One-Person-One-Language (OPOL): Raising Bilingual Children

family holding hands

One of the most popular ways to raise a child bilingually is by using the OPOL approach – One Person, One Language. It seems to be one of the easiest ways for children to distinguish between languages, because they become aware that they should speak a different language with different people.

Using our family as an example: I am a native English speaker and my husband is a native Italian speaker. We live in Italy and both speak each other’s language, however not to a native level. We have two children aged two and four years old. We have spoken with our children in our own native languages from the start to give them the best chance of becoming bilingual early on.

OPOL vs MLAH approach with language exposure

MLAH (Minority Language at Home) is another common approach to raising bilingual children. This is where one language is spoken within the home, and the other out in the community. With this approach, both languages seem to have the same amount of exposure.

With the OPOL approach, most of the time one language is lacking in exposure, the minority language. Therefore, it is extremely important that the parent who speaks the minority language sticks to it quite strictly to make it work. It is not always as easy as it sounds.

We live in Italy, the community language is Italian, therefore I am the only exposure to English my children have. It would be quite easy for me to switch to the community language, however I never speak with my children in Italian, only English. It can be quite difficult sometimes in public. There are some people who stare, or ask why I am speaking English with them when we live in an Italian community. I try my best to make my children feel comfortable enough to speak back with me in English, no matter where we are, and who we are with.

Consistency plays a key role in the language learning process

If parents are not consistent using only one language speaking to their child, there is a risk that your child will become confused. Although my husband and I mix languages between ourselves, we speak ONLY our native languages with our children. They learned from very early on, who they should speak with, in which language. They know they are expected to respond to us in the language we speak with them. They are so used to it now in fact, that if I “joke” and say something in Italian, they usually laugh at me and get embarrassed because it doesn’t seem right.

Yes, it can be difficult when having family conversations

Using the OPOL approach means conversations at home can become quite “interesting” at times. With each parent speaking a different language, the children are forced to mix between languages in one conversation.

When we are eating a meal together or playing together as a family at home, there is a mix between Italian and English spoken between us all. The one thing that stays consistent though, is that when addressing my children I only speak English, and my husband only Italian, even if we speak a mix of the languages with each other.

If we are with other Italian family members who do not speak English, I stay consistent speaking with my children in English, even if others cannot understand what I am saying. This is where consistency can become difficult, as some people can feel like they are left out of the conversation. When this is the case, I sometimes translate for them, what I have said to my child.

What about adding a third language?

The OPOL approach can also work when raising your children with three languages, it just means a “third person.” Our children are learning Spanish as a third language. We have a “playmate” named Ana who comes to spend time with them. Before she started, we explained our family situation and she has been following the same approach. She speaks only Spanish with our children, and they are expected to respond in Spanish just as they do with us in English and Italian. It was quite amazing watching them take to it so easily.

Is OPOL the only way to go?

Of course this approach isn’t for every family. Before deciding on an approach to follow with your children, it is best to assess your situation, what languages are spoken, by whom, and to which level. Then work out your family language goal choosing an approach to suit.

If OPOL works for you then that’s great. If not, you can always use it as a good foundation and adapt the approach to suit your family goals.

Good luck!

Chontelle Bonfiglio is an Australian mother of two bilingual children. She is a certified ESL Teacher, Blogger, and Creator of  Bilingual Kidspot, a website for parents raising bilingual or multilingual children.

Help your children build literacy in more than one language with bilingual books for kids available at Language Lizard!

Celebrate Diversity! #CelebrateDiversity

holding handsAfter this divisive and polarizing election season, one thing is clear: Now more than ever, we need to celebrate the diversity in our nation and our communities.

“I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.”  – T.H. White

It is clear that some of the rhetoric during this campaign encouraged an ignorance about various ethnic groups and religions.  It also empowered white-supremacists and gave a voice to those who exploit minorities, as is evidenced by the increase in hate crimes and racist incidents since the election. This must be rejected and battled at every turn.

Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  We need to use our knowledge to educate people about different cultures and beliefs. We need to show them the beauty of a diverse society; the strength we derive when we all work together to solve problems. We need to support those who are struggling and fearful, and show them that they are valued, appreciated and heard.

Join us as we launch our non-partisan campaign to Celebrate Diversity!

What can you do?

  • Share your thoughts and ideas on our blog, or via Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #CelebrateDiversity.
  • Post your beautiful images of diversity on Instagram. Share your videos about diversity on YouTube.
  • When you need encouragement, look at the images and ideas that others have shared.

Celebrate Diversity – Resources

For ideas on celebrating diversity, and teaching children about other ethnicities, religions and cultures, take a look at some of our ideas on the subject, and share your own with us!

How are you educating others about diverse religions and cultures? How are you supporting children (and adults) who are anxious and fearful about their future?

“#68 A Pair of Hands – Holding Hands” by RichardBH via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/fAn6w8

Branching Out: Idioms & Language Learners

idioms in many languagesLearning a new language is hard work – definitely no walk in the park! As a teacher, parent or student, you may find yourself so busy with the basics of vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar that you’re hesitant to add any more work. But idioms – sayings with a shared meaning in a community, which aren’t decipherable from their words alone – are an important part of language learning, too. Read on for some helpful tips to “pave the way” to learning idioms in a new language.

Why are Idioms Important to Language Learners?

The English language has thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of idioms, so there’s a significant amount of day-to-day communication that can be conducted through idioms. Without lessons in local idioms, communicating effectively can be that much more difficult for a language learner.

For older students, especially, learning idioms can be one of the most fun parts of learning a new language. It also helps them get a better sense of the spirit of the community, and understand what that culture values most.

Tips to Teach Idioms

You’ll want to start by choosing a handful of idioms to explore with your language learners. Make your choices based on the most likely social scenarios they will find themselves in, according to their age and development level.

Make lessons fun by using idioms in sample sentences, and asking students to guess their meanings from their context. You may want to include pictures that illustrate when and how the idioms would be used.

Remember to have students practice how to use each idiom properly, since this type of communication can very nuanced. It’s best to teach idioms verbally, and have students practice by role playing.

What are you favorite idioms, in English or another language? Comment and share below!

 

Spanish Language & Spanish Children’s Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

Spanish countryside

Today’s spotlight language is Spanish! We offer some background information and interesting facts about the language, as well as help finding children’s books in Spanish.  Interested in learning about other languages as well?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including French, Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is it spoken?

Spanish is spoken by an estimated 560 million people around the world. It’s the official language of Spain and Mexico, as well as 20 other countries. It is the second most commonly used language in the world.

How Many People Speak Spanish in the US?

According to the most recent Instituto Cervantes data, there are about 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US, and another 11 million who are bilingual. There are large Spanish speaking populations in New Mexico, California, Texas and Arizona. There are currently more Spanish speakers in the US than in Spain. In fact, only Mexico surpasses the US in terms of number of Spanish speakers!

Interesting Facts About Spanish

In some parts of the world, Spanish is referred to as “español” or “castellano.”

The rolled “r” sound is one of the most challenging aspects of learning to speak Spanish.

In many Spanish speaking countries, when greeting informally, it’s common to kiss on each cheek.

Spanish Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak Spanish, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Spanish kids books and audio books.  Many engaging and popular stories with text in both English and the Spanish language are available, including Lima’s Red Hot Chilli , Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Giant Turnip.  There are also book sets that allow for interactive learning via a special Talking Pen, audio books and an interactive Spanish picture dictionary.

Do you speak Spanish, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“SPAIN” by Willy Verhulst via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/AmJNgj

Big Giveaway! Win Multicultural Children’s Resources for Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month

celebrate-bilingual-child-month

ENTER GIVEAWAY NOW! (click here)

In honor of Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month, Language Lizard is giving away hundreds of dollars worth of language learning materials!

Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month was established in 2006 to recognize the many children that speak two or more languages and understand multiple cultures. We want to encourage literacy and parental involvement, while celebrating the children who work so hard to learn a second language.

Teachers can check out our blog post for 10 ideas for how to celebrate bilingual children in the classroom.

The multicultural children’s books and audio resources offered in this giveaway will engage and inspire teachers and students in their continued language learning!

PENpal Audio Recorder Pen Bilingual Book Set

A grand prize winner will receive an interactive literacy set that includes bilingual books, an illustrated dictionary and the award-winning PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, valued at over $200. Sets are available in English with a choice of Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian-Creole, Hindi, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and more.  Runners up will win a surprise “basket of books” in their choice of languages.

Find more info and enter the giveaway today! Last day for entry is November 12, 2016.

“Happy Time” by David Amsler via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/btpFXa

We’re linking up with other educational bloggers to bring you fun ideas and a great giveaway too!

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5 Fun & Easy Ways to Celebrate Diversity

celebrate-diversity

It’s always a great time to celebrate diversity in your classroom and home, but October is special because it’s also Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month! Language Lizard will soon announce a huge giveaway in honor of the occasion… In the meantime, we offer 5 fun and easy ways to celebrate diversity today!

Foods from Around the World

pizza-heartTrying out a new dish from a different part of the world is delicious, fun and educational – a sure win! You might love trying a bit of Gulab Jamun from India, or some Udon from Japan. Give these international foods a try, and get a taste of life in another land.

International Crafts

mid-autumn festival lantern diversity craft

Bring cultural diversity and international flavor to your classroom with these five easy kid crafts inspired by multicultural traditions. The best part? They can all be made with materials you probably already have. Plus, they involve minimal mess and are simple enough for most kids to complete on their own.

Language Learning with Music

bilingual music activities

Children love music and singing. There is something magical about words being set to a melody that make children perk up and join in. Since most children’s songs consist of catchy beats and poetry-infused lyrics, it is a perfect combination of rhythm, rhyme and fun.

An added benefit to children’s songs is that they are often easy to learn. The short, repetitive sentences lend themselves to easy memorization and retention. What better way to learn words in context than to sing them out loud? Children don’t even realize how much their language skills are improving while joining in the singing fun.

Games and Bilingual Storybooks

variety of booksExploring a new language or culture through fun games and activities makes so much sense! We learn better when we’re having fun and not putting too much pressure on ourselves to retain information. Take a look at ten great game ideas that make use of the bilingual storybooks you already have in your library – or are hoping to add – and get ready to have lots of fun while you’re learning!

Multicultural Holidays & Vacations

child-holding-wrapped-gift1We all know first-hand that getting students to engage in conversations works best when they are inspired and excited about the topic.  This is particularly true of bilingual students, especially those who may still be mastering the community language. What better way to get your bilingual students talking with you and one another? Their minds are so full of wonderful memories of holidays and vacations past, they will most likely want to share as much as possible. We have tips to help your students direct their holiday and vacation excitement into fun language opportunities.

What are you favorite ways to celebrate diversity in your classroom and family? Comment below and share!

 

“Kids Talk” by victoria harjadi via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/a29EsL

“PizzaHeart” by Anderson Mancini via flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5E43fe

“Preschool Song” by PROcaseywest via flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/81QRSX

Arabic Language & Arabic Children’s Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

children and adults having a picnicToday’s spotlight language is Arabic. Below, you can find background info and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Arabic children’s books.  Interested in learning about even more languages?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including French, Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is it spoken?

Arabic is spoken in a very large area that includes North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and parts of the Middle East. About 185 million people speak it around the world. Arabic has many features in common with the Hebrew and Amharic languages. Muslims consider Arabic to be the divine language of Allah.

How Many People Speak Arabic in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about a million Arabic speakers in the US. There are large Arabic speaking populations in New York, California, New Jersey and Washington, DC.

Interesting Facts About Arabic

Arabic is written and read from right to left, and each symbol represents a letter.

Formal Classical Arabic, also called Literary Arabic and Fusha, is learned by every Arabic speaker. There are numerous local vernacular forms of Arabic. Dialects can differ greatly from each other in both vocabulary and sounds used.

The Arabic version of Sesame Street uses Fusha.

Arabic Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak Arabic, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Arabic books for kids and audio books.  Some engaging and culturally relevant stories with text in both English and the Arabic language include: Journey Through Islamic Arts, Samira’s Eid, The Swirling Hijaab and Welcome to the World Baby.  Many popular stories such as The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Giant Turnip are also available with English and Arabic text, and you may also want to check out the illustrated Arabic-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Arabic, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

 

“Spring picnic, near Moulay Idriss, Morocco” by Dimitry B. via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/nnz1EK

3 Steps to Build a Lending Library in Your Classroom

classroom bilingual lending libraryHave you ever considered creating a lending library in your classroom? They can be an especially great resource for bilingual students and their families. When students see books in their home languages, it can be comforting and a source of pride, and can encourage acceptance of diversity in all of your students. A classroom lending library can inspire a love of reading in students, and increase parental involvement.

In the past, we’ve written posts about the increasing need for multicultural libraries in diverse communities, and the importance of building a comprehensive personal library at home.  Below, we offer some helpful tips when building your classroom lending library.

It’s OK to Start Small

set of 10 bilingual children's books

A complete classroom lending library may consist of a few hundred books, but don’t feel intimidated by that number! It’s OK to start small and slowly build your collection over time. You may also want to ask parents to donate books to the classroom library.

Mix it Up! Offer a Variety

selection of bilingual children's books

An effective lending library is one that appeals to students with varied interests and reading levels. A general guideline to follow is to make sure that about 25% of the books are one or two reading levels below the current grade, and another 25% are one or two reading levels above. Offer a balanced selection of fiction and nonfiction, in topics your students are enthusiastic about: food, animals, sports, or TV and movie characters.

Spread the Word – Get Families Involved!

Once students know about the lending library, you want to inform parents as well. An email or letter sent home can introduce the library’s purpose, explain the rules for its use, invite book donations, and encourage family members to borrow books. Bilingual families will also appreciate knowing that you have books in diverse languages, so be sure to include that in your letter.

Have you seen an outstanding classroom library? Comment below and share your ideas!

“Reading Helps Your Mind Bloom” by Enokson via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/7YDJem

 

We’re linking up with other educational bloggers to bring you fun ideas and a great giveaway too!

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Chinese Language & Chinese Children’s Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

chinese language

Today’s spotlight languages are Mandarin and Cantonese – two languages spoken in China. Get some background info and interesting facts about the language, and recommendations for children’s books in Mandarin and Cantonese.  Interested in learning about more languages?  Check out our series of posts on various world languages including Hindi, Russian, Japanese and French!

Where is it spoken?

Mandarin (sometimes referred to as Standard Chinese) is the official language of China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Nearly 1 billion people around the world speak Mandarin, more than any other language.

Cantonese (sometimes referred to as Traditional Chinese) is spoken in and around the area of Canton, in southern China. There about 80 million Cantonese speakers in the world. Chinese people living overseas more frequently speak Cantonese than Mandarin.

How Many People Speak a Chinese Language in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 2.8 million Chinese language speakers (of all varieties and dialects) in the US. That is a 290 percent increase since the 1980 Census.

There are large Chinese language speaking populations in New York, California, Texas and New Jersey. There are about as many Mandarin speakers as Cantonese speakers in the US, and also many others residents who speak other dialects.

Interesting Facts About Chinese Languages

Mandarin and Cantonese are both tonal languages, meaning intonation and pitch affect the meaning of words.

Chinese languages have no verb conjugation, gender-specific nouns or tenses (past, present, future).

“Pinyin” is a method of writing Mandarin words using the Roman alphabet.

Chinese Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak a Chinese language, or are learning, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual storybooks and Chinese audiobooks for kids.  Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and Mandarin or Cantonese include: Yeh-hsien (A Chinese Cinderella), Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Giant Turnip.  You may also want to check out the illustrated dictionary with audio for children, available in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Do you speak Mandarin or Cantonese, or are you learning? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“China – Fenghuang” by melenama via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/8mf6ET

Newcomer Toolkit: Supporting New Immigrant Students

newcomer toolkit

In the past, we’ve written about online resources that can help educators trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population, as well as tips to make the critical first days of school go more smoothly for bilingual students in your classroom.

Today, we take a look at the US Department of Education’s recently updated, detailed Newcomer Toolkit, designed to help educators (teachers, principals and school staff) working with foreign-born students who have recently arrived in the US. In addition to providing general background information like correct terminology, census data and the many contributions of immigrants to our society,  the toolkit offers a wealth of additional resources and extensive chapters on a wide array of topics.

Welcoming Newcomers

We know it’s crucial to create a safe and inclusive environment for new immigrant students arriving at your school. The Toolkit’s second chapter provides guidance on the most effective ways to communicate with parents of newcomers, so they understand their children’s rights, as well as the way your school operates. There is a close look at developing a safe and supportive framework at your school that includes engagement through strong relationships, safety from bullying and other dangers, and creating an environment with appropriate facilities and disciplinary policies.

Provide High Quality Instruction

This chapter in the Toolkit is focused on ways to identify and build on a student’s strengths, and how to help each student reach his/her full potential. Some highlights are addressing common misconceptions about newcomers, and helping the entire school community appreciate the unique global view that newcomers can contribute.

Social Emotional Needs

In the fourth chapter, the importance of addressing a newcomer’s social and emotional needs is examined. Strategies that are specific to teachers, other students, an entire classroom, and the whole school are discussed. There is also a look at the most common social emotional stressors newcomers face.

Partnering with Families

The final chapter of the Toolkit looks at the importance of collaborating with the families of newcomers. You can learn about the 4 stages of parent involvement (survivor, learner, connector and leader), and how each type requires a different approach.

Another section is dedicated to the role of the Parent Center, where families can connect with each other, and parents can feel safe seeking answers from a volunteer or staff member.

The Toolkit is not only a detailed guide for educators working with newcomers and their families, it also offers a wealth of further online resources within, and at the end of, each chapter.  We strongly recommend this Toolkit as an important resource for all educators working with newcomers.

What outstanding resources does your school offer families that have newly arrived in the US? Share them below!

“Classroom” by Allison Meier via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5KRnrx

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Supporting Dual Language Learners and Bringing Multiculturism to the Classroom!