lunes, 28 de octubre de 2013

UPDATE - 6 years old and summer 2013 in the UK

Este post habla de sus progresos desde que cumplió 6 años en mayo y su estancia en Inglaterra durante el verano cuando asistió a una escuela pública en Inglaterra. Explico como se puede entrar en las escuelas públicas si eres un ciudadano europeo.

 This post charts his progress since he was 6 in May and tells you about how to send your child to a state school in the UK if you're a European national.

Language Progress.
I'm going to point out the main features of this English since Marc turned 6 in May.

Errors or work progress
He's making the sort of progress I expect for his age while simulataneously acquiring 3 languages. He's very fluent and a bit of a chatterbox, whcih helps! He still plays in English on his own.

The errors are typical for a bilingual child, that is, directly translating phrases that seem to translate word for word. Even in Catalan he occasionally uses English phrases. for example to 'salvar un gol' (save a goal when it should be 'parar', 'stop' in Catalán), and he even said 'he cambiat de ment' , translating 'I've changed my mind', instead of "I've changed opinion" in Catalan. These and other examples are part of the process and are nothing to be alarmed about at this age. At any age and level of proficiency the odd 'mistake' will occur with bilinguals, but this is a very small sacrifice for speaking two or more languages to a very high degree. This is sometimes used as an excuse not to encourage bilingualism; a massive, misguided and very sad mistake.

I've been relaxing my 'very correct' pronunciation over the past year and have noticed Marc picking it up! "come 'ere" instead of "Come Here" for example.
He also used some American expressions: "Oh boy.." , "Man...." picked up from Scooby Doo mainly I think. Never underestimate the different inputs for adding to their language.

 His vocabulary has been increasing due to the main input he's been receiving (see below):

TV. Boomerang channel and others: Scooby Doo, Garfield, Scare School, Horrid Henry, Kick Butt Butowski (very American!). There's also the continual input from the advertisements. He loves Tom and Jerry and Mr Bean but from a language point of view they're not very rich!!
We also watch sports together: football, F1, MotoGP and talent shows: X Factor, Britain's Got talent and documentaries and any shows or programmes of interest that are suitable for a 6 year-old.

Videos and films
I've bought him some DVDs. Jack the Giant Slayer being the latest one. We compared this to Jack and Beanstalk and he's been Reading this book, that I used to read to him. I only watch films in English with him to maintain the link between myself and English. We go to Icaria Yelmo in Barcelona and the last one we saw was Epic. Quite recommeded. 6 was probably the mínimum age for this film.

Children seem to be sponges when learning words to songs. He often corrects me. We listen to mainstream pop and rock: eg. Katy Perry, Pink, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, etc... I put them on a pendrive and we listen to them in the car.

He's working his way through the Oxford series of books for children and we're now starting Grade 7. Sometimes, I go back to lower levels to give him confidence. I'm also getting him to write some of the words. Writing is one of the areas I want use to work on.  finding the time to read, espcecially when they are in the mood in difficult. If I take him to school, I get there early and we read in the car for 20 minutes. Otherwise, after breakfast before other activities seems the best time.

 There are so many things you can get on internet that it has made getting material so much easier. Short videos on any subject are available on YouTube, and you can watch your popstars plus the interviews anytime you want.
Also, if you want British or American TV, gives you the chance to watch all the usual channels for free and streamed live, as well as 9 hours free recording time. Before the end of 2013, freeview through a satellite is due to end when new satellites are put into orbit and will send a spotbeam to the UK only. So, this gives you another option. Providers can also give you IPTV, which is a more stable version of TV through the internet.

Marc started first year of Primary school in September. Agora is now an "international school". It includes subjects taught through the medium of English as well as Catalan and Spanish. This year in English he gets Art, Computers and Science as well as the English class. Having this extra input really does help and we speak about what he learned in the classes.

Talking and interaction and planning your time with them
As I've said all along, there is no substitute for exposure to the language, and if you are the only
source for  most of the time you have to make sure you spend as much time as possible with them.
I've been working long hours in September and October so I've had to plan my days around being with Marc anytime I could, making sure I got back in time before bedtime and spending all that time with him and taking him to school and having breakfast with him in the morning. Weekends are the time to make up for lower weekly hours. If you can only spend a few hours with them, amke sure they are intense as possible and full of language. This is where you have to dig deep, especially if you are very tired,  and this has been my situation recently!!

We found out by accident that EU nationals can go to state schools. For Spanish children, the final term ends around the 24th June, while the English one ends around the 24th July. The problem in Ireland is that the school holidays are similar to Spain.
To get a place, you apply to the local council of the town where you want them to go to school.
They will then give you a number of schools with places. You arrange to visit these and if the school agrees and you like the school, you get the council to write a letter to the school with the date you want your child to start.

We went through this process and found a school that we like in the borough of Poole. In the end, my sister managed to get him into the school that two of children are going to. He joined the class with his cousin, despite his cousin being more than a year older. It worked out very well. He enjoyed his time at the school. The first day I don't think he was integrated properly, so I spoke to the teacher and told her that he would be able to take in the lessons without any problems. After that he took part in the lessons in the same as any other child. It was an enriching experience from both a cultural and linguistic viewpoint, as well as educational in itself.

The hardest part is finding accommodation if you don't have family in the UK. Renting temporary accommodation may be the cheapest option. At the same time, there are also the problems of combining this with your working schedule. My wife stayed for the first week and was there for the last 3 days of term. For the two weeks in the middle he stayed with my sister's family. I was only able to be there for the first two days to make sure he settled in ok and to sort out any problems.

 If you can't do this,  another option is the HOLIDAY CLUB, that we tried last year and liked. This is for working families when the school year ends, so from the last week of July. This is for children up to about 12 years, that is until they can 'look after themselves'. These are private childcare centres normally attached to schools and you will have to pay up to 15 pounds a day or more. You can choose part of a day or a whole day, so it's flexible. It may coincide with your holiday period and again, the 'only' difficulty is your accommodation.

Both options can't be beaten for language input, as they will be playing with English children. We are definitely going to repeat the experience next year.

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