Sunday, 4 March 2018

Outdoor activities in the minority language

 During the summer months spending more time outdoors becomes the norm due to better weather, however this doesnt mean that it has to slow down our minority language input but rather that we have to find other ways to channel this outlet.

As I am trying to encourage my daughter's reading one of the ideas I came up with was to continue with the captive reading idea in the garden by making bilingual plant labels. I found these fairly reasonable plant labels with a little blackboard in a garden centre and wrote the names of some of our herbs & vegetables in both the majority and minority languages.I don't know whether my daughter actually even looks at the herbs or the labels but at least its there and maybe she reads it subconsciously.

Gardening can be another way for kids to expand their vocabulary of different types of plants and flowers, garden tools etc as you can talk while you're doing it and even better you get some help with the garden at the same time, if you can get the kids on board with the idea.

There are many outdoor games that you can play with your children in the minority language,many of which may also be traditional, such as British Bulldog,which means that not only are you having fun, practicing and using the majority language but also passing on your minority language's culture to your children. I'm going to giveyou some examples of some traditional outdoor games that you could play:

Hide-and-seek: Think this game is universal. Good for counting practice and the phrase "I'm coming to get you, ready or not!"One person counts to 10 or 20 and the others have to hide and then the person who is "on" has to find the others.

Red Light, Green Light:One person is"on" and has to face away from the other players and then shouts either red light or green light....if they shout green light, the other players can advance, if they shout red light the players have to stop and freeze...if they move they have to go back to the start. The aim is to reach and tag the player who is on.

What time is it Mr Wolf?....great for practicing saying the time. This game is very similar to Red Light,Green Light only the players shout: What time is it Mr Wolf? and the player who is the wolf answers with various times. If they say "Its dinnertime!¨ the "wolf" turns around and tries to catch the player nearest to him.

Tig & British Bulldog....British Bulldog is similar to Tig. One or two players are the ¨bulldogs¨  and stand in the middle of the garden or patio,park etc and the other players stand at the other end of the play area. They have to try to get to the other side without the bulldogs catching them.

Other outdoor games or activities that you could do to boost the minority language are nature trails or scavenger hunts and treasure hunts.These are also great at expanding vocabulary and also helping with biliteracy as the children have to read the clues or tick off the things they have to spot on the nature trail. I have yet to try these activities out on my own children but am looking forward to it. You could also play any outdoor sports such as rounders, cricket, bowling, which not only is a great way to have fun and do some exercise but also has the added value of that they are cultural sports that might not be played or as popular in your majority language country.

What are your favourite outdoor activities,games and ways to boost the minority language?

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Competition time with Cooking with Languages

Lately I just don´t have the time to blog very much at the kids seem to be going to bed later and later and I just can´t seem to summon up the time nor the energy. Even this post is a quickie just to let you know about the Cooking With Languages competition giveaway.

Cooking With Languages is a Spanish-based company, which creates language learning activities based around food and cooking. You can find them on Facebook: and at their website: They have published a bilingual Spanish and English cookbook and aprons which are on sale and they are currently running a competition giveaway with Kids On the Costa magazine to win a bilingual cookbook and apron. All you have to do is get hold of a copy of the magazine Kids on the Costa and colour in the competition picture and even if you don´t live in Southern Spain you can print the picture from the online Kids On the Costa and upload it once it´s been coloured. However I´m not sure if this competition is open to people outside of Spain. My daughter has already coloured her entry and now we only need to upload it. I´d love to win as it combines two of my favourite things: languages & food and it´d be great to use it with my kids!! Good luck if you enter!

Friday, 12 May 2017

A quick update

 I had a couple of posts planned,one about Easter, but didn´t get round to it so thought I´d give you a quick update instead.

A couple of days ago my daughter had her last session at the speech therapist,although this was more of our decision rather than the speech therapist telling us that it was no longer necessary. We just felt that our daughter´s pronunciation wasn´t such a problem to start with and her pronunciation of /-s,/which was her main problem,had improved a lot and as she´d been going nearly two months now,it seemed like it was enough.Plus,it´s not cheap!!There are some words that she still finds difficult to pronounce,such as " significa" but I also had problems with "shoulder" and " soldier" when I was a child.I seemed to always mix them up.

We´ve been working on her reading and writing and establishing a homework routine.This is pretty difficult as she´s very strong-willed and resists doing it as she´d prefer to play.I´m trying to find ways to do it in a fun way. There are some really great activities and resources(many are downloadable and free too!) from Growing Book By Book and This Reading Mama. I found some great monthly writing prompts and using one of May´s prompts managed to encourage my daughter to draw a picture and complete the sentence" My favourite flower is...." Even if she copied the words "a sunflower" at least it´s a start.I´m trying to encourage my mum to write to her and then my daughter can reply and practice more and I´m also trying to find my daughter a penfriend of a similar age. I also downloaded some Colour by Sight Words and I´ve persuaded my daughter to colour two of them!! In Spanish, my daughter has just started "Cartilla 3" or" Letrilandia 3" so her reading in both languages is coming on slowly but surely although I still don´t think we´ve succeeded in turning her into a bookworm just yet!!

I still haven´t told you too much about my 19 month old as he´s not really saying very much at the moment. One big difference to his sister is that he doesn´t go to nursery school, whereas my daughter went from turning 1 till she started school, so in theory this means that my son is receiving more exposure to the minority language than his sister did. Unfortunately,however, I feel that I don´t have the same time to spend on him as life is so much busier with two...the curse of being the second child!!

I try to read to my both kids every day and my daughter usually gets an English story and a Spanish story before she goes to bed, my son only usually gets an English story read to him. Sometimes we have to skip nights or my 19month old is very tired so I have to get him to sleep and then it´s too late for me to read to my daughter. Juggling both of them can be difficult and sometimes I read one story to both of them(although my 19mth old doesn´t sit still!).

My 19mth old can say a few words and like his elder sister appears to opt for the easiest word in each language, saying byebye and ball but not adios or pilota,but hola & agua instead of hello and water. Other words he can say are "mama","papa", "yasta", "book", "pooh",´nana for banana  and one of his first words,believe it or not was "ketchup" because his sister is always asking for it!!He also says ta/thank you and si at random and repeated a couple of words like Grandad for awhile,then seemed to stop saying them.Oh and he also said ooooh-la-la....again imitating his sister and the other day it sounded like he said or was trying to say "milk".

Thursday, 6 April 2017

How to maximize the ML while travelling in a Majority Language Country

I´ve been trying to organise a holiday to the UK this summer as I think my children would really benefit from it, both linguistically and culturally. I´d really love to show them my roots so they get to know my country and where I´m from as it´s important to me.Plus I haven´t been back for nearly five years now so it´s about time!!However, my husband doesn´t seem convinced. He doesn´t like travelling with two young kids very much at the best of times so it´s proving quite difficult to persuade him. Also, we have a wedding this summer in the North of Spain and we´ve discussed doing a route around the North of Spain so at the moment I´m putting my UK holiday plans on hold and am going to start concentrating on planning the trip to the Northern Spain and how I can maximize their minority language imput despite the fact that we might not be travelling to a country which speaks the minority language. Here are my ideas:

1. If you can´t travel to visit family and friends, see if they can visit you and go on holiday or a trip together. My parents are coming with us as they´ve never been to this part of Spain before and it will be nice for us to all go together and have fun.Plus two futher bonuses are  that my children will get 90% exposure to the minority language,nearly total immersion, and I´ll have two willing babysitters while we go to the wedding.

2. Take a guided tour in the minority language. Many tourist attractions, museums etc have guided tours in multiple languages,particularly English, French,Spanish and German so try to visit it in your minority language. It´ll be great listening practice for your children and they will learn lots of interesting facts and history.

3. Do something cultural or do an activity in ML if possible: In touristy places there are often many possiblities to do various activities or celebrate cultural events in the minority language.Examples of these are going to see a play or a film in the ML, taking a class in the ML such as a cookery class etc or even celebrating a cultural event. For example, this Easter we are going to Portugal and as there are many British tourists and also many British expats in this area, we are going to an Easter féte with egg painting, food, an egg hunt and other typical British(and German and Dutch!) Easter traditions.

4. Eat at a restaurant owned by expats from your ML country or which serves food from your ML country. It is usually easy to find a variety of restaurants in tourist hotspots,which are often owned by expats.Take Spain for example, along the coast, especially on the Costa Del Sol  you can find many British pubs which serve full English breakfasts, sausage and bacon sandwiches, fish and chips and other British typical dishes and are often run by British expats, so you can eat food from your minority language country while at the same time hearing and speaking the minority language. You may even get friendly with other bilingual or British families.However, it depends on where you are travelling as some places might not have restaurants from your ML country. Although I know that it´s typical to try the food from the region or place you are visiting, I think it is alright to make an exception and to eat in a ML country´s restaurant particularly if you are travelling in the majority language country as you can eat food from the majority language country at any time.

5. Visit ML shops such as supermarkets and bookshops etc. Again you will be exposed to ML print enhancing captive reading in the minority language and will hear and speak in the minority language and again may meet and make friends with monolingual families.

At the moment, these are all the ideas I can think of to promote the minority language and to be as immersed as possible in the minority language and culture as possible while travelling in the majority country or other countries to that of the majority or minority language countries. I´d love to hear if you have any other ideas about how to maximize minority language while travelling in the majority language or other countries which aren´t minority language countries.I have to say that we are extremely lucky to have English as our minority language as it´s spoken widely around the world and there are many opportunities to find things in English.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Reading....getting there poco a poco!

Another post about our progress and struggle with reading in both languages, as it´s a subject that´s close to my heart! I also realised that in my last post about reading I don´t think I spoke too much about the Spanish side of things!! Reading is much a uphill struggle both in the majority and minority language, with my daughter not appearing to be at all motivated about learning to read nor enjoying reading. At school they have started reading the "cartilla" using a set of "books" called Letrilandia (Edelvives). Although Letrilandia seems to be used in many schools to teach children to read,I´m not a big fan of it. It takes one letter or sound e.g m and then combines them with vowel sounds eg mu, ma,mi,mo,mu and then it has 3 words and pictures with some of these sounds and then sentences using these sounds e.g. La momia. La paloma. I think it is rather a tedious and boring way to learn how to wonder some kids might not be motivated..The Oxford Reading Tree is much better in comparison. My sister-in-law also lent us the collection of El Zoo de las Letras, in which each book a story is written which contains lots of words containing the letter and at the end of the book there are activities that the children can do to further help their comprehension of the text and reading skills. This is a bit more similar to the Oxford Reading Tree and I think is more fun and motivating. I also discovered these two websites with interactive online games based on helping children to learn to read: http://paraaprenderaleer.blogspot.(not sure if this website works though) and although unfortunately we haven´t got round to trying out these websites and games particularly as I tend to concentrate more on my daughter´s reading & writing in English and it is my husband who tends to do Spanish reading with her.

I´m continuing to do the things I mentioned in my previous post The 2 R´s although I´ve learnt not to push it so much and have relaxed my efforts a little because she is struggling with reading in the majority language too and is falling behind the rest of the class and secondly, because I want her to enjoy reading not hate it so don´t want it to feel too much like an obligation.

I got some really good ideas off the Bilingual Monkeys blog, which talked about captive reading, that I´d never heard of. The basic idea is to expose your child to as much written print in the minority language as possible. I bought two of these magic boards as shown in the photo(I can´t remember the actual name of these now!) and started leaving little messages such as "I can see you","Good morning" etc in both bathrooms. The drawbacks are that these "magic boards" are very cheap and not very good and half the message would disappear almost instantly. Another drawback is that even some of these short messages are difficult for my daughter to read so I´m now contemplating just writing one word.However, I need to find something better to write my messages on...any suggestions??It was pretty effective as I think my daughter enjoys the novelty of finding a little message just for her especially if it is funny or silly and once or twice it even prompted her to reply!!As she was struggling with reading in Spanish too I also started writing the Spanish translation...however, it´s not really what I wanted to do and sometimes I make mistakes in the majority language so am unsure as to continue doing this.

I´m also trying to establish a good homework routine especially as next year she will have homework every night so this will stand her in good stead,particularly as I´m not sure how much time she will have to dedicate to extra English homework.My daughter doesn´t really like to do "quiet" activities though and would much rather play than be doing extra work which seems too much like school. I´m trying to find fun ways to incorporate reading and writing but it can also be difficult for example to play games with flashcards etc as my 17 month old starts picking up the cards and messing them up. However, I´ve got the Jolly Phonics books out again and a Peppa Pig activity book and we are slowly working through them and she gets a sticker or a stamp after she´s completed the homework.She also writes her name and I write the date on it so we have a record. We are also trying to play board or card games to make learning to read and write more fun. After a slight disaster trying to get hold of Junior Scrabble, I had a look on Amazon and discovered  the board game Pop for Sight Words which had really good reviews so I ordered it but unfortunately I´ve only managed to convince my daughter to play it once and I can tell that it hasn´t been such a successful buy!!

As she is also struggling with reading in Spanish, from time to time I´ve bought majority language magazines, such as one about ponies and another about princesses. The first one she was quite enthusiastic about and did a lot of the puzzles and activities but I think she barely looked at the second one. Apart from the one magazine, CBeebies, I haven´t got around to buying any other minority language magazines although this is definitely on my to-do list and I eventually want to take out a subscription.As mentioned in my previous post, I registered on the Oxford Owl website, which means that I now have access to 250 free ebooks so we have also been using this excellent and -best of all-free resource. You can read the book online and also listen to the audio and complete the activities and  as it´s a different format, this has been quite motivating for my daughter and she read two books one after the other the very first time we used this resource!

Another reccomendation  from Bilingual Monkeys to encourage reading was to try reading comics so I bought one of the comics reccomended, Gabby & Gator by James Burks, and I read it aloud to my daughter during our nightly bedtime story. She really enjoyed it and asked me to read it each night until I´d finished it and I think ,once her reading ability has improved a little, that she should be able to read it by herself so I ´m going to buy more comics by this author and try other comics. The final idea that is a fun game involves using white sticky labels and writing names of the things in the room and then,with my help we would read the labels and my daughter would stick it on the item so this adds to the use of captive reading.So little by little we are making gradual progress.

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.