mater the tow truck is very regional both in expression and accent. This is also the reason I’m not keen on Spongebob.

I try to get related material to recycle the language from the films. For example, we got Marc the cars and other vehicles from the CARS 2 movie and a Scooby Doo Halloween story as well as the characters so he could act out scenes with them.

Themed seasonal occasions

Certain times of year lend themselves to specific language and give an opportunity for children to experience different cultural activities.

At Halloween we got him costumes, bought and carved a pumpkin, had pumpkin soup and rewatched the Monsters and Aliens Halloween film.

I got him a pirate book at Christmas that had a Christmas theme. He was interested in the specific pirate language and fascinated by the characters.



Readers

He’s starting to read and write as well as recognize words. We have a Ladybird Level 1 reader and we’ve started to read that. The method is the phonics method of sounding out the regular words and learning other ‘irregular’ words by sight.

With other books beyond his reading level, I pick out certain words that are repeated often for him to read. The more the better.

Holidays

At Christmas we spent 6 days in Costa Adeje, Tenerife. I choose this location and the specific hotel as it’s a destination for British holidaymakers. However, the children’s activities weren’t well run and were non-existent. So, the idea of Marc playing with other English children didn’t happen except a couple of spontaneous moment mealtimes or in the swimming pool. I’ve now heard that children’s activities are a bit hit or miss and some hotels do it better than others. So, I spent the days with Marc and he got massive input from me. By the way, the holiday was good and the winter sun excellent!



Output

Marc has continued to improve his vocabulary and complexity of his language. More of his irregular past tense verbs are correct now: e.g fall – fell -  He surprises me in the way he picks up new phrases and them uses them. Eg. ‘to get the hang of something.

He often takes these new phrases and over uses them, which is funny, before applying them correctly.

He surprised me one day when I arrived home by asking me: “How did your day go?” Something I often ask him.

He also experiments with new words, and for a while everything was ‘totally’. Totally hot or cold or delicious.

Another was ‘nearby’ and then ‘far away’. He’d ask ‘what’s far away?’ and then ‘what’s nearby? in a never ending combination: ‘Is my school nearby? Is England nearby?’ etc.

Educational themes developed

After a visit to a museum in Barcelona ‘Caixa forum’ in which I made sure I went as well, we bought him a skeleton and a torso with the vital organs. He’d been doing this in school and it was a good occasion to develop this area in English. We followed it up with the song’ Them bones, them bones ….. the knee bone is connected to the thigh bones, etc”. 

Playing on his own

He still plays in English when he’s on his own at home whether I’m there or not. I’ve also heard him singing nursery rhymes to himself. A few of his expletive expressions are Catalan or Spanish depending on what he hears at school.

Developing language

He still uses double negatives ‘I can’t do nothing’ and in question tags: “ It’s not right, isn’t it?

Also some indirect questions are not right and seem influenced by Catalan:

Do you know what is that?

Also, some question forms have Catalan influence:

e.g

Marc: Daddy, what’s that called?

Me: It’s a bumper

Marc: And that? (with Catalan intonation)

Me: Say: “and, what’s that / What about that?

First Language influence

It’ll be interesting how long it’ll be before he’ll change these forms to more English ones.

It’s obvious that if you speak two languages to a very high level there will always be some influence on the weaker one.  There is a massive influence in general on Catalan from Spanish except by those in strong catalan ‘strongholds’, and visa versa.

All English expats I know use ‘spanglish’ when they speak English, especially vocabulary and words that don’t have an equivalent, e.g ‘’gestoria´´ - accountants / labour law firms.

 So, if Marc uses Catalan influenced expressions then this is totally to be expected. What it doesn’t mean is that I shouldn’t point it out and reformulate using a correct model.  

It seems to be influencing his Catalan output and he freely uses English words with a catalan pronunciation when he doesn’t know the right word. His mother isn’t bothered about this as he lives in Catalonia with the resulting massive input!!

Awareness

He’s fully aware that he speaks English, Catalan and Spanish, and he recognizes American accents and French accents in English.

ACCENT AND PRONUNCIATION

He has a recognizable English accent and all but trained linguists would find it hard to work out that he wasn’t a monolingual English speaker. If he deviates on pronunciation I reformulate with a correct model or get him to say words with the sound in made up rhymes or songs. Some specific words sound American which might not come as a surprise as most of the TV and DVD input is American!!  As one of the English teachers pointed out at the school, it’s very unusual indeed that a child also picks up the parent’s accent, especially the father’s, mostly due to insufficient input ( and individual differences). However, as this study and that of other parents’ indicates, it IS possible and ‘simply’ requires a planned and concerted effort from the parent.

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