sábado, 13 de enero de 2018

UPDATE for 2017. Connected again. Progress and Plans

Después de un año sin poder entrar en el Blog he encontrado la forma de hacerlo.

En esta actualización hablo de sus progresos como siempre, las fuentes del idioma, influencias americanas y ¡como planificar la semana para estar con tus niños!

After a year without being able to get into the Blog, I’ve finally found the way to do it.

This is a brief update of the last year with the usual tips and learnings for other parents, both native and non-native.


The biggest change I’ve noticed over this last year is Marc changing from child to older child both cognitively and behaviourally. There are many subtle clues in the maturing process, in the complexity of language and its use, social interaction and becoming more autonomous (finally).

Examples of languages

The difference between a monolingual native and a bilingual native is that there’s always going to be an influence from the two or three languages. It’s a trade-off that’s always worthwhile. There will nearly always be the main strongest language which will be the language of the place you live.

I hear cross over language in English and Catalan that’s often because of direct translation.

In Catalan “ una carta vermella” (a red card in English) instead of “targeta”, or in English “How is it like?” instead of What is it like?  

His English is complex and native like in both language use and pronunciation.

Language examples: a wobbly tooth, I scraped the back of my hand

Expressions: He’s is bloody tall; Don’t get me wrong… ; She’s gonna fricking gonna fall off her perch (American euphemism), I was like a sore thumb at a finger party (American expression and new for me!).  It won’t be OK, it’s Murphy’s law. It’s lashing it down in Terrassa (raining hard. An Irish phrase I use) The list goes on and on.

The higher the exposure from both the native speaker parent(s) and other media, the richer and more complex the output language will be.

At school this year I’ve asked the English department to push him further, especially his writing skills. He’s already completed a long essay in English and we checked it together. The main area to work on is spelling and that’s going to be our objective till Christmas.

Planning language exposure

Some parents might think that planning to be with your child to give exposure to a language is somehow too scientific. You can look at it as planning to be with your child(ren) and that will help them speak the language better! If you’re raising your child in a minority language where you live, it makes sense to keep in mind language learning opportunities and keep exposure as high as possible as this is the only way to increase language level.

Weekly Planner

As I’ve said before having a calendar where you plan times to be with your child is really useful and can make sure that you prioritise your child(ren) over work for example (when possible). Instead of sitting at your desk you are obliged to organise your time to see your child.

In my case I try to do half the school runs. Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. That means I spend an hour each morning with him and several hours after school. I can plan in activities to do together such as reading and games or looking at interesting things on the internet in a café after school or visiting shops or going 10-pin bowling for instance.

You can also plan in phone or SKYPE calls if you’re not going to arrive in time to see them.

Because there’s a huge difference between growing up in the 80s or 90s and now in the two thousand and teens. Access to technology and internet has revolutionised everything. The struggle for parents now it seems is managing time spent on devices (mobiles, tablets and computers) as well as video games. This has substituted to a large degree keeping kids away from hours of television (my case in the 70s and 80s). Further to this point, this year, Marc has started using a tablet in the classroom.

At the same time, and as I’ve repeated over the years on this blog, technology can play a crucial part in helping parents bring up their children speaking another language. The distant culture and language can be imported into the home via internet in a way that was impossible up to the end of the 90s. 

Regarding technology, here are a few things I’ve noticed:

1)      The Filmon TV app  no longer connects through Chromecast. Even the dedicated Chromecast app doesn’t work. This is a known problem and they are “working on it.” This is a nuisance as casting programmes onto the TV means we watch programmes in English together, even if it’s Match of the Day or X Factor.  There are also children’s programmes here, so I hope they get it fixed.

2)      Netflix. People have been talking about this but I only got it this summer 2017. There is a huge offer of films, documentaries and TV series. They can be seen in their original language with a choice of subtitles in different languages. There is a whole section of films for children and all programmes have an age appropriate warning.

Marc likes the American sitcom Jessie (very American), and we select films and documentaries to watch. Normally we watch an episode of a series per night or part of a film (not all of it). This means there’s input every evening. I would definitely recommend this.


Life at school and American influences

Last year (2016) there was a group of 6 American boys that went around with. Of these 6 only 2 are at the school this year. The result of being around them was that his English became influenced by the Americans.

This was noticed by his cousin and husband who visited this April.

 The influence was apparent in intonation patterns, such as questions without auxiliaries: “So, you are going out tonight?” And vocabulary “This sucks/stinks”. “We all met up at recess.”

 It has to be said that there’s a lot of exposure to American language and culture in Britain and Ireland in general and this does influence the English spoken there.

Although Agora International School is trilingual (Catalan, Spanish and English) rather than just an English-speaking monolingual school, many foreign parents send their children to the school even if their level of Spanish is low.

One of the American children had come from an American school near Barcelona, where Spanish is taught as a foreign language. At Agora, many subjects are taught in Catalan, but despite this, the kids seem to cope, and parents are happy for their children to get immersed in a foreign language before returning to their countries of origin. I haven’t noticed any traumatised children!

American Input

Marc gets a lot American English input from many sources. When children are younger the CBEEBIES on the BBC gives a lot of choices in British English. And later on, there are programmes for teens. But for Tweens, we haven’t seen anything we like so much.  TV series: having graduated from Sponge bob and similar he’s watching series such as Jessie. We’ve started watching the new Star Trek series Discovery on Netflix. So, we have a new episode plus the ‘After Trek’ programme that discusses the episode every week. Yep, a bit nerdy, isn’t it?!!   

Documentaries. It’s possible to find age appropriate documentaries on Netflix. We watched on about the projects to get humans to Mars.

British English input comes from watching Match of the Day that has highlights of the English football league and some talent shows such as Britain’s got Talent and the X Factor.

Internet. Youtube. A huge variety of videos in English ranging from tutorial ones for certain games, e.g. Minecraft, to funny ones, e.g. about animals to clips from series “American Dad,” and others that are age inappropriate. Access to the internet by children through so many sources is a massive challenge for any parent these days, and one we’re looking at right now.

Video Games. Minecraft (just weird music and noises!), Star Wars Battlefront, Moto GP. I’ve set all the games to English.

Films. Practically all the films or movies we watch are of American origin. And there’s a multitude of choices on Netflix.  

Books: Captain Underpants, The Wimpy Kid, Horrid Henry…

For 2018 the plan is to graduate to the very British Harry Potter and other more grown-up novels to bring his reading skills up a level.  

Now I'm back and connected I'll be updating this blog on a more regular basis. 

The best of luck. If you have any questions or need any suggestions let me know.


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