Raising Bilingual Children

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It’s no secret to those of you that know us that, ever since Olivia was born, we have been trying to raise her bilingually.
 
Throughout my pregnancy I was adamant on this (even before I was pregnant I wanted my children to learn other languages and be brought up bilingually if possible).

It’s been harder than anticipated – the truth is, when the foreign language isn’t your first language, it’s difficult to remind yourself to speak it at home, especially when your partner doesn’t also speak the same language!

Jamie has been an avid learner for a while now, however he considers me fluent (I don’t consider myself fluent, but, yes, I can speak French fairly well) and he is still learning. That hasn’t stopped us from attempting it though! Olivia actually has a very good French vocabulary, considering she’s 2!

So, for any parents who are wondering how they can also cultivate a language skill in their little one, these are the resources and techniques we have found most helpful:

 

1. Muzzy

Muzzy are a BBC resource on DVD that are specifically aimed at children. For the first 18 months of Olivia’s life, she wouldn’t watch the television (partly because she didn’t want to and partly because I didn’t want her to), but, from her being a few months old and able to sit in a bouncy chair or baby walker, she would watch Muzzy. If I needed a little break, to have a wee, a shower, a cup of tea, or food, I’d plonk her in front of Muzzy and felt ZERO guilt for sticking her in front of the TV, because she was learning.

2. Youtube

This has been a more recent discovery, since dreaded Peppa Pig made an entrance into our lives. I mitigate whatever hatred I feel towards that damned pig by letting Olivia watch it in French, and, FYI, Youtube hosts an hour long video with back to back episodes in French.

3. Songs

I have always sung to Olivia at nighttime, and I used to sing French songs to her more often. I simply googled the lyrics to our favourite Disney songs and sang them in French. I also learned the French lullaby ‘Alouette’ and that one is a particular favourite in our house!

She has also learned body parts by singing ‘tête, époules, genoux, pieds’ (head, shoulders knees and toes).

 

4. Animals/Teddies

On our morning walks to the childminder, Olivia would of course see lots of things outside that she had never seen before. Each time she discovered a new thing, I would teach her the word in French (only French – she would have plenty of time to learn the English word later!)

This evolved into using her teddies, as she has many animal teddies, and teaching her the words for the animal using each of these.

5. Flashcards

Olivia has a ‘My First French Words’ set of flashcards that we have used since she was 14 months old. These have probably been the most valuable resource! She is able to tell me most of the French words for the pictures on the Flashcards on request.

6. Bath books

She has had bath books since she was a tiny baby, and I would use these to tell her the names of the animals in French during bath time from her being that young age!

I bet you’re wondering how much she’s actually picked up…

Well, on 1 January 2018 when she was 18 months old, she could already say:

  • Kaka (poop)
  • Pipi (wee)
  • Bras (arm)
  • Bouche (mouth)
  • T’aime (love you)
  • Papa
  • Couche (nappy)
A month later, she could also say:
  • Arbre (tree)
  • Cochon (pig)
  • Chat (cat)
  • Pied (foot)
  • Bon nuit (goodnight)
  • Dents (teeth)
  • Papillon (butterfly)
Now,  she can say full sentences. Her entire list of French vocabulary is in italics below:
kaka, pipi, bras, mains, dents, pied, jambe, tête, bouche, époule, genoux, oreille, nez, je t’aime, bon nuit, bon matin, au revoir, bonjour, couche, arbre, fleur, orange, jus, cochon, mouton, vache, canard, grenouille, cheval, chat, chien, oiseau, souris, flocon de neige, pomme, banane, saucisse, pain, croissant, poissons, pâtes, glâces, manger, grande, blanc, rouge, vert, papillon, s’il vous plait, merci beaucoup, trés bien, princesse, belle, petits amis, joyeux noël, à bientôt, ça va, je m’appelle Olivia, oui, non, 

un, deux, trois, quatre

 
Now she is 3 months away from turning three, and she recognises French words. She tells me that Cinderella is speaking French if I put the film on in French for her, and she tells me off for speaking French too!
It’s not quite what I wanted, but I’m proud of how much she’s come on and how clever she is! She will pick languages up easily at school, and I’ll continue doing what I can to teach her at home.
Have you ever taught your children another language? What did you find helpful?

My D.I.Y. fun toddler games part 1

As you will see from my other blogs, I’m a big fan of ‘make do and mend’ and ‘do-it-yourself’ crafts, to save some pennies. I did buy my daughter some flashcards from an online shop, with a number of different pictures and words on, (which she really likes), but I thought I could make my own card games and I could add new words she is learning, as she learns them.
This card game is an animal game. My daughter knows some of them but I wanted to help her differentiate between them. Her favourite thing to do now that she’s hit 17 months is to point and say “what’s that?” So I thought this would be fun way of learning, and it’s been snowing, so I have no intention of wandering around a cold farm on a day like this!
If you like this idea and wanted to know how easy it was for me to do, I used:
For my version of the game I have 4 pictures of different cows, 4 of pigs, 4 of rabbits, 4 of cats, 4 of dogs and 4 of chickens. If/once she learns these words, I can add some other animals to the game.
How to play:
This game is simple and involves putting the cards down face up, mixed up. I ask my daughter if she can find the “pigs” or the “cows” etc and the game is to pick them out from all the different animals. Showing her that the same animal can look different, but be the same, depending on its colours or breeds. The game is also to help with word association and to encourage her to pay attention. You could also play this game with the cards turned over, so that your toddler has to find the animals. Another way of playing this game would be to have buckets with another picture of the animal on/ or the word, (if they are older), and asking for your child to sort them into the right buckets.
Hope you enjoy playing this card game with your little ones!
Have fun! 😊
I’ll be coming up with some other toddler games soon.

Why can’t we just all play nicely together?

I was out for a walk with my toddler daughter in her pushchair. It was a fairly warm and sunny day. We checked the roads were clear of cars to cross when we spotted a play park. I was so amazed I hadn’t realised it was there before, having lived in the area for almost a year, we wandered down the road adjacent to ours, drawn in by its bright colours. When we reached the park it had a low fence and hedges surrounding it. It was so much more accessible than the other park in the area, (which is in the middle of a very big and uneven field), not very easy terrain for a pushchair or a small toddler to walk. This was also far closer, only being round the corner from our house. I found the gate… It was locked. I checked I wasn’t going crazy and yes, locked, by a big black contraption. I was puzzled. Maybe it was the time of year, maybe it hadn’t been opened again for Spring? It seemed odd to me, why would they need to lock it with this fancy locking system? I wandered around to the next gate and it too was locked. Then I noticed the sign… ‘This park is privately funded by ‘whatever the name was’ estate.’ This was the middle of the day, during the half term and there was not one single child in sight. I had to turn around and walk away with my toddler, who was wondering why she had just been teased with the prospect of playing in the park. I felt like an awful mum.

These are my problems with these types of parks.

Play parks are to encourage children to go outside and play with other children, to socialise.

There were no children in this particular park. The sole purpose of a park is for it to be played in, for there to be laughter  resonating from it’s vicinity and instead, there we were looking over the fence at this empty park which looked more like an art installation.

One day I will have to explain to my daughter why she can’t play in the park that is just round the corner. “It’s because only the children who live in the bigger houses on that road are allowed to play in there.” “Why?”

This causes an ‘us and them’ effect and it took me back to my childhood, to an experience that really shook my confidence and self-esteem.

My friend stayed with relatives on a council estate close to where I grew up. I used to go down the alleyway to see her after school, to play and we would often go to the local park. I was aged 8 I think. One day, as usual, we were playing when other children started telling me I wasn’t welcome in the park or the area and I had to leave. When I told them I wouldn’t, because I was with my friend, they began throwing quite big rocks at me, (which bruised my legs), pushing me and one of the children put her hands round my throat and squeezed very hard. We didn’t understand why. Confused and very upset, I managed to get away and ran back up the alley home. My Mum was very angry and had a word with some adults from the estate and then told me I couldn’t play there anymore. The children on the estate had decided that because I was not local enough, I was different, to the point where they were attacking me. It made me notice a difference that I never before would have seen between us at such a young age. That they were from a council estate and I wasn’t. This is not what I feel should be encouraged. I don’t want my daughter to think that she is not good enough, or not an equal. This is what I feel these private parks do.

I can understand that the houses have put funding towards the park, and that they want it to be looked after. The lock could be put on after 5pm to make sure louts don’t go in there and vandalise it. The children in the area have access to a park opposite their homes which is amazing! They can play in there anytime they like and it’s all thanks to the generosity of those who funded it. I just can’t get behind the idea that it’s only there for those particular children and not the ones who live around the corner who would be as equally delighted to pay that park visits.

I don’t want my daughter to experience going out to play with friends in that road, only to be shunned when they go to the park. In this day and age we should be encouraging children to get outside to play, rather than staying in. Supporting them to socialise with children no matter where they live or what their background is. Teaching them to be kind and supportive of one another.