One of the 'secrets' of successfully raising bilingual children seems to be sending them to the 'home' country during the summer period.
So, taking this account we decided to send Marc to England for 5 weeks.
The first two weeks he stayed with his cousins. The first week, they were at school during the day, so he was with his 3 year-old cousin and my sister.
The second week he went to a 'Holiday Club' from 8am-1pm and stayed with his cousins again.
For the third week, he stayed with his grandmother and his mother came over to stay too.
He also went to the Holiday Club again for the week.
I arrived on the 4th week and we visited friends in London.
We went to Butlins in Minehead for the weekend and brought his 6-year old cousin with us.
They get on very well together.
The most interesting change from a language point of view was Marc's adopting of a Dorset accent and his cousin's mannerisms. This was the first time that he's spent so long with English children and up to then had only had his father as a reference, and copied his fairly standard southern English accent. The example video shows the way he's talking now. For those not familiar with a Dorset accent, the most noticeable feature is the pronunciation of words with the sound in words such as 'like'; 'fly', 'I' etc as loik, floy; 'oi'.
Another interesting point is that he heard and participated in typical children language conversations such as name calling, rhymes, e.g. "Copy cat, copy cat, don't know what you're looking at', fun-making and boasting, such as 'my dad can run faster than your dad', yeah, well my dad can eat more than your dad, etc, on and on and on!!!!! as we found out! Great language practice of course!
Also, since he's been back in Spain, he talks more often to his mother in English. Sometimes, phrases that are more common in English are used: ' e.g 'una carrera de swimming' or 'fer un swimming race', which he'll use with his mother. This happens as we don't correct it and it doesn't harm his Catalan since he lives in Catalunya. This is something he never does with his father as he knows that it is strictly English. As I keep repeating, a little gentle persuasion if necessary and discipline in the beginning will end up with the child speaking to you in the language you want them to. Don't accept slap-dash lazy language mixing in the minority language. It's not effective or useful.
His grandmother spent the first week of September with us and this futher cemented his 'English summer'.
I really do recommend taking the effort to find opportunities for the children to spend time in the minority language country. We found that it was only this year, now that he is 5, that he was able to take full advantage of the family holiday resort, Butlins, as he is now able to take part in team sports and sessions such as fencing ( esgrima), and play with other children in the play areas.
In general Marc seems to pick up and remember phrases from the different sources that he's provided with: books, films, TV series, etc.. this summer he's watched an awful lot of Scooby Doo and picked up American phrases such as 'Oh Brother'or 'Oh boy'! From the olympics commentaries he's started using 'he stormed it', 'he nailed it', etc, and loves using 'It cost an absolute fortune' which he picked up from this grandmother.
As often happens he's also picked up some swear words and phrases, in most cases my fault. In the video we hear 'cocked up' (make a mistake). He does know that some phrases are not to be said.
READING / HOME STUDY
Once children reach 4 years old, they can start learning to read. From this age on, they should be encouraged to start recognising words and learning the phonics method of reading. Check out youtube for the catchy 'phonics' songs. e.g "A is for Apple, a, a Apple, B is for Ball, b, b Ball.
I also recommend Carole Vordeman's school books for home study. Once they are 5 years old they begin at KEY STAGE 1. I bought 3 books: ENGLISH, SCIENCE and MATHS.
They are user friendly with full notes and answers. Even if you're not a natural teacher they are quite easy to use. Bascially, the richer the input the richer than output. If the school doesn't give a lot of minority language input, you're obliged to help them at home.
So, recapping, Marc's English has really been consolidated over then summer and he's indistinguable from both a native English or native Catalan boy of his age. He makes the 'usual' language errors, which normally can be summed up as regularising language: e.g. past tenses, such as 'bringed' or superlatives such as 'the goodest', and he's still mixing 'much' and 'many'. Other more complex patterns such as 'wish': I wish I had one of those,' and third conditionals, e.g I wouldn't have done that' are appearing naturally.
For the coming 2012-2013 school year he'll continue with approx 4 hours in English per day with a central American teacher, Dora, whom I presume will use American English.