Saturday, 1 December 2012

Square Eyes: A Guide to English Language Kids Programmes Part 2

Chloe is becoming more and more of a telly addict although I try to only let her watch between half an hour to an hour a day. This means that I am discovering more and more British cartoons and TV programmes on Spanish satellite TV. I‘m not sure what Chloe‘s favourite programme is yet but one of our favs is Ben and Holly‘s Little Kingdom.(If you click on this link, it´ll take you to the official web page with stories, games,activities etc..) This is an animated cartoon about a fairy princess, Holly, and Ben, an elf and their adventures. I think it´s shown on Clan and on NickJr. Holly is often casting magic spells which don‘t turn out quite right and the cartoon is often humourous.
Another British programme I‘ve recently discovered is Olive the Ostrich, a cartoon about Olive the Ostrich´s  and her friends adventures. I‘ve only seen this once so can't tell you much about it but it seemed like a nice cartoon. Rolf Harris, a famous Australian entertainer, narrates the cartoon so you have both British and an Australian accent.You can find out more about this cartoon in this review.You can watch this cartoon on Nick Jr on Spanish satellite TV.

Ha-Ha Hairies is another new discovery so I can´t tell you that much about it.From what I can gather from the few times,I´ve seen it is that it´s about two animated fairies,one boy and one girl who narrate the story of the Ha Ha Hairy Family,played by actors.It seems like it´s for older chidren than Chloe maybe but she will still sit still and watch it.It is shown on Cartoonito.Again a British cartoon so is full of British accents.
      The Hive,or La Colmena Feliz as it´s known in Spanish, is a lovely cartoon about a colony of bees with the main characters being Buzzbee and his family and friends and the usual matters or problems that occur to children on a day-to-day basis such as playing,being friendly and spending time with your family etc.It is shown on Disney Jr but again I haven´t seen it that much due to the time it is shown at.

In The Nightgarden is another very popular British cartoon, which is shown on Clan (El Jardín de los sueños in Spanish)and is about the characters Igglepiggle,Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka, the Tombliboos and The Pontipines and The Wottingers. It is a mixture of actors dressed in costumes, puppetry and animation and is aimed at calming children down. There is a lot of repitition and the programme is quite long. I have to say that I am not a fan and apart from the narrater, the characters don´t speak a lot and most of what they say is gibberish and there are quite a lot of invented words.It hasn´t seemed to hold Chloe´s attention for very long either although as I have said before,it is a huge hit in Britain and with the majority of children.

That´s all for now.I´ll be on the lookout for more British cartoons and TV programmes on Spanish TV. I hope you´ve enjoyed this brief guide and found it useful!

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Spirit of Halloween (no pun intended!)

I love Halloween although I didn´t celebrate it much as a child but I can´t wait to pass this slice of British(well, Irish really!) and American culture and tradition on to Chloe. I even thought about doing a party for her but then decided that she´s just a teeny-tiny bit young for a Halloween party at the moment.The week before Halloween it was my turn to host the bilingual playgroup at my house and I decided to do a Halloween theme. I don´t think there are many traditional Halloween nursery rhymes or songs or at least I didn´t know and couldn´t think of any  so we just did some pretty normal ones, Head,Shoulders,Knees and Toes and Row,Row,Row Your Boat. Unfortunately, Chloe was not very cooperative that day....I don´t think she was too impressed with all the other bilingual bubbas in her house,playing with her toys!!! Plus I think she was really tired! Oh and even better is that another of our bilingual bubbas and her parents joined us, increasing the group to 5 bubbas and 6 parents!!! I then read the story Owl Babies, not really a Halloween story but as it´s about owls and the pictures are quite dark, it was close enough without being scary. To end our Halloween bilingual playgroup, we finished off with a fingerprint spider craft (fun but messy and I think us, the parents ended up doing most of it but I think the children enjoyed it anyway!)I´m not sure I´ll be rushing to get the fingerpaints back out again for awhile yet though!!You can see our efforts in one of the photos!

The day before Halloween Chloe came home from nursery with her face painted, a paper pumpkin on a straw and a Halloween poem in English...I´m not sure if the native English people who work there made it up or whether it already existed but I´ve never heard it goes along the lines of "Run,run,run, Halloween is fun, walk, walk,walk but don´t talk, play,play,play,Halloween is today!" I like the fact that although Halloween isn´t really a Spanish tradition(although it is rapidly increasing in popularity!)that the nursery is embracing it as it´s great for her to get extra imput on British/American culture.Also, on the 31st October, they had a Halloween party and it was optional to dress up. I definitely had to dress Chloe up and found a cute little witch´s costume complete with headband with a little witch´s hat on it. She came home with a little witch that they´d made at nursery.It was even in matching colours as Chloe´s costume!!!You can see Chloe´s costume and her witch in the photos above.

Thursday was a Bank Holiday as Spanish people tend to celebrate All Saint´s Day although my husband´s family don´t really tend to celebrate it so I took the opportunity to make some Halloween  Eyeball cupcakes. I tried to get Chloe to help me mix the green icing but she just wanted to eat it and put the spoon straight to her mouth,then lost interest and went off to find Daddy!! I´m looking forward to making and decorating other Halloween treats together every´s going to be a tradition!!So, all in all that was Chloe´s first Halloween. Hopefully I´ll be able to take her trick-or-treating in the future but it´s going to be difficult as I work in the afternoon/evenings so don´t know how I´ll get round that little loophole!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Bilingual Tots: 16-17 months

Since starting back at work this month, I´ve hardly had time for anything,let alone blogging,particularly as Chloe has been going through a rather clingy stage,meaning that I could hardly get anything done!! Anyway, I thought it was about time for an update even though there doesn‘t seem to be that much to report.                                                                     I was hoping that going to nursery school and our bilingual playgroup would encourage her language skills but I can‘t see much evidence of it yet . So far the words she can say are no, mama, papa, wow~wow(for dog), mas and more,ta(but she doesn‘t always say it), uh~oh, ba(for ball) and pa for pan. She can also make more animal noises such as moo and “coco“ for cock~a~ doodle~doo although the previous animal noises she could make, she no longer does! Even though she mainly says wow~wow for a dog,it‘s also starting to mean any animal. She also tries to repeat what we say occasionally for example the other day we were saying “bye bye granny“ and Chloe said something like“ay ay anie!" and another time I was saying to her "one more" and she repeated it quite clearly!Just the other day she started making the noise of a train "choo-choo!". I am pretty certain that she now understands 100% of what we say.

Apart from that,there isn´t much more that I can add! We are continuing to read to her in both languages and    she points to different things,for example in Goodnight Moon,she points to the red balloon and the two kittens although not always!!!I sing different songs and nursery rhymes to her...lately we´ve been singing Head,Shoulders,Knees and Toes and The Wheels On The Bus quite a lot.She touches her head when we sing Head,Shoulders,Knees and Toes and occasionally her nose(which reminds me she also points to her nose or mine and says "noe"meaning nose!!)and she does some of the actions to The Wheels On The Bus!!

Here are some more interesting websites that I have come across while trying to find out more about bilingualism and raising bilingual or multilingual children.The first is InCultureParent, an online magazine with tips and articles about raising multicultural children or global citizens.It has some good articles about bringing up multilingual or bilingual children, recipes,crafts and much more!Another great website is Mama Lisa, which contains children´s songs from all around the world, an English translation and even a MP3 recording which you can listen to the song and even the sheet music (I think it may even be possible to download both of these things!!)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Roll up,Roll up for September´s Bilingual Carnival!

Things have been very hectic lately especially since I started back at work after the summer hols, I´ve barely had time for blogging or much else,particularly as Chloe has been very clingy lately. This is just a quick post to remind you that September´s Bilingual Blogging Carnival is here.....if you haven´t already checked it out!!!September´s Carnival is hosted by All Done Monkey and has some really interesting posts and I´ve also discovered some great new blogs.Better late than never I always say....even if soon October´s Carnival will be here too!!! I´m also pleased to say that one of my posts was also featured in September´s Carnival!!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Spanish Resources for Non-Native & Native Parents

Although I´m the minority language parent which means I mainly speak English to my daughter and sing English nursery rhymes and songs and read English books but it occured to me that Spanish resources may be hard to come by. Even my Spanish husband, sister-in-law and mother-in-law seem to stick to the same old Spanish nursery rhymes...Cinco Lobitos and Palmas Palmitas....I did learn Pica Pica Pollito too off my cleaner but my husband doesn´t really seem to know many nursery rhymes and even though my daughter will probably learn a lot of nursery rhymes at nursery school and school, I thought it might be a big help for those non-native and native parents alike to have a list of Spanish resources. I hope you find this useful!!

Here is a Spanish version of the English lullaby "Rock-A-Bye Baby" called "Duérmete niño", which has the Spanish lyrics and the English translation.I also found another version of Duérmete niño on YouTube. The material for nursery came with a CD which includes some popular Spanish nursery rhymes such as "Aserrín, Aserrán"....there also appears to be many versions of this nursery rhyme, here´s one version and here are some other versions. Another is Date,date,date, which uses gestures to play with baby.I keep telling my husband he has to learn them so he can sing them to her!

The CD also has some traditional or popular stories on it. Garbancito is Spain´s answer to Tom Thumb (at least that what it seems like!).Here are two versions, one in YouTube and the other written so you can tell it to your children yourself.Another tale is the story of La ratita presumida which tells the story of a vain mouse who finds a coin,you´ll have to listen to the story to find out what he spends it on and what happens next!

Cartoons and TV programmes are also a good way to increase your child´s imput of a foreign language and at the same time raise culture awareness too. My daughter mainly watches cartoons etc in English as that is the minority language but sometimes I let her watch cartoons in Spanish too, especially if they are of Spanish origin. Some good Spanish cartoons are Los Lunnis, which is shown on the Spanish children´s TV channel, Clan and can also maybe be accessed online and on Amazon es.Los Lunnis is a series of brightly coloured puppets that sing and dance etc and are similar to The Muppets or Sesame Street!Pocoyo is another cartoon about a little boy called Pocoyo and his friends and their adventures, the characters don´t speak much and much of the story is told by the narrator.Again, Pocoyo is shown on Clan and here is a link to the official Pocoyo webpage.

I´m sure there are many more traditional songs and nursery rhymes, stories, books and cartoons and TV programmes from Spain and South America but these are just a handful to help non-native and native parents alike! If you have any more you can add or suggest, I´d be grateful.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bilingual Bubbas: Setting up a bilingual playgroup

As the city I live in is fairly small and there aren´t any bilingual playgroups, my friends and I decided to set up our own with our bilingual bubbas.Seeing that there is only a few of us, we´ve decided to take it in turns holding it at each other´s houses and that we are going to meet every Saturday at 11am as due to work commitments etc, that is the only day that we can all get together at the same time.

At the moment there are only the six of us, 3 mums and 3 babies, although I did mention it to two other British friends who have babies but they haven´t shown much interest yet unfortunately!I suppose I could advertise but then we might be inundated with Spanish parents wanting to bring their children and really I just wanted to keep it only for native speakers and their children or in other words, proper bilingual children as it just wouldn´t be the same with parents who don´t speak English or don´t always speak to their children in English as then the majority language might start creeping in or worse our children could pick up grammatical mistakes or mispronunciation errors from the Spanish parents. Don´t get me wrong, I´m not trying to exclude people here and I have nothing against Spanish parents joining but I´m just concerned about what effect it could have on our children´s own language. In fact, one of my friends´ Spanish friend and her child may be joining us for awhile or until her second child is born (She´s due in October so not long!)We could do with a few more people though so the whole thing just doesn´t fizzle out.

The first "meeting" took place at my house and we sang Five Little Monkeys and did some actions to it which I think they enjoyed....unfortunately there is a bit of a gap between my daughter and Bilingual Bubba 1 to Bilingual Bubba 3, a difference of a year but anyway at least Bilingual Bubba 3 can listen and take it in subconsiously!I then read "Dear Zoo" to them and my daughter and Bilingual Bubba 1 enjoyed seeing the animals,making the animal noises and opening or lifting the flaps.We then let them have free play while we had a chat and refreshments!It was fun and seemed quite successful. Bilingual Bubba 1 calls my daughter Coco as she can´t pronounce Chloe yet and Chloe seems to have picked that up off her so I think it´s working although it´s still early doors so we´ll have to wait and see!

The following week Chloe was ill so we called it off and then the next week one of the Bilingual Bubbas couldn´t make it but we still went ahead with the playgroup with my daughter and Bilingual Bubba 3, otherwise the playgroup will definitely just die its death particularly if we keep cancelling it every time someone can´t make it!Anyway, I´ll be reporting on our activites and updating the progress of our bilingual playgroup from time to time and we´ll see how it all pans out! I´d love to hear from any of you who go to a bilingual playgroup and your experiences or if you set up your own bilingual playgroup!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

First week at nursery school!

This week was a difficult and emotional one because it was Chloe´s first week at nursery school and her first time ever really being apart from us.As I work in the afternoons,she is going to nursery school in the afternoons for about 4 hours. Unfortunately,many nursery schools where I live are shut in the afternoons and due to the crisis, even more are choosing to shut in the afternoons because there is little or no demand for nursery schools in the afternoons. After my search for a nursery school which you can read about here, I´m very happy with our final choice. It´s one of the best nursery schools in my city, is open in the afternoons, does activities in the afternoon and is the nursery school that is the closest to being a bilingual nursery school.

The first day came and we dressed her in her little nursery uniform(a bit ridiculous a nursery school having a uniform but at least her clothes will keep clean!).They have a summer uniform till October, girls wear a little blue and white striped dress, boys wear a blue and white striped knickerbocker/shorts type thing....I haven´t really paid as mcuh attention to the boys´uniform!!In winter, they have a different uniform...not sure what it´s like yet, plus a" baby",which is like a smock, to protect their uniform.That cost 50 euros already and we haven´t even bought the winter uniform yet!

When it came time to drop her off,she screamed, cried and tried to cling on to my husband for dear life. It was awful and we felt so bad leaving her. We rang after an hour to see how she was and they said she was ok but she was having her moments of crying.We went to pick her up after two hours and she was very happy to see us. This scenario was repeated the following two days although on the third day,she did stop crying for a little while but started again when the nursery nurse took her off me.She didn´t go the rest of the week as Wednesday night she started with a high temperature(which could´ve been down to teething though too!) and she was full of a cold...I hope it´s not a sign of things to come!!!

When we spoke to the head of the nursery school, she told us that she liked being sung to and that she had stopped crying when she heard English!We were given a list of materials we had to provide which included glue,crayons (and they had to be a certain brand!!!),a pad of different coloured card, non-slip socks, white finger paint, glitter gel,EVA rubber, 500 sheets of blank paper...I think that was everything!!I was really surprised....I never had to buy all that stuff for school,never mind for nursery!!!She´s only 1!We also paid for the "books" they use "El Conejita Juguetona"(another 35 euros!), which also comes with a CD with all the songs she´s going to learn, animal sounds and everyday sounds such as breathing etc and two English nursery rhymes "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and " Pat-a-cake,Pat-a-cake". My daughter is already familiar with these two rhymes as I sing them to her occasionally.

The nursery has two English speakers,one of which is native English and the other is bilingual although she speaks English with a Spanish accent. I was disappointed to learn that the native only works in the mornings and that children who go in the mornings get 5 hours of English, in other words they have 1 hour of English every day whereas the children in the afternoons only get 2 hours of English per week(and with the bilingual person not the native unfortunately). I don´t see why kids that go in the afternoon should suffer and get less than their morning peers but I suppose the afternoons are shorter! So it´s definitely not as bilingual as I´d have liked!Maybe I will see if she can go once a week in the mornings too although  it probably doesn´t matter so much as she´s still going to hear a lot of English off me!

I´m hoping that her time in nursery will encourage her speaking in both languages and that her talking will come on in leaps and bounds....we´ll just have to see how it goes!!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Devoradores de libros: Spanish bookworms

Most of the books on my daughter´s bookshelf are English mainly because due to living in Spain I figured that it  is much easier for her to borrow Spanish books from the library or from her friends and cousins, than borrowing English books.Another reason is that many Spanish children´s books seem to be translations of English books or books written by authors from different countries,such as France, Germany, Holland etc. There appears to be a bit of a gap in Spanish literature of books for babies and toddlers. I remember asking a few bookshops and even a librarian if they could reccommend me a classic Spanish children´s book like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Guess How Much I Love You or Dear Zoo? but none of them could give me an answer!!! Surely there must be some classic Spanish story?

I decided to do this post so that you can discover some good (at least I think so anyway!) Spanish children´s books but I´m always on the lookout for more and would be grateful for any other suggestions,particularly from any of my Spanish readers!!

One of my favourites is El Dragón frío by Andrés and Ana Guerrero, which I borrowed from the library. I don´t own a copy unfortunately as haven´t seen it in any bookshops but maybe you can order it directly from the publishers? It is a sweet,simple story about a dragon that can´t breathe fire and is illustrated simply but colourfully.Andrés and Ana Guerrero have written quite a few other toddler´s/children´s books and I think we have read them all or at least most of them but El Dragón frío remains my favourite.

Although I knocked the English translated versions of  Tento stories, I did think they seemed good stories and after buying this for a friend´s daughter and seeing that it was a sweet story, I decided to buy it for Chloe. There is a series of Tento books but so far we´ve only bought and read this one, Tento y El Regalo de Mamá by Ricardo Alcántara and illustrated by Gusti. Tento is a little dog, who in this particular story doesn´t know what present to give to his mum and the book tells us his search for the present and what present he eventually decides to give her....I won´t reveal the ending but it is very sweet and tender! The illustrations are again simple but cute and colourful.I have seen it reccommended for 2 yr olds but we read it to Chloe and she enjoys it now at only 15mnths old!!

Anyway,these are my two favourite Spanish toddler books, which I reccommend any native or non-native parents to read to their children in Spanish.I´d love to hear any reccommendations for other Spanish/ South American toddler´s books, which are preferably not translations!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

First trip to the UK/ Bilingual Babies: 14-15 months

There were a number of reasons I wanted to go to the UK this year, some of them being to see friends and family, to escape the heat of Spain, because I haven´t been for about two years but one of the main reasons being for the sake of Chloe´s English. However, in hindsight with only being 14 months old, maybe this year the trip wasn´t so worthwhile as maybe she´s still a tad too young to have got the most out of it,particularly as she isn´t even speaking much yet.
    One of the things I have also realised after our trip to the UK is that bringing up a child bilingually is not cheap and this concludes with the following articles from Multilingual Living and Hiragana Mama but in my opinion it is definitely worth it or will be worth it in the long run!First of all,my husband could only take his holidays in August which automatically makes it more expensive, then despite the area where I´m from not being very touristy, all the holiday houses were extortionate...we managed to find one slightly less extortionate for the two weeks. I thought that the Olympics wouldn´t affect the prices of flights, houses etc as  we were based in the North but little did I know that some of the football matches were held in Manchester,which might also have affected prices.We also hired a car for the duration of our stay, luckily we upgraded the car to a bigger one as the five of us plus all the suitcases and the buggy would´ve been a bit of a squash! We ended up taking our car seat with us otherwise to hire a carseat for Chloe for two weeks would´ve cost a further 100 pounds!!!

  Anyway, after researching the travel tips on Babycentre and German In the Afternoon, which were very useful and helpful, our flight (Chloe´s first time on a plane!) went smoothly...we read a couple of books and did some nursery rhymes and finger plays.
 We stayed in a comfortable and clean bungalow in Haslingden, which had great views from the living room window.My parents joined us for the first week of our holidays, which meant that Chloe had almost total immersion in the minority language!! Unfortunately, the weather was typically British in that it rained almost every day but we were pretty lucky as it always seemed to rain when we were in the car, having lunch or visiting something indoors!!

  We visited Chester Zoo,which was a great day out, visited the Lake District and discovered some British culture at Beatrix Potter World...(Chloe loved all the fake animals straight out of Beatrix Potter´s books!). I also met up with one of my friends,her husband and their baby, who´s about a month younger than Chloe, in Blackpool and went to the Sea Life Centre. We also met up with the majority of my family for Sunday lunch and Chloe had a great time playing with my cousin´s children and then met up with my stepdad´s family too and their little girl, who´s  about two weeks younger than Chloe. They seemed to get on very well! So she´s had plenty of interaction with other children and adults all of which are monolingual.

 The second week my husband´s parents came,which unfortunately meant that Chloe was once again almost totally surrounded by Spanish.We visited Chester, the Lake District (this time we did a lake cruise!),
Chipping,Clitheroe and Downham and York. Chloe enjoyed walking around the York Castle Museum, which gives a great insight into British history, particularly the Victorian street,which takes you back to England in Victorian times,and she also liked Jorvik Viking Centre,which tells you about York after the Vikings invaded. The trouble is I guess we´ll have to revisit them when she´s older as she won´t remember it now or learn as much from it at this age! I also showed my in-laws where I´m from and the houses I have lived in and we visited Hoghton Tower.We also visited my aunt and saw my cousin,his wife and their children and had an English tea,with tea,sandwiches including egg and salmon, various English cheeses, Pimms and cakes.While we were in the UK we ate a lot of typical British food, such as crumpets,English muffins, teacake, roast pork with all the trimmings, sticky toffee pudding....even an English breakfast in the airport on the return journey to Spain...Chloe too! She enjoyed her first taste of baked beans too!

On to the language part,I had hoped this trip would stimulate Chloe´s speaking especially in English and I think it did but not to the level I had hoped for....I guess this language acquisition takes time particularly if you have to acquire two languages at the same time! As I mentioned in my last post, Chloe has been saying mas or ma´ for more or if she wanted something but after the first week with my parents,it started to sound more like "more". Then my inlaws came and it went back to "ma" but she would often say both words so it would go "Ma..more". I don´t know if she´s starting to distinguish the two languages and realise that she has to speak in different languages with different people...probably not.She´s just probably repeating both words but it seemed like she directed the "more"at me. Her animal noises are improving and she is trying to repeat them....every time she sees a dog,she says wow,wow.In fact, I think that´s her name for the dog!!She´s also trying to repeat words or noises that we say or she hears. She now says Uh-oh if we say it when she drops something etc and the other day she was playing with her Chicco mobile phone and pressing the numbers and she repeated "four" after pressing the number four button and it sounded very clearly like four....the thing is she probably won´t say it again now at least for some time anyway!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Bilingual Babies: 13 months

I should name this Bilingual Toddlers as Chloe is now a toddler,she´s no longer a baby and is even walking but I don´t think it has the same ring to it as Bilingual Babies!!!So now she´s walking and she´s always on the go and hardly ever wants to sit still! She´s been concentrating on her new skill so much that her talking skills have been a bit put aside. However, saying that she is still babbling and chatting away to us, albeit in her own particular language, and she is also interacting as if she´s having a conversation with us.

Her understanding is increasing day by day and I´d say she probably understands at least 50% of what we say to her, if not a whole lot more. She dances when she hears music and if we say the word dancing or bailando,she´ll dance all the more!She understands the word no, dog, biscuit and many more words/sentences. One day she put her finger in her nose so I was saying "disgusting" and pulling it out but I did it in a jokey way so it encouraged her to do it all the more!! Anyway, another day I said to my husband something was disgusting or I was telling him what she did later the same day (in English!) and she put her finger up her nose so she obviously recognised the word and associated it with putting her finger up her nose!!

The only words she definitely says are Mama(and she calls everyone Mama lately even my husband...I think she also says it if she wants something), Papa...or Dada occasionally and ma, ma when she´s eating, which sounds a lot like más (more in Spanish but without the "s")but she also says this when she wants something. She also says words that sound like "yasta" which is like I´ve finished or all gone or I´m ready in English. We´ve been reading Where´s Spot?, a lift-the-flap book, and Dear Zoo, another lift-the-flap book and also The Bedtime Bear, yet another lift-the-flap book, all of which have animales including a lion and a snake and we´ve been doing the animal noises with her. All these books are in English but my husband does the books with her in Spanish but luckily a lion and a snake make more or less the same noise in both languages and she´s been repeating the lion roaring and the snake hissing. It´s so cute! If fact for a short time, if you asked her "What does the lion say?" she´d do her little roar but then for some reason, she stopped doing it and only does it now and again when we look at the books and see the lion. She would only ever answer this question in English even though my husband spent many a time trying to answer the same question but in Spanish! It´s all very interesting to see how she´s picking up and processing both languages.

I´ve also been singing all the usual nursery rhymes and songs I´ve mentioned in other posts as well as Row, Row, Row Your Boat, we do this song sat on the floor and bend backwards and forwards as if we are rowing and she loves it! As we trying to encourage her to do the animal noises, I´ve also been singing Old McDonald Had A Farm, Baa Baa Black Sheep and How much is that Doggie In the Window?. I´ve found a Spanish version of Old McDonald too on You Tube but have yet to play it to Chloe, here´s the link: En la granja de mi tío. I´ve also been pointing out all the cuddly toys or ornaments we have which are animals and saying "This is a dog. A dog says/goes "woof,woof"What does a dog say?" "Can you say woof,woof?" to try and encourage her to say them. I got this idea from the book "Quick & Fun Learning Activities for 1 Year Olds" which I borrowed from the public library in Spanish. Dog is a hard one as it makes different sounds in English and Spanish, in English a dog goes "woof-woof" whereas in Spanish it says "guau, guau"!Sometimes she does try and say them but not always!

Here are some other resources I´ve also found that could be of help to other bilingual or multilingual families. The website Bilingualism-Matters is an organisation formed by a group of researchers at theUniversity of Edinburgh and their website offers advice and links to other resources aimed at bilingual or multilingual families.Here is a link to the webpage Infanaj Kantoj, which has a selection of songs and nursery rhymes for children in German, English, French, Portuguese, Swedish, Russian and Welsh.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Square Eyes: A Guide to English Language Kids Programmes

As Chloe grows older, her interest in TV programmes and cartoons grows too. At the moment, she doesn´t really watch too much TV and I´d like to keep it that way as I don´t want her to end up with square eyes! However, I think that TV programmes and DVD´s can be a great way to provide bilingual kids with extra language input but can also be used for any child that is learning a language so I thought I´d take a look at some kids cartoons particularly those of English language origin and those that are shown on Spanish TV.

With DTT many programmes can be switched to the original language and many of the children´s TV programmes on Spanish satellite and cable are of American origin. One channel I really like is BabyTV, which is great for toddlers as it has many short cartoons and animated songs etc and it is really the only channel that seems to catch Chloe´s attention for now.If you click on the link provided, you can find online games, colouring pages to print out and much more. Then there are Dora the Explorer and Go,Diego, Go cartoons, which are aimed at teaching children Spanish phrases or English phrases if you watch the Spanish version. I´m not sure if I think that they really will help kids learn another language and I also find them a little irritating after watching them a couple of times.

Peppa Pig is a British cartoon so is complete with British accents, which are fairly clear and easy to understand. It is a big hit in England and seems to be pretty popular here in Spain...we like it too, even though we are adults!It was being shown on Clan but doesn´t appear to be on for the time being. Clan is a Spanish children´s channel with many popular kids cartoons,if you click on the link you can watch some of your favourite kids cartoons in Spanish or English. Clan is also showing an all-time British kids TV programme classic, Postman Pat, which I loved watching as a child so I´m glad that I will be able to share this with my daughter. However, I think that this is a new, more modern version. The voices of Postman Pat and company seem to have Lancashire or Yorkshire accents, which is also a big plus as this way my daughter and other children can get accustomed to various regional accents.

Fifi and the Flowertots is another British animated cartoon about some flower characters and their adventures so again features British accents including the Lancashire accent, which is excellent for me as I´m a Lancashire lass but haven´t got the accent so at least Chloe will hear it and get accustomed to it!It is shown on NickJr.

For now, that´s all the British cartoons that I´ve found which appear on Spanish TV and Spanish satellite but there are also a couple of Australian programmes that are also shown on Spanish satellite. These cartoons a great way to expose children to other different accents and different vocabulary. Bananas in Pyjamas  is about two bananas,B1 and B2, and their friends and the adventures they have. It is shown on Cartoonito.
Another Aussie cartoon is The Koala Brothers, about...yes, you´ve guessed it!!... two koala brothers who love helping out their friends, also shown on Clan.So these are just some of the kids cartoons I´ve found on Spanish TV and have been watching with Chloe (but I think I´m doing more of the watching than she is!!)and which I hope she´ll enjoy as she grows older. I also hope it´s helped you to find some good cartoons in the English language to watch with your kids!I haven´t looked at American cartoons as the majority of cartoons shown on Spanish TV are American so you have a wide variety to choose from!I´d love to hear Spanish cartoon reccommendations ( that they haven´t been dubbed or translated from another country!) 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

O Romeo, O Romeo, where art thou Romeo, International Classical Theatre Festival in Almagro

Although this blog is mainly about Spanish/ English bilingual activities, I have decided to blog about this as it is yet another resource or activity which is great for all language learners,not just bilingual families. The International Classical Theatre Festival in Almagro (Castilla-La Mancha, Spain) takes place every year in July and lasts for about 3 weeks.

Apart from being able to see many classical plays in Spanish of course such as Don Juan, La Dama Boba y Don Quijote, there are often a handful of international plays, such as Shakespeare´s A Midsummer Night´s Dream or Chaucer´s The Canterbury Tales, often in their original version with Spanish subtitles.This year is no exception of course and there are a couple of plays in Italian, one in French, one in Portuguese and another in English.

This is great way to immerse children and teenagers, especially those from bilingual families, in the minority language being learnt or spoken at home and also for them to learn about that country´s culture. However,not all of the plays may be suitable for young children.

The festival starts the 5th July and ends the 29th July and tickets can cost anywhere from between 12- 27 euros depending on the play.Here are some links with more information about the festival and the programme. Unfortunately, Chloe is too young to go this year but looking forward to taking her to some English plays in the future....crossing my fingers that there will always be at least one play in English!

Friday, 15 June 2012

A Bilingual Birthday & Pressies Galore

I can´t believe it! A couple of weeks ago,Chloe turned one. I can´t believe how quickly the past year has gone! It has been an enriching year full of joy and happiness.

 My parents came to stay with us so that they could celebrate her first birthday too. We decided to have a BBQ and invite family and our friends, especially those that had kids too, including our bilingual bubbas. Unfortunately, only one of the bilingual bubbas could make it and the rest of the kids were monolingual.There were only 7 children in total.

Parties are hard work, I can tell you! I spent most of the day preparing food...decorating the cupcakes and the birthday cake(both of which I had made a day or two ahead!), making two salads and the dressing, one salad was a typical Spanish-style salad with tomatoes, tuna, lettuce leaves and the other salad was more my type of salad, mixed lettuce leaves, apple,dried cranberries, cheese and a creamy garlic dressing etc. The worst thing about it was that because I was so busy preparing the party(even though I had a lot of help!) it meant that I didn´t get to spend much time with Chloe! Next year we might just go to a ball pool place where they do the´ll be so much easier! My parents had brought pork pies,puff pastry, sausage meat to make sausage rolls with. I also did a cheese and pineapple hedgehog,which was typical of birthday parties when I was little. My mother-in-law made two Spanish omelettes and we bought olives and sliced meat such as chorizo, Iberian ham and Spanish salami so we had a mixture of both cultures food wise. The sausage rolls were a big hit with the Spanish but the pork pies didn´t go down quite so well!We actually did too much food but never mind!Here are some photos of the birthday cake, a ladybird cake which I was very proud of!

We sang Happy Birthday followed by Cumpleaños Feliz, then Porque es una chica excelente and the English version, For She´s A Jolly Good Fellow, before the candles were blown out and the cake was cut. The only birthday cards,my daughter got were off English family and friends, there isn´t much tradition of cards in Spain but she got lots of presents.

She got quite a few books but I´ll be doing another post about them and I want to highlight some of the toys she got,particularly those that are great for language learning. One of the toys I bought her was My Puppy Pal Violet from Leap Frog, a cuddly puppy which can be connected to your computer and can be personalised to say your child´s name and will also spell it, favourite colour, favourite food and favourite animal. It also plays lullabies and songs which you can also download and change.This toy has won many awards and so far is proving to be a big hit with my daughter, especially now that she has learnt how to press it´s paws. She loves the music and dances along and the lullabies have soothed her to sleep on various occasions.It is aimed at babies from 6 mnths to 3 year olds.It also has a British accent so it´s great for further English exposure. The only downside I have come across is that the batteries run out pretty quickly.Here are some customer reviews from Amazon.

Another toy which I think is going to be great for Chloe´s English and learning in general is the VTech Alphabet Apple, an apple-shaped electronic toy with buttons for each letter of the alphabet. Each button has a little colourful drawing of an animal that begins with that letter plus the name of the animal in smaller print on it so for example A has a picture of an alligator and the word written below.Although this toy is aimed at older children, 2+ year olds, I bought it as a present that my daughter wouldn´t grow out of too quickly. As well as teaching the alphabet, animals and their characteristics, spelling, it also has a clock to help teach the time. The child can select different activity modes by sliding the icon up or down to do spelling games, clock quizzes, alphabet activities and listen to animal facts. There is also a music mode and each letter plays a different tune. My daughter loves pressing the buttons, turning the hand of the clock, the flashing lights of the buttons and the music although she doesn´t really play with it as such yet.The pronunciation of the letters and all sentences are spoken in a British English accent and they are very clear and accurate. Both My Puppy Pal Violet and the Alphabet Apple are great value for money and as I bought them on Amazon UK and they were both eligible for Super Saver Delivery, there were no additional costs for shipping, which is always a bonus!

My mum got her a couple of presents also from Amazon, which included two Melissa & Doug jigsaw puzzles, one of  the numbers 1-10 and the other is of the alphabet.They are both colourful and beautifully illustrated,particularly the alphabet puzzle as each letter has an illustration of something which begins with that letter, for example A has pictures of apples in it.Although again maybe a bit old for her, she will get a lot of mileage out of these puzzles and they will really help with learning the alphabet and widening her vocabulary.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bilingual Babies: 9-12 months

I´ve been meaning to update you on Chloe´s progess sooner but seeing as there isn´t really much to report,plus I´ve been really busy, I´m finally getting round to it now!Chloe´s understanding of both Spanish and English is really taking off now as well as the phrases I mentioned in this post, she waves when we say bye,bye and adiós, shakes her head when we say "No" and gives us things when we say "Give it to Daddy", "Dale a máma". I´ve also started to include phrases like "How big is Chloe?" and moving her arms out wide and "How tall is Chloe?" and stretching her arms up high above her head and her Daddy has been doing the same in Spanish so she is starting to put her hands up high when she hears the Spanish phrase...I need to work more on the English phrases!!

I´ve been trying to teach her parts of the body so I´ve been touching parts of my face with her hand and saying the word and singing "Head, Shoulders,Knees and Toes" to her and just recently she is starting to touch her head when I say head.I´ve also been singing and doing Round and Round the Garden and This Little Piggy with her a lot.I´ve also been singing and doing the actions to Incy Wincy Spider a lot too and I have also discovered that there is a Spanish version of this nursery rhyme so she´s listened to that a couple of times too.Our cleaner sings her the Spanish nursery rhyme Pica, pica Pollito.

As far as speaking goes, she´s still not saying much.She babbles and sings loads and there´s a lot of "da-dada-da"ing and there was the proud moment,when she first said "ma-ma-ma"...however I don´t think she calls us mama or dada indistinctly. She definitely says "da-da-da" more than "ma-ma-ma" and sometimes when she says "ma-ma-ma", it´s when she´s eating so I´m not sure if that´s what she´s saying or she´s actually going "yum,yum,yum!"She´s also starting to say "pa-pa-pa" too and some of her babbling noises sound like words like "aqua" or "daddy". I´m hoping our trip to England this summer will really improve her speaking,particularly in English!

I have discovered a couple of new resources that you might find interesting. The first is Mantralinga, a publishing house based in the UK, which sells bilingual books and other resources such as posters, Talking Pens and Talking Labels in 52 languages. I haven´t bought anything from their website yet but I think their products sound very useful. Another website is Multilingual Children´s Association, which gives you tips and advice on bringing up children bilingually or multilingually, from starting your own bilingual playgroup,immersion programmes, learning tips to resources and it also reccommends books to help you on the way. You can also read and comment on issues that concern you in the forums and download a directory with classifieds, favourite resources etc.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The Bilingual Family: A Handbook for Parents: A Review

I wanted to do more research into bringing up a child bilingually and after reading the reviews of books about bilingualism on Amazon, I wasn´t really persuaded into purchasing any particular books. I had the brainwave of seeing if my local library stocked any books about bilingualism, which it surprizingly did, so I borrowed The Bilingual Family: A Handbook For Parents by Edith Harding-Esch and Philip Riley(2nd edition).However, this meant the added complication of reading it in Spanish!

Although this book is fairly simple to read, it does read more like a textbook so therefore I found it a bit dry and boring in places. The book gives examples of different types of bilingualism and language acquisition,which although is interesting for me as a teacher, is not really relative or important for me as the mother of a bilingual child.  I was looking for a book that would give me more ideas and suggestions about how to raise a bilingual child not a book that delves more into the linguistic elements of being bilingual.

The best thing about the book is the case studies of various families and the methods they used to bring up their children bilingually and their experiences. The authors also include examples from their own experiences of bringing up children.

I also find this book a little dated as it tries to debunk the myths or preconceptions people had in the past about bilingualism, which I think hardly exist now. It also talks about resources such as sending emails on the Internet and videos but doesn´t mention more modern resources such as iPhones and apps, videocalls on the Internet and YouTube videos, DVD´s, audiobooks etc.

All in all, I have to agree with the more negative reviews of this book on Amazon which you can read here. This book is good if you are interested in bilingualism but is not so useful if are looking for a manuel on how-to approaches of bringing up a child bilingually. I´m glad I did not buy this book and I´d reccomend borrowing it from your local library if you decide you want to read it!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Easter and the next best thing...

Happy Easter, Feliz Pascua,Froehe Ostern or however you say it in your language! This year we spent the Easter hols in Portugal visiting my parents, which was great...for me, for them and for Chloe. It also meant that she was exposed to (almost) total immersion in English apart from her daddy who continued with OPOL,speaking to her in Spanish...although a few English words or sentences did slip out of his mouth too! So, although not England, visiting Portugal is the next best thing!!

As Chloe is a little young we didn´t really do any of the Easter traditions this year so the Easter Bunny will probably be paying a visit next year though! I have been singing a traditional Easter nursery rhyme, Hot Cross Buns, and also Chick-Chick-chick-chicken to her. Hot Cross Buns are a typical Easter cake that British people eat at Easter and Chloe tried some for the first time this year and appeared to like them. I made them last year for the first time(see pic below) so click on the link for the recipe if you want to try them! She also tried her first Easter egg (a mini chocolate one which came in a bag with a doll that one of my mum´s friends kindly gave her!). Oh, and we also read The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett, which we borrowed from the library. Apart from these things, you wouldn´t know that it was Easter.

While we were in Portugal my daughter got to spend some quality time with her grandparents and hear plenty of English. They talked,played,sang and read stories to her. We went to the tennis club to introduce Chloe to my mum´s friends and we went out for dinner with some of my parents´ friends. My parents have English television so she got to watch some British cartoons although she´s a bit too young yet and they didn´t really hold her attention for long!

We went for a couple of walks on different beaches and we took Chloe to Lagos Zoo,which is a great dayout for any family. She loved the zoo and also my parents two dogs....she´d get really excited when she saw them and would babble "a-da" (we said it sounded like "a dog" but really I think it´s just babbling!)

Some great places to buy books, toys,CD´s/DVD's and videos in different languages particularly English, German and Portuguese and even Danish (I didn´t see any Spanish books or toys) are the Algarve Book Cellar, which sells and exchanges secondhand books.I got three books for my daughter and one for me very reasonably and the books themselves are in very good condition. You should also check out the charity shop The Donkey Sanctuary which sells secondhand books, toys,videos and even clothes. I bought a textbook for teaching English to children for 50 cents and I also saw an Early Learning Centre Days Of The Week game in excellent condition which I almost bought for my classes but decided against it.

A trip to the British supermarket,Iceland, was also a must for me to stock up on many of my favourite food and drinks or even ingredients that I cannot buy where I live in Spain, including hot cross buns and Cadbury´s Mini Eggs. I didn´t take Chloe with me this time but it´s also full of English tourists and expats and environmental print so is great for further English exposure!So all in all, a lovely relaxing week and a great time was had by all!

Friday, 23 March 2012

In search of a good (bilingual) nursery school-Update

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are looking for a nursery school for Chloe to attend next year, if possible I´d like her to go to a bilingual nursery school but unfortunately I don´t think one exists in my city! The word bilingual gets bandied around quite a lot here, a lot of schools call themselves bilingual or have a bilingual project but they aren´t as bilingual as I´d like and in many of these schools, the teachers aren´t bilingual and often only have a passing knowledge of English,some don´t even have the basics! However, there are other teachers that do have a high level of English. I think that these "bilingual schools" or "projects" don´t seem to be all that successful as through my job as an EFL teacher, I teach a variety of kids from the "bilingual" schools and from schools that don´t have a bilingual project and I don´t notice that much difference in their English abilities.You can find kids with good or bad levels from both types of school. Kids that attend bilingual project schools often know specific vocabulary for example eyebrow but don´t know basic verbs such as have got etc. To tell you the truth, I think it´s a bit of a gimmick!Often I think these schools don´t start with the bilingualism early enough,which is one of the reasons they aren´t successful, which is why I´d like to get Chloe started off as soon as possible in a bilingual nursery or as close to one as I can find!!!Most nursery schools offer English among their activities but in my opinion bilingual nursery schools should do 50% of activities in one language and 50% in the other language. From what I´ve read some bilingual preschools in the States take their bilingual initiatives quite seriously.

I seem to have gone off on a bit of a tangent there! We have been to see three nursery schools now. The first one we went to look at is the best nursery school in my city and is probably the closest to a bilingual nursery thatll come across in my city. It is situated in a lovely family-style house with a front and back patio.The back patio is larger and has slides etc to play on and a swimming pool/paddling pool in the summer. There was a comfortable, cosy atmosphere when you enter. Downstairs is for the older children, the babies are upstairs and have cots, changing tables with nappies etc and on the bottom floor is a kitchen, gym complete with tunnels for the kids to crawl through and a stage with scenery for plays etc. Everything was spotless and clean. There were a lot of nursery nurses (about 5 or more I think) working with and looking after a small group of children (about 5 or 6) and none of the kids were crying...they all seemed to be having fun and listening and joining in. One of the teachers had a guitar and they were singing Spanish nursery rhymes but just before they left I heard them singing If You´re Happy and You Know It.Plus the activites which the children participate in during the morning are repeated in the afternoon. The facilities are excellent and what really sways it for me is that they also have two native English workers!!! However, it is quite expensive especially as my daughter will be attending in the afternoons as I work in the afternoon/evenings so she´ll only be there 3 -3 and a half hours and it costs as much as if she were to attend the whole morning! It even has a school uniform, that alone costs 80 euros, as they consider themselves as an infant school rather than a kindergarden.

The other two nursery schools we´ve seen are quite similar to one another. One is bigger but is quite far away. It didn´t seem quite as clean and tidy as the first nursery school and there are more kids to a nursery nurse, the ratio was about 13:1. They do offer English among their activities but there are no natives and they don´t do the activities in the afternoon so it´d mainly be playing. It just didn´t present as well as the first either. On the other hand though,you have the option of only paying for the hours your child is there,making it a much more affordable choice. The third kindergarden was similar to the second, again they have a high ratio of kids to carers, 20:1, 13:1 and again English was among their activities on offer but yet again these activities are not offered in the afternoon...and no native English people either! Plus the price wasn´t that much cheaper than the first nursery school as you don´t have the option of paying by hours.

We have a few more nursery schools to check out but I think we´ll probably end up sticking with the first even though it is pretty expensive. I just don´t understand why more nurseries aren´t open during the afternoon and why they don´t offer the activities in the afternoons too.Ok, I understand that maybe there aren´t as many kids in the afternoons so it might not be worth having activities but I don´t understand why there aren´t more kids in the afternoons as many people have a split timetable and shops etc open till 8pm and what about doctors and nurses who work shifts?It´s difficult trying to work around these little inconveniences! Maybe I´m just going to have to work more hours to help pay the nursery fees or try and find a morning job (easier said than done in my line of work!) Does your child go to a bilingual nursery or a normal nursery? What is your experience or opinion about it?