Category Archives: At Home

7 Favorite Bilingual Books for Babies and Toddlers

Baby reading book with parentIn a previous article, we offered tips to get you started in terms of choosing the right bilingual baby books, making dedicated reading time and reading with enthusiasm. In this post, we would like to offer some of our favorite bilingual books for babies and toddlers.

In a recent interview published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, Casey Lew-Williams, co-director of the Princeton Baby Lab and Princeton assistant professor of psychology, discussed research regarding how young children learn and communicate, and how this supports their development.  Lew-Williams mentions that quality of speech comes first, and then quantity.  In other words, it’s not important to talk all the time; even when playing with a young child, you’re interacting with them and exposing them to language, often in creative and meaningful ways.

In terms of reading to babies and young children, he says: “Reading is another fantastic way to expose a child to language. Ideally you’re not just reading the pages in a book. You’re pausing to engage with the child: How does this relate to his or her life? Children’s books are more diverse in terms of vocabulary and grammar than speech. So there’s an extra value to reading, because it gets parents outside their own natural tendencies or conversational topics and into the language and ideas of an author.”

Our Favorite Bilingual Books for Babies and Toddlers

The Wheels on the Bus

Wheels on the Bus bilingual bookIn this bilingual board book by Annie Kubler, little fingers have fun finding the pre-cut holes on each page, while singing along as the driver and passengers of the bus ride through town!

Handa’s Hen

Handa's Hen dual language book
In this story by Eileen Brown, best friends Handa and Akeyo are looking for animals around the hen house.  This bilingual book offers a great way to learn a second language through practice with numbers, animals and environments. The children featured in this book are from the Luo tribe of south-west Kenya, and the beautiful paintings take children on a journey through the African countryside.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in Arabic
The bilingual version of this book allows children to hear this classic story by Eric Carle in different languages. This book is loved for its gentle rhymes, colorful tissue paper-style artwork and introduction to colors and favorite animals.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat… If You’re Happy and You Know It… Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Row Row Row Your Boat bilingual book
These three bilingual board books by Annie Kubler help parents and children bond through singing these beloved nursery rhymes together.  Their sturdy construction allows parents to spark a love of reading and encourage language development without worrying about the pages!

Walking Through the Jungle

Bilingual dual language children's book - Walking Through the Jungle
Children love the rhymes, rhythm and repetition in this beautifully illustrated book by Debbie Harter.  With the dual-language book, children can go on a great adventure with a young explorer, discovering animals and terrains throughout the world, all while being exposed to a second language.
We hope you enjoy these bilingual books as much as we do!
To learn more about the Princeton Baby Lab, visit http://babylab.princeton.edu/.
“wren learning about iguanas” by Stacy via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5EZS6G

The Somali Language: Interesting Facts & Resources

Somali books and language

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

Where is Somali spoken?

Somali is a part of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Somali is spoken by an estimated 16 million people around the world. It’s the official language of Somalia, with several regional dialects, and is also spoken in nearby countries, like Kenya and Ethiopia.

How Many People Speak Somali in the US?

According to the most recent 2010 US Census data, there are about 100,000 Somali immigrants in the US. There are large Somali speaking populations in Minnesota, Ohio, Washington, California, and Washington, DC.

Interesting Facts About Somali

There are multiple writing systems used to express the Somali language, including Arabic, Wadaad and Osmanya.

The Somali language has 20 distinct vowel sounds. It is spoken with three different tones (high, low and falling) that indicate things like gender and number.

Somali has been influenced linguistically by other languages, like English, Italian and Arabic.

Somali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If you interact with children who speak Somali, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Somali kids books and audio books.  Many engaging and popular stories with text in both English and the Somali language are available, including Handa’s Surprise, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Hansel and Gretel and Pandora’s Box.  There are also Somali book sets that allow for interactive learning via a special Recorder Pen, audio books and an interactive Somali picture dictionary.

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

 

“Aerial views of Kismayo 07” by AMISOM Public Information via Flickr is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal https://flic.kr/p/dieWvg 

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!

 

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

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

Teaching Tolerance in Turbulent Times

many hands together
It may feel like every time you turn on the TV or check your Facebook or Twitter feed, you are inundated with news of yet another violent tragedy in some part of the world. Terrorist attacks and political upheaval seem to be the norm now, not the exception. We are all asking ourselves what can be done to stop the endless stream of violence. A crucial step is one that is closest to us: one of the most important, immediate ways to create a better, safer future is to raise children with tolerance in their hearts.

Changes in Immigration

Recent terrorist attacks have brought ISIS, radical Islam and immigration to the forefront of discussion, at home and in the political arena. Countries around the world are trying to figure out the best way to strike at the heart of the matter to prevent future terrorist attacks. The recent passage of Brexit in the UK is evidence that many people fear immigration, without fully understanding the complexity of the issue. One example in particular is the disturbing trend of people not distinguishing between “Muslims” and “Islamic terrorists.” This leads to a host of fears, animosity, and disparaging talk that are counterproductive in a country and educational system as diverse as ours.

Honest & Age-Appropriate Conversations

As parents and teachers, it’s tempting to think of these issues as grown-up problems. We’d like to think our kids are oblivious to such serious, frightening and overwhelming problems. But in reality, those little ears pick up much more than we realize, from conversations between parents or from other kids on the playground. Children do not always understand the impact of what they are saying on those around them, and can benefit from discussions with adults to help them dig below the surface of what they hear.
With such intense media coverage and the inevitable conversations, debates or even arguments that result from it, we can’t leave our kids to draw their own conclusions, or pick up whatever is being passed around by their peers. Children, and ultimately all of society, benefit from honest, age-appropriate communication with the trusted adults in their lives.

Important Learning Opportunities

Look at these conversations as a chance to get a clear understanding of what kids are hearing, and how that makes them feel.
  • Discuss tolerance and the beauty of diversity in our society.
  • Teach lessons of empathy and caring. Talk about why refugees and other immigrants come to this country. Imagine the challenges of starting life in a new country. Discuss how children might feel who are part of the religious groups that are being vilified.
  • For older kids, have fact-based discussions in the classroom about gun control and immigration reform. Just be sure to set ground rules first that eliminate hateful speech from discussions, so students in a diverse classroom won’t feel threatened.

Online Resources about Tolerance & Diversity

Here are just a few of the many online resources available to help you in these discussions:

Some Quotes to Inspire Tolerance

The highest result of education is tolerance. – Helen Keller
Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population. – Albert Einstein

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant? – Henry David Thoreau

School diversity many hands held together” by Wonder woman0731 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/J5Ys9N

 

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

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French Language: Facts, Figures & French Children’s Books

France french languageToday’s spotlight language is French. We have background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find children’s books in French.  Interested in learning interesting facts about other languages?  Check out our series of posts on various world languages including Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is it spoken?

French is the official language of France, and it is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are about 300 million French speakers worldwide. It has official status in 32 countries, second only to English.

How Many People Speak French in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 1.3 million French speakers in the US (not including French Creole, which is counted separately). There are large French speaking populations in New York, Louisiana, Washington DC, Massachusetts, Texas and California.

Interesting Facts About French

There are many food-related idioms in French. One example is “En faire tout un fromage,” which translates to “make a whole cheese of it.” This saying is used to when a person is making a bigger deal of something than it deserves. In English, its equivalent is “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

French didn’t become widely used in France until after the French Revolution in the late 1700s.

“Salut” can be used as both a casual hello or good-bye.

French Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak French, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual French storybooks and audio books for kids.  Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the French language include: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Giant Turnip.  You may also want to check out the illustrated French-English dictionary with audio for children.

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

“Eiffel Tower, Paris (France)” by Tommie Hansen via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/gEnCEM

3 Controversies in Bilingual Education

language controversies

by guest blogger Rachael Everly

The benefits of both learning and speaking many languages are well documented in our ever-shrinking world. Language can shape our view of the world and as more and more people become engaged in international business and travel it’s important for adults to have a working knowledge of, and fluency in, various languages and cultures on a global scale. 

Not surprisingly, Mandarin Chinese is the language most used for business after English. Mandarin is spoken by over 845 million people in China, the world’s second-largest economy, and nearby Taiwan. French comes in at the number two position, Arabic (the key to the Middle East) at number three, and Spanish ranking fourth.

However, there are some controversies when it comes to language learning. Most notably this occurs in countries with large immigrant populations changing the demographic and influencing what languages are spoken most often in business and commerce.

Here are 3 of the most notable language controversies:

Language of Instruction

According to UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning Learning Portal, there are 7000 languages spoken worldwide in only 200 countries. Multilingualism is the norm around the world with many children growing up speaking one or two languages in the home, with often a third language spoken in institutional and governmental settings.

This can make it difficult for educational institutions to determine in which language to conduct their instruction. There’s an ongoing debate on whether courses should be taught in the students’ native languages – to ensure students can actually learn and understand the information presented – or whether courses and classes should be presented in the national language or other international language in order to open the door wider to further educational and economic opportunities. Some also feel the two approaches are best combined.

English as a medium of instruction (EMI) is a controversial topic of discussion in non-anglophone countries, as it has become the language of instruction in subjects as diverse as mathematics, geometry, and medicine.

Establishing National Languages

In the U.S., Spanish is spoken as a first or second language by an estimated 45 million people. This makes it the most spoken language in the contiguous United States after English. It’s such a powerful force in business that many managers and other employees are learning the language in order to have a competitive edge over their peers and communicate with others.

There’s been talk of making Spanish an official second language of the USA. But without an official first language, another movement worth mentioning, this makes establishing Spanish as a second national language difficult to push forward. Spanish is not going to be chosen as an official language anytime soon, especially considering that the PEW Research Center reports a downward trend in usage in the home. While there have been efforts to push Spanish forward as an official language, the U.S. remains too pluralistic for any one cultural group to make theirs the official language.

Recently issued U.S. Census tables, based on American Community Survey data collected from 2009 to 2013, have expanded the languages and language groups tabulated from 39 to 350. The data, released on November 3, 2015, is the most comprehensive look at languages and communities in the U.S. including “Pennsylvania Dutch, Ukrainian, Turkish, Romanian, Amharic and many others. Also included are 150 different Native North American languages, collectively spoken by more than 350,000 people, including Yupik, Dakota, Apache, Keres and Cherokee.”

Erik Vickstrom, a Census Bureau statistician reported, “While most of the U.S. population speaks only English at home or a handful of other languages like Spanish or Vietnamese, the American Community Survey reveals the wide-ranging language diversity of the United States.” He added, “In the New York metro area alone, more than a third of the population speaks a language other than English at home, and close to 200 different languages are spoken. Knowing the number of languages and how many speak these languages in a particular area provides valuable information to policymakers, planners and researchers.”

Other countries, like India, face similar political challenges and controversies when it comes to Sanskrit, the ancient language of the region and mother to languages like Hindi, Bengali, and Marathi.

This is due to the fact that reviving the ancient language of Sanskrit, closely linked to Hinduism and Hindu religious texts, is an ongoing project of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the right-wing Hindu nationalist party currently leading the new Indian government since 2016. Minorities feel that the push towards reviving this ancient language is a direct affront to the secular striving of the nation.

Higher education and language learning

A growing number of U.S. high school graduates are looking for alternative ways to avoid the high cost of higher education by travelling and studying abroad, especially in Europe – an area where most European students started studying their first foreign language before the age of nine.

At the University of Helsinki in Finland, the cost of a four year decree is only $40,000. This is roughly only one-third what it costs for a similar diploma from the University of California San Diego. Other European countries, including Norway, Sweden, and Iceland, offer free tuition in their public universities.

Savvy international students are striving to secure seats in these studying opportunities – if they can pass the native language exams – to both avoid soaring tuition costs in the U.S., and gain invaluable life experiences. Planning in advance to minimize or avoid student debt altogether is a sound alternative compared to the debt dodgers who flee to Europe after becoming delinquent or defaulting on their student loans.

Final thoughts

Language learning can open doors and create more opportunities for those who want to leverage their skills in an increasingly global village. Gaining fluency in the languages of learning and international business can take students far – even as far as other countries – to grow their network and careers. Language learning, while controversial and political at times, has the ability to connect cultures and increase compassion and tolerance to those different from us – a worthy goal.

 

“Language School, Teams, Interns” by Sprachschuleaktiv via Pixabay is licensed under CC0 https://pixabay.com/photo-834138/