Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bilingual Bubbas

Although I live in a fairly small city (I´d call it a town really!!!)with very few foreigners due to the increased interest in learning English, a lot more language academies have sprung up and also because of the university, it´s becoming easier to come across other native English speakers and other foreigners!!

I´m quite lucky as a lot of my native friends have also had babies at a similar time to me so we have a little bilingual posse, 3 of which are all girls(including Chloe) with another girl on the way to join them! Hopefully, this will encourage them to speak their minority language when they are older,especially in the street as they will realise they aren´t "different" from other people. I´m hoping they´ll play together and speak English together and learn from each other and the other Mummy´s or Daddy´s. It´s also great as our children will be able to hear different English accents and get used to them instead of hearing just our accent. For example,I´m from North England but have a fairly neutral accent, one of my friends is from Belfast and two of my friends are from the South so Chloe will hopefully get accustomed to all these different accents. Maybe we´ll even start up our own bilingual playgroup!

Another great thing about Chloe having a little bilingual posse is that we could swap English children´s books with one another, as it is quite difficult to buy English books where we live (you can buy them but there isn´t much choice and they are more expensive)and the library also doesn´t have much variety.

As a parent wanting to bring her child up as bilingual as possible and also as an English teacher, I´m trying to find out as much as I can about bilingualism and educating a child bilingually,and one website mentioned in my Growing Up With Two Languages book was The Bilingual Families Webpage. This website is run by Cindy Kandolf and has allsorts of useful information, including Myths about Bilingualism,Frequently Used Terms and Resources, which lists books and newsletters which bilingual parents may be interested in reading,websites, sources for books in different languages including Spanish,Portuguese, German,Arabic and Chinese etc.It´s definitely a very helpful and useful site to find out more info.You can also read about Cindy´s story and visit her home page or join the mailing list.I haven´t done this yet but if any of you do or have, I´d like to know your opinion about whether it´s worth joining or not! I´m going to check out some of the books,articles and websites reccommended (eventually!) or when I can get my hands on them & more importantly when I have time!!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Christmas is over,but what about the presents (A look at bilingual toys)

Christmas was a very lovely and special occasion this year with it being Chloe´s first Christmas. Christmas isn´t Christmas without children. However, it was all very hectic and quite last-minute. I wasn´t at all organised so I´ve vowed to be better organised next year! Plus it was all over very quickly almost before you could blink. I was still wrapping presents, making mince pies and even decorating the Christmas Cake on Christmas Day!In the lead-up to Christmas, I was playing traditional Christmas carols and songs for Chloe to listen to, such as Little Donkey and Away in the Manger, on YouTube. I´m not as worried about her learning Spanish Christmas carols and songs as I know she´ll probably learn them at school or pick them up from her cousins, aunt and grandparents.

Traditionally Spanish people celebrate Los Tres Reyes Magos on the 5th January more than Christmas Eve/Christmas Day and Father Christmas. However, Santa has become a lot more popular over the years and now most families celebrate both! My husband´s family however tend to celebrate Christmas Eve and Santa more so Christmas Eve was spent with my in-laws in a traditional Spanish way. Seafood (which I never eat any of as I don´t like it!), ham and cheese and then leg of lamb, turrón and other little cakes, such as marzapanes (which I don´t really like either) Think I´m definitely in the wrong country as far as food is concerned!The lights are then turned off, the kids shuffled into my suegro´s study and "Papa Noel" comes and it´s all a bit of an anti-climax if you ask me!

My parents came to spend Christmas with us though, which was nice and they brought a lot of the food such as the turkey, parsnips, cranberry sauce, a Chocolate Orange, Christmas Pudding, that you can´t find or buy where I live. So we had a British Christmas Day complete with presents, turkey and all the trimmings.

I thought I´d look at some of Chloe´s toys, especially some of the bilingual ones. Like books, I don´t think it´s necessary for all her toys to be bilingual so long as there is a good mix. In fact, so far she only has two bilingual toys

One is is a Chicco Bilingual Talking toy mobile phone although as my mum bought it in Portugal, it´s in Portuguese and English rather than English & Spanish so it´s always switched on to the English mode!I think two languages is enough to cope with at the moment!! This is particularly good for babies of 6 months and up as it teaches them about communication as well as teaching them numbers 1-4 , animal noises and Hello.Who is it? and Bye,Bye in both languages. Each animal button plays a different tune such as The Entertainer etc. When the globe button is pressed the globe spins round and plays a tune sung in English or in the other language, depending on what mode the phone has been switched to. I think this is a great toy for any bilingual child...Chloe loves it particularly as we sometimes put the proper phone to her ear so she can "talk" to Granny! I´m not sure how much it cost as I can´t find the price on the Chicco website!

Her other bilingual toy is also from Chicco and is the Chicco Bilingual Talking Cube (I´m not a Chicco rep I promise!!!)and is a bright,colourful cube with activities on each of it´s faces. It is supposed to be from age 9 months upwards but I´ve been letting Chloe play with now and there haven´t been any problems (she´s 7 months!). It teaches children numbers 1-3, apples, yummy and there´s a catchy little song, ABC (again with a catchy little song), colours and basic shapes e.g. I´m a yellow star etc and of course the Spanish equivalents. There´s also a dial pad like on old-fashioned telephones had and some balls that spin round with animal pictures on them,which also help develop co-ordination. For more info, check out the link I posted...however, it is in Spanish, I´m afraid. This toy is also quite good for bilingual babies although the Spanish is probably more Castellano Spanish from Spain and not from South America. Here is a link to some other reviews on so you can read them and make your own mind up.

A wonderful toy for any child, not just the bilingual child, and that is probably one of Chloe´s favourite toys is the Fisher Price Sing n´Go Choo-Choo Train. This is a train with three carriages in which a toy giraffe, elephant and a monkey travel.Each of the animals can be played with on their own and have moveable legs, they also have tactile surfaces and some can even be used for teething.When you press the smokestack, the train moves forward and plays a song, then when the elephant is placed in its carriage three different songs are played (all in English of course and very American sounding). This could also help to encourage the child to crawl after it!It is suitable for babies from 6 months up and was voted as one of Parent´s Magazine Best Toys of the year in 2006. I nearly forgot, the only bad thing about this toy is that the batteries soon run out! What bilingual toys do you have and which would you reccommend?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Reading to a bilingual baby & a glimpse at our bookshelf

I´ve always been an avid reader and am hoping to pass on my passion for books to my daughter. Furthermore, I think reading in both languages will expand her vocabulary and help her understanding of each language so we started reading to her from 4 months on. We take it in turns to read to her, one night I read to her in English and the following night my husband reads to her in Spanish and if she´s really lucky some nights, she´ll hear two stories, one in English and one in Spanish!

I don´t think it´s necessary for all her books to be bilingual so long as she has plenty in both languages. I´ll be looking at some bilingual books more in-depth in future posts. We read her proper stories but when I can I also go through first word books with her and today I´m going to look at some of these books,which we have on our bookshelves. My husband is supposed to go through the Spanish word books with her but I´m not so sure he does!!!

The first book is Baby´s First Book published by Ladybird books. This is quite an old book or edition and I´m not sure if it is still in print but was purchased rather cheaply off Ebay! I like it because it has large, colourful pictures of typical, everyday objects such as teddy, car etc with the word underneath in large print. Even though this book is in English, you could still use the pictures but instead using the Spanish word (or whichever other language you are trying to instill).

The following books were actually bought for my English classes (I teach English to Spanish children) but they are now also Chloe´s! They are a set of books that are beautifully presented as a box set The Little Learning Library and are based on Eric Carle´s book The Hungry Caterpillar. They are broken up into words,numbers, colours and animal sounds and are beautifully illustrated.

I was struggling to find any Spanish first word books at first and ended up buying this book: Aprende con osito: Colores. This is a series of books, which I think include numbers, shapes maybe etc. The pages are split into colours and have different objects/words which are that particular colour and photos and drawings of the objects. Plus on each page you have to try and find the "osito" (teddy bear) although Chloe is a bit young to search for the teddy at the moment!

The final book on my list is Palabras: Nombres, which one of my students kindly gave to me and again is a series of books i.e. Palabras: Numeros, Palabras: Adjectivos etc. It has colourful drawings with the Spanish word underneath.

I´d reccommend any of these books to flick through with your babies & toddlers, pointing to the pictures and talking about the objects and you can also use them in a bilingual manner,despite the language in which the word is printed!

I´d also check out your local library as they could have books in the minority language. I live in a very small city with only a few foreigners and I was surprised that it had quite a few English books for children and also a couple in Rumanian, Italian, Portuguese, German and probably French, Chinese and Moroccan too!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Bilingual Babies: The first seven months

This post is about the first seven months of a bilingual baby. Obviously during the first seven months a baby can hardly talk but its language is developing so it is also an important time. When Chloe was born my parents came to stay with us for three months so Chloe was hearing English not just from me, but also from my parents 24/7. I even had to remind my husband that he had to speak to her in Spanish!!! My parents were continously talking to her and singing her nursery rhymes etc so I hope that this stands her in good stead for understanding English.

I keep up a constant stream of conversation with her, and ask her questions, just like in a normal conversation even though she can´t answer back e.g. when getting dressed Do you want to wear this pink dress? You like pink, don´t you? etc and have maintained singing typical English nursery rhymes or songs to her. Her father talks to her in Spanish and her grandparents, cousins and Aunt sing Spanish nursery rhymes or songs to her (mainly Cinco Lobitos & Palmas Palmitas!)

I had read that it is good to start reading to babies from about 4 months as it helps their language acquistion so from 4 months onwards we started reading to her in English and Spanish. I read to her in English of course and her Daddy reads to her in Spanish. I´ll be posting more about reading soon.

From about 3 months onwards, Chloe started squealing and babbling and around 5-6months added singing to her repertoire. She is very vocal and can be very loud. I think maybe that we are going to have a good communicator on our hands (at least I hope so!)Apart from the usual babbling sounds, such as ah-goo or ajo , we haven´t heard any da-da´s or ma-ma´s yet. I have been trying to encourage her by repeating da-da,da,da,da Daddy, Mu,mu, mu,mu mummy to her but so far no success. My mum said she heard her say Na, na once but I´ve never heard her say it so I´m not sure. Sometimes when she´s babbling though it sounds like she says aqua or hola and hello but I think that that´s only coincidence or wishful thinking!!! I´ve also started to say "All gone!" after she´s finished her breakfast/lunch/dinner and "ta" when I give her the dummy so she can get used to saying thank you, plus ta is much easier to say than "Thank You".
When did your little ones first start making vowel sounds or saying their first words? What were their first words? How old were they? I´d love to hear about any of your experiences!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Naming the Bilingual Child

One of the first difficulties in bringing up a bilingual child is what to name him or her. Do you give them a name from the country in which you are living, a name from your native country or a name that exists or is similar in both countries. We opted for the latter as we wanted a name that would be fairly easy for both families to pronounce and that was spelt and pronouced similarly in both languages, which is not easy to find, believe me!

What became clear is that it is much easier to find girls´ names that are similar in both languages than boys´names. Girls´ names that we liked were Rebecca/Rebeca and Chloe, which although not very common in Spain is pronounced quite similarly.However, I later found out that in Spain it is often spelt Cloe! Boys´names we liked were Thomas/Tomás although we preferred the English pronunciation to the Spanish pronunciation, which stresses the last syllable much more and I liked Isaac although my husband wasn´t keen. As I had a daughter, we finally decided on Chloe so Chloe it is! The only problem with the name Chloe is older Spanish people don´t know whether it is a boy or girls´ name and sometimes people get confused and have called her Cleo! Here are some links of names for those of you who are also trying to find a name that is suitable and easy in both languages: