What kind of people are most likely to be bilingual? What motivates them, and what benefits of bilingualism do they enjoy? Whether you’re bilingual, in the process of learning, or just curious about learning a new language, you’ll want to check out these interesting stats regarding bilingualism in the US.
It’s one in the afternoon and I enter the classroom armed with language books, handouts and a number of other paraphernalia to make this another “greatest lesson ever.” I arrange my things, write the date and the topic on the board and turn to face a room full of what I expected to be eager faces. Instead of bright eyes and curious expressions, I see blank stares and even a few grimaces. “Buenas tardes,” I try. The class gives a collective groan. My enthusiasm fizzles.
Every language teacher at some point or the other, usually very early in their career, has faced this situation. It’s when you are meeting a group of students for the first time but they’re old enough to not be impressed by onomatopoeic name tags. Your cheery disposition has no effect on “Happy Harry” or “Joyful Jessica.”
Foreign language teaching has gone through a number of methodologies and approaches; each purporting to be better than the other. According to Richards and Rodgers (2014), “efforts to improve the effectiveness of language teaching have often focused on changes in teaching methods… such changes have reflected changes in the goals of language teaching, such as a move toward oral proficiency rather than reading comprehension as the goal of language study; they have also reflected changes in theories of the nature of language and of language learning” (p.3). Furthermore, “common to each method is the belief that the teaching practices it supports provide a more effective and theoretically sound basis for teaching than the methods that preceded it” (Richards & Rodgers, 2014).
Despite the pedagogical strides, unfortunately for the majority of classrooms, the grammar translation method or rote learning maintains supremacy as the means of teaching. This approach came out of the methods used to teach classical languages such as Greek and Latin and focused on the repetition of grammatical forms, imitating the speaker and involved translating sentences from the target language to the native language (Celce-Murcia, 2001).
How many of us can recall the endless lists of verb tables and vocabulary? In fact, any oral language practice was simple repetition of sentences, which according to Richards and Rodgers (2014), “were designed to illustrate the grammatical system of the language and consequently bore no relation to the language of real communication.” Hence, came the search for method of language teaching that emphasized the use of language for its main purpose: communication, while abstractedly, or intentionally teaching grammar.
The most recent approach to language teaching takes this view of using language as a means of communication. The Communicative Approach, as it is called, focuses on teaching contextual functions and notions. Reading, speaking and listening skills are emphasized in activities since they occur together in the real world and the rules of grammar become an outgrowth of what students learn (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). There is no set way of using the Communicative Approach. It largely depends on whether the teacher wishes to emphasize fluency or accuracy. There are also different versions of the approach, which have become methods in themselves. One such method is Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT).
Nunan (2004) describes this approach as “learning by doing”. He proposed that “intellectual growth occurs when learners engage in and reflect on sequences of tasks” (p. 12). These tasks should be activities that students would naturally engage in on a day-to-day basis: real world tasks. As such, a sequence of classroom tasks may include reading a job advertisement and writing a resume in the target language, calling to make a doctor’s appointment or even a hotel reservation. The tasks are designed for students to engage in language use to make transactions, to socialize and even for enjoyment, which are all a part of everyday interactions.
Nunan (2004) makes a distinction between what he calls “target tasks” and “pedagogical tasks.” Target tasks, he wrote, “refers to uses of language in the world beyond the classroom” while “pedagogical tasks are those that occur in the classroom” (p.1). He further explained that, “a pedagogical task is a piece of classroom work that involves learners in comprehending, manipulating, producing or interacting in the target language while their attention is focused on mobilizing their grammatical knowledge in order to express meaning, and in which the intention is to convey meaning rather than to manipulate form” (p. 4).
Ideally, in the communicative language classroom, both types of tasks should be used. Pedagogical tasks help to practice the grammar and vocabulary specific to a particular topic and may even have real world connections. One such task may be for students to plan a birthday party while constructing sentences which describe what each person will do. The sentences will include the future tense and vocabulary related to parties such as decorations, specific foods and gifts. A target task from this exercise would be to ask students to create and exchange invitations for the same party.
The Communicative Approach and by extension, Task Based Language Teaching involves collaboration. Students must work together on tasks either in pairs or in groups in order for the communicative objective to be met. After all, language is designed to be exchanged. Task Based Language Teaching does offer a lot of potential in the classroom for changing how students learn as well as their overall attitude to languages.
Importantly, the role of the teacher has changed. He/she no longer transmits knowledge to the learner but encourages the learner to use the knowledge that they have and through tasks to build that knowledge. The role of the learner changes too. Nunan (2004) wrote that “by using ‘task’ as a basic unit of learning, and by incorporating a focus on strategies, we open to students the possibility of planning and monitoring their own learning…” (p. 15). That is to say, students become self-directed. They determine how to approach the task and may even understand the subject matter in different ways.
That said, the students’ reaction to my greeting when I entered the classroom betrays their attitude to learning a foreign language. Their reticence came about as a response to the teaching styles that they have encountered with the result being that the new language isn’t any clearer to them now than it was when they first began learning.
As I explain my goals for the lesson and the tasks that they will be doing, I have to keep all of that in mind and determine that my approach must make language learning more meaningful. When we begin, I can see the expressions changing, and their questions about how to do the task shows that the creative gears are again turning.
And the “greatest lesson ever” begins.
Celce-Murcia, M. (2001). Language teaching approaches: An overview. In Teaching English as a second or foreign language (Vol. 2, pp. 3-10). Retrieved from http://files.sabrikoc.webnode.com/200000087-a23cda4300/Language_Teaching_Approaches_Celce-Murcia1991.pdf
Nunan, D. (2004). Task Based Language Learning . Cambridge University Press.
Richards, J., & Rodgers, T. (2014). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press.
“school” by justine warrington via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 justine warrington
Language Lizard is pleased to announce new multilingual “talking” charts that allow students to hear explanations of key terms in English, geography, math & science in many different languages, including English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.
These charts are invaluable resources for teachers who support a linguistically diverse student body. Using these charts with the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, newcomers and English Language Learners (ELLs) can hear key terms explained in their native languages, allowing for a better understanding of subject matter content.
Students simply select the language that they want to hear from the right side of the chart with the PENpal, and then tap a subject term to hear an explanation of the word in the selected language. Teachers and students can also use “talking labels” (recordable stickers) to add their own recordings of additional information to the chart.
There are four new Talking Charts, and they can be purchased separately or in a value pack of 4 Multilingual Charts.
The English Multilingual Terms Chart includes explanations and examples for terms such as alliteration, apostrophe, conjunction, differentiate, figurative, imagery, narrative/narrator, onomatopoeia, personification, preposition and synonym.
The Geography Multilingual Terms Chart includes explanations for erosion, estuary, habitat, infrastructure, landscape, latitude, longitude, pollution, settlement and much more.
The Math Multilingual Terms Chart includes terms such as adjacent, circumference, coordinate, decimal, denominator, diameter, equilateral, fraction, isosceles, perimeter, perpendicular, radius, ratio, symmetry and vertical.
The Science Multilingual Terms Chart includes absorb, amphibian, circulation, condensation, combustion, evaporation, friction, nutrient, organism, particles, respiration, vertebrate and more key terms.
These new charts work alongside our popular Multilingual Phrases for School Talking Chart which allows teachers and administrators to communicate more easily with student language learners as well as parents who do not speak English well.
The following languages are available on the charts: Arabic, Czech, English, Farsi, French, Lithuanian, Mandarin Chinese, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovakian, Somali, Spanish, Sylheti, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and Yorub
The US is a country of many languages. In public schools, about 10 percent (4.5 million) of all kids are English Language Learners (ELLs). Of those ELLs, Spanish is the first language of about 71 percent, but there are hundreds of different languages spoken in US schools. Any one school can have a dozen or more languages spoken by its students.
Schools put different types of learning programs in place to help students transition to speaking English. One example is sheltered instruction, which combines English language development strategies with content area instruction.
American schools typically offer five categories of English language programs. The programs offered at any given school or district depend on school demographics, student characteristics, and available resources. The US Department of Education provides resources to educators working with ELL and foreign born students, such as the Newcomer Toolkit.
Check out the graphic below to learn more about ELL learning in the US. To find diverse children’s books in many languages to support literacy among ELLs, feel free to browse the Language Lizard website.
(Graphic included with permission from Gergich & Co.)
by guest blogger Karen Nemeth EdM
Cognates are pairs of words that sound alike and have the same meaning in two different languages. They are useful first steps in learning a new language.
How Do Cognates Work?
In English we say “elephant” and in Spanish we say “elefante.” English and Spanish speakers can easily make the connection between these cognates to learn and remember the animal’s name. In English, we say “frog” but in Spanish we say “rana.” Frog and rana are not cognates, and the lack of connection means learners will find those words harder to use and remember. We know that people need to use their new language to really learn it. Cognates make it possible for language learners at any age to use their new words right away. By starting with the cognate words, a learner can build their vocabulary and gain the confidence to add more words in their new language.
Find Cognates in Your Target Language
Spanish and English share hundreds of cognates and have borrowed from each other for centuries. There are also many cognates that connect German to English, such as “mouse” and “maus”. Other languages, like Chinese and Arabic, have fewer cognates with English words. Lists of cognate words in different languages can be found online. I created a resource for Spanish-English cognates in preschool and kindergarten called Language Castle Cognate Guide. It has user-friendly lists of simple cognates in the different educational domains to support early learning. Other cognate resources can be found at colorincolorado.org. Bilingual children’s books, or matching books in two or more languages, can also be great resources to find vocabulary connections.
Learning Activities Using Cognates
Research shows that teachers and families can help children learn a new language successfully when they use cognates to explain the meanings of words in conversations and stories. Look for examples of cognates to support the language learners you work with. Use the pairs of words to help children understand the characters, stories and facts in books. Plan activities around the cognates you have found. Add cognates to familiar songs. Use cognates in puppet shows or pretend play to give children more opportunities to practice and use the words. Highlight cognates on word walls or classroom dictionaries. Plan science and math lessons that use cognates to strengthen children’s comprehension. Building connections through cognates is a sure path to success.
Read more about what experts are saying about the importance of using cognates to build second language learning:
August, D., Carlo, M., Dressler, C. and Snow, C. (2005) The Critical Role of Vocabulary Development for English Language Learners. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 20: 50–57
Collins, M.F. (2010) ELL preschoolers’ English vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25(1), 84-97
Gillanders, C. & Castro, D.C. (2011) Storybook reading for young dual language learners, Young Children, January 2011, 91-95
Lugo-Neris, M.J., Jackson, C.W., Goldstein, H (2008) Facilitating Vocabulary Acquisition of Young English Language Learners, Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 41, 314-327
Pérez, A.M., Peña, E.D., & Bedore, L.M. (2010) Cognates facilitate young Spanish-English bilinguals’ test performance, Early Childhood Services, 4(1), 55-67
Wallace, Christopher, (2007) Vocabulary: The Key to Teaching English Language Learners to Read, Reading Improvement, 44.4 , 189-193
Be sure to check out languagecastle.com, Karen Nemeth’s website that offers a wealth of resources for anyone who teaches young children who speak different languages.
This blog post is linked with the monthly Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!
Teachers want to make children feel valued and comfortable from the day they arrive at school. One of the first things a child or caregiver will notice when they enter a new classroom is the way it looks. Imagine if one of the first things a child sees is a poster that says “Welcome” in different languages, including their own! Or if they are greeted with “Hello” in different languages!
Newcomers who do not speak English well, and children from different cultural backgrounds, may not feel they fit in if they see only the English language and American imagery on the walls. If these children instead see their culture represented, they will feel more welcome and acknowledged.
Here are some other items that can be displayed in classrooms to create a welcoming environment:
- Flags from around the world
- Multilingual posters depicting themes the class will be studying (e.g. weather, animals, food, shapes, transportation, etc)
- Photos and artwork depicting people from different countries
- Famous landmarks around the world
- Signs showing areas of the classroom in different languages
- Artwork from students representing their culture or home country.
To help you decorate your multicultural classroom (or library), we are offering a special discount on our NEW multilingual poster 3-pack during the month of April 2017. This set of 3 posters lets you display Hello, Thank You and Welcome in different languages. Each poster includes over 30 different languages! The discount is available online – no coupon code required.
The following languages are included on some or all of the posters: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Chinese (Cantonese / Mandarin), Croatian, Czech, Dutch, English, Farsi, Finnish, French, Fulani, Gaelic, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Kurdish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Luganda, Malayalam, Nepali, Norwegian, Panjabi, Polish, Portuguese, Romani, Romanian, Romany, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Turkish, Twi, Ukranian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh and Yoruba.
If you are interested in other multilingual posters, with varied themes, please visit the Multilingual Posters, Teaching Cards & World Maps page on our website.
In 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
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Row, Row, Row Your Boat… If You’re Happy and You Know It… Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
Walking Through the Jungle
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.
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!
Learning 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!
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