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.

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