Thursday, 23 February 2017

What to expect if you visit a speech therapist

As my daughter´s languages developed so did her pronunciation although there were certain sounds she stumbled over,such as the -r in both majority and minority languages. When she was younger, she´d often pronounce the /-r /as a /-l/ sound therefore "Granny" became "Glanny" etc and even when she had learnt to pronounce the /-r/ sound in English,she still had the problem of rolling her r´s in Spanish.This is however a common problem and even Spanish monolingual kids have problems mastering this sound so we weren´t too worried about it although her previous teacher had mentioned that she might need to see a speech therapist. Fast track to this year, when by now at age 5-6 Spanish monolingual children should be able to pronounce all the sounds including the tricky rolling -r  and although my daughter can actually roll her r´s, her current teacher has picked her up on her pronounciation of certain phonemes or sounds,particularly her /-s/´s and advised us to send her to a speech therapist to straighten out her pronunciation. This is because they will start to do dictations next year when they start primary and might affect how she spells words. We were surprised as we hadn´t noticed that she didn´t pronounce some sounds correctly although I had noticed that occasionally she would say things like "gromitar" instead of "vomitar" but I thought this was down to mishearing the word rather than mispronunciation and I usually leave Spanish correction to my husband. I´d go so far as to say her pronunciation in English is near perfect!!

Now we take her twice a week for 1/2 hour sessions before her ballet class to the speech therapist, who works in the school. This can be quite expensive but is also available through the public health care system.This however makes our Mondays and Wednesdays very hectic and it´s difficult to squeeze in English reading or homework.During the first session. I think the speech therapist just asked lots of questions and observed my daughter to find out which sounds she was having trouble with and in the follow-up sessions they have been practising the -s sounds. Usually the parents wait outside while the children are having their session so I don´t really know what they do but I know that they´ve taught her how to position her tongue and lips/mouth when pronouncing the /s/.She also brings home "worksheets" with pictures of things beginning with -s that she has to practice saying and a Ludo type game with lots of pictures of things beginning with -s. She´s only had 4 sessions and they are saying that she can pronoun the sound and only has to practice it now so hopefully she shouldn´t have to go much longer. I´m not worried about it and nor do I think that it has anything to do with her being bilingual as many of her monolingual Spanish classmates are also going to the speech therapist. I´m inclined to think it´s more to do with her having a dummy when she was little and when she first started speaking, she was talking with the dummy in her mouth...however being bilingual could also play a small part in it. Have you had to visit a speech therapist with your bilingual child? What have your experiences been?

Friday, 17 February 2017

Valentine´s Day fun

I have so many future posts in my head waiting to be written but unfortunately just can´t seem to find time to do them all so I´ll start with one of the most recent events, Valentine´s Day. Even though Valentine´s Day is done and dusted for this year, thought I´d still post about the activities we did this year so you can maybe refer to them or do them the following year.
 Valentine´s Day is not celebrated as much in Spain as in the UK and the US , where it is widely celebrated so as I like to teach my children British culture as well as the language, I like to do activities so that they learn about this special day. Plus it´s a great way to learn lots of vocabulary relating to love and emotions. The only book we have in English that fits the topic of love and Valentine´s Day is Guess How Much I Love You? by Sam MacBratney,and is ideal to read on Valetine´s Day. I also went to the library a few days before Valentine´s Day and got some other books in the majority language about love, Pedro está enamorado by Sara Pennypacker & Petra Mathers &  Besos Para Cada Momento by Antoine Guillope. As they are in Spanish and my husband is the one who reads Spanish books to our children,I can´t really tell you much about them although I think my husband didn´t like them too much and thought that the topic of Pedro está enamorada was too old for my daughter although I think I disagree but would have to read the book to form a true opinion.                                            .

In the UK they sell some sweets all year round called Love Hearts  (pictured top left and top right hand corner)which have little hearts and a little message on them, which says things like "Blue Eyes", "I Love You" etc on them so I asked my mum to bring some when she came. You can probably order them online at shops like British Corner Shop and the British Foodstore Online, which sell and deliver internationally.I also downloaded the free Valentine´s Day activities from Bilingual Avenue and decided to do a scavenger hunt type thing by hiding the sweets around the house and then when we found the sweets, we would read the messages on the sweets before eating them(working on reading skills in a fun way!)My daughter loved this activity especially as it involved sweets....she´s got a very sweet tooth just like he mum!

We then went all arts and craftsy and made some homemade Valentine´s cards with pink and red card I had bought....I also brought out the fingerpaint,thinking it´d be something fun and easy that my 17 month old could join in with-what a mistake!! Paint nearly ended up was pretty messy! I let my daughter get creative with her card and for my card(or joint effort!) I made hearts using my thumb prints and then tried to get my daughter and son´s handprints. I had wanted my daughter to write her card in English but as it was for her Daddy,who she always talks to in Spanish, I guess it was quite normal for her to choose to write it in Spanish(the majority language)After we´d left the cards to dry out and I´d cleaned up the kids and the mess, I wanted to do the Love Coupons but by this point my daughter had become tired and no amount of persuading her could get her to join in or do any other activities unfortunately. So, on the one hand we had a lot of fun doing these activities, however on the other hand I was  a bit disappointed that maybe it hadn´t generated as much vocabulary etc about Valentine´s Day but in the end the main thing is that they (or we!) enjoyed doing them.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Sourcing Minority Language Resources & English Bookshops in Spain

When you´re bringing up bilingual children, you can never have enough minority language resources, especially books but sourcing them can be expensive and difficult. Thanks to Amazon and Ebay  which make it easier and cheaper and are my usual go-to places when sourcing minority language resources. However, they do have the drawbacks of having the extra cost of postage and the problem of not being able to see the book (or other language resource) before buying it.

Although you can find some English language books in bookshops where I live,there is only a limited selection and they usually cost more so I tend to buy most books from Amazon and sometimes Ebay.However, I suppose at most bookshops you could order minority language books. In big cities such as Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona and in touristy areas you can find English bookshops. Here are a couple of English bookshops I´ve come across although I´ve only visited one of them!! First of all there was Petra´s International Bookshop in Madrid,a small,friendly bookshop, which I actually visited quite a long time ago and  which sold secondhand books in English and Spanish and many other languages and it was also possible to exchange books.Apparently,according to an Internet Google search Petra´s International Bookshop is no longer exists but has been reopened/been replaced by Desperate Literature.

I have come across two English bookshops in Valencia through Facebook and although I´ve never visited them, they appear to be two great ways to source minority language resources. The first is English Wooks a specialist English bookshop which sells English books,textbooks and other English language materials for educational purposes for parents and teachers. The second bookshop is an online bookshop based in Valencia called The English Box which sells books and stories for children and teenagers from 1-18yrs old in English. I´d love to visit both of these bookshops when and if I ever go to Valencia!!I´m sure there are others throughout Spain so if you know of any good international or English bookshops in Spain,please let me know!!

Other ways to source minority language resources is to visit your local library as they are sure to have some books in English and other minority languages,although again where I live the choice is limited and are mainly "readers" or graded level reading books for majority language speakers learning another language.

You could also do a book swap or exchange with fellow native speakers and their children to widen the range of minority language resources and books available. I have suggested this to my friends but so far we haven´t got round to doing it!

One of the best ways to access minority language resources is to register at Oxford Owl and what´s more it´s completely free and you can download and access 250 ebooks for free at different levels and age groups, plus they give you many tips about teaching your child to read and Maths,book reccommendations ,storytelling videos,and fun ideas etc to help your child learn.There is even a blog and I have found this website very useful in the struggle with teaching my daughter to read.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Reflections on the 2017 Family Language Challenge

After participating in the 2017 Family Language Challenge set by Bilingual Avenue I thought I´d finally get round to posting my reflections and observations about it! I really enjoyed taking part in the challenge as it helped me think about my vision and ideas as to where we are heading and what my objectives(or our obejectives as a family!) are in our bilingual journey.I have to say I don´t really think about it and plan how to achieve our fact I don´t even really set goals for our language learning but rather let things run their natural course.

A Facebook group was set up for those participating in the challenge and it was good to come into contact with other like-minded parents of bilingual and multilingual children and find out their goals and aspirations for their bilingual/multilingual children, which also helped bounce ideas off of one another. There were many language combinations but particularly those of Spanish & English- there were even two from Madrid!! 

We were sent a task every day to complete for the five day challenge....the hardest part for me was trying to keep up with the tasks and even now I still have to complete Day 5´s task(yes, I´m a bit of a slacker!!)Day 1´s task was involved in envisioning our goals for our children by a certain age, Day 2 was a look back on the previous year´s achievements and failures, Day 3 was looking ahead to the future and how we are going to achieve our goals,Day 4 was contemplating how to create exposure and need to the languages and Day 5 is putting the plan into action. After each task you could share your visions or goals on the Facebook group if you wanted to. The challenge also included a Bilingual Planner so you can plan and write down your observations....there are also questions and pointers to help you try and achieve your goals month by month.I still need to fill out January´s and start on February´s! All in all, a very useful and helpful guide that I´m sure is going to help us on our bilingual journey.

Friday, 20 January 2017

2017 Family Language Challenge

Just a quick one to tell you that I´ve just signed up for Bilingual Avenue´s 2017 Family Language Challenge (if you click on the link you can join up for free!) You can find out more about this challenge on Bilingual Avenue´s post, the challenge is designed to help you perfectly plan what you want to achieve this year with your children and above all with their bilingualism.I´m so excited and looking forward to participating and creating lots more opportunities for improving my children´s bilingual abilities and language learning!! I´ll also be hoping to blog about the challenge and how it has helped us.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

How Bilingual Are Bilingual Schools in Spain?

I live in a fairly small city in Castilla-La Mancha and where I live the majority of "bilingual" schools are concertados, a concertado school is neither completely a state school,nor a completely private school but  something in between, almost like a private school which receives funding from the government,and I think there are only two state schools which have a bilingual programme, a primary school and a secondary school.I was adamant that I was going to send my children to a bilingual school so that they had even more imput in their minority language and also to compensate for the fact that I work in the afternoons/evenings as a TEFL teacher so their exposure to the minority language would be more limited once they started school due to my job and when completing the form, I included almost all the schools which had a bilingual programme.In the end we were lucky enough to get into the school which was our first choice and on the whole we are very happy with it but unfortunately my recurring question is: just how bilingual are bilingual schools in Spain?

Many schools in Spain,especially the concertados, which tend to be more religious schools, often follow the BEDA, which stands for Bilingual Education and Development & Assessment, programme.In my daughter´s school this means that the amount of English is increased to 180 minutes per week with 3 30minute sessions of a Non Linguistic Discipline (Disciplina no Linguestica) and 2 weekly 45 minute sessions of English.This is implemented right from when they first start school at 3,which I think is great.The teachers, as far as I know are Spanish but I think the lessons are given completely in English but they have little or no exposure to any native English speaking teachers.However,no subjects are taught completely in English until they reach Primaría(age 6 going on 7), where they have 2 weekly sessions of music and 1 weekly session of Arts & Crafts in English. Again as far as I know there is no exposure to a native English speaking teacher(at least in my daughter´s school),which I´m a little disappointed about as I was previously under the impression that there was a bilingual native assistant who visited all the classes at least once a week. I´ll be able to tell you more about this next year when my daughter starts Primaría!!

At the moment the bilingual programme uses the Amco(click on the link for more information)methodology which has evolved in Mexico and therefore teaches American English. I have no problems with this methodology or the fact that it is teaching them American English as I think it is important for them to learn all types of English although it doesn´t seem to be in keeping with the fact that they are a Cambridge examining centre and offer the Cambridge exams,which are largely geared towards British English although you can use American English in the Cambridge exams too if you use it consistently.The books used by this method is a workbook & students book called Gear Up Levels 1-3 as shown in the photo and I think this is supported with lots of songs and games.                                                                                          
      One of my main worries when it comes to my children´s bilingualism is the literacy side of things so I was quite relieved when I flicked through last term´s English workbook and found that they have started writing words above the pictures.Here is an example in which my daughter had to draw things that she can see in school and above the drawings,she´s written the words :door,window and clock.However,I know that in other bilingual schools they do extra reading in English although maybe not when the children are still in Infantíl or the Infants and have exposure to native teachers at least once a week from 3 yrs and up.
Extracurricular English classes are also offered with the aim of obtaining the Cambridge exams from Starters up to First Certificate and in these classes students are offered exposure to native English speaking teachers but these classes are not free and parents have to pay for their children to take part in these extracurricular classes.

Nowadays the Government has toughened up and English teachers or teachers who are participating in bilingual programmes have to have an English level of at least B1/B2 but I think that they should have a C1 or even C2 if they are teaching a bilingual programme and teach English classes 100% in English in order for these bilingual programmes to work properly because there are many doubts about how effective and beneficial these bilingual programmes really are. Many students who attend "bilingual" schools often end up going to extracurricular classes in academies to further improve their English. I also believe that to be fully bilingual 50% of the classes should be given in English and 50% of the classes should be given in Spanish,starting from when they first start school at the age of 3.

These are just my experiences and opinions of bilingual schools in Spain and I can´t really compare it to all bilingual schools in Spain.I am neither completely satisfied with the bilingual education nor am I completely dissatisfied but rather sit somewhere in the middle.I often think that my daughter must find it boring in English class as she knows a lot of the vocabulary that they are learning...for example the colours, the numbers 1-10, clothes etc but she says she isn´t bored. I´ll just have to see how her bilingual education pans out and I´ll be updating you on the changes. Next year should be exciting with the introduction of classes in English! I´d love to hear about your experiences and opinions of bilingual schools and education in Spain or other countries.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The 2 R´s-teaching reading & writing in the minority language

As a self-confessed bookworm myself,I have always been keen to install a love of reading in my children and looked forward to teaching my daughter to read in the minority language, English. One of my aims in our bilingual journey is that my children end up as near to "balanced bilingualism" as possible,which means also teaching them to read and write in their minority language. However, this has been more of a struggle than I first anticipated!

In the Spanish education system most children don´t start learning to read until they reach 5 years old whereas my daughter´s peers back in the UK start learning to read when they start school at 4 yrs old. In an attempt to try and start teaching my daughter on a par with the UK I bought the Jolly Phonics workbooks and also the Oxford Reading Tree(Level 1&2), which are used in the majority of primary schools in the UK but with a newborn baby to look after and a tired and not so enthusiastic daughter, didn´t get very far!

Now she has started learning to read & write in Spanish so I´ve renewed my efforts but still finding it a bit of an uphill struggle, finding the time to sit down and practice reading and writing and also motivating her. I   don´t know whether it´s because she has to process both languages so it is taking her longer to grasp reading  and that this is normal in bilingual children or whether it´s because she doesn´t appear to be very interested in learning to read, despite all my hard efforts.We have started again with the Oxford Reading Tree and are working our way through Level 1 and have almost started Level Two plus I have copied the words from the stories in Level 1 onto card to make flashcards,which we try to go through every other day.My husband is working with her on her Spanish reading & writing and she is working through her first"cartilla". I find the Spanish way of learning to read more boring and not as motivating as the Oxford Reading Tree.

I have both letter magnets and the National Literacy Strategy Magnetic Words for Reception on the fridge and  I form words such as the days of the week, the months or other words and also sentences on the fridge so my daughter can read them or make her own words or sentences or even just play with them. I have also looked at the website, which has many free resources including games and tips about how to encourage literacy and if you subscribe to it, you can access many ebooks. I´ve found a couple of fantastic pages on Facebook of blogs/websites about encouraging reading including Growing Book By Book and Reading Is Fundamental, both of which give good advice and have free resources.The Reading is Fundamental site has activity calenders for each month and for different ages, which you can print out in Spanish or English and do the activities each only problem is that I don´t have access to some of the books that are reccommended but we try to do what activities we can.

For now we are not doing much writing either as anything that looks like a worksheet or schoolwork is a distinct I´m trying to come up with fun ways for us to practice both reading & writing. I´m hoping the Junior Scrabble boardgame will help with writing/spelling and also with reading. So all in all it´s a slow process but we are getting there gradually. I have more ideas of how to help her with her 2 R´s but my main big hurdle is finding out how to motivate her.I also printed out a reading chart and after each book she finishes, she gets a sticker and when the chart is full she can get a treat,which seems to help a little with motivation.  At least she enjoys being read to and I´m going to try to do it every night as some nights we just don´t get round to it for one reason or another. Another thing I want to try is audiobooks as at least they will help her vocabulary and listening skills...while hopefully encouraging her to learn to read too(I hope!)She also watches SuperWhy occasionally, an American cartoon which focuses on literacy and reading skills,shown on Canal Panda in Spain, which she enjoys and I want to buy the set of Alphablocks, which has very good reviews on Amazon and is all about phonics. I´d love to hear your ideas and thoughts or experiences about teaching the two R´s in the minority language.