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

 

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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!

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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!

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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

 

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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/

Father’s Day Inspiration From Around the World

father walking with kids on the beach

While Father’s Day traditions may vary all of the world, one thing is for sure, they deserve to be celebrated! Did you know that dads in Mexico wake up early to compete in a 21 km race around the capital city? Alternatively, fathers in Finland sleep in and enjoy their favorite breakfast.

If you are looking for a fun way to show your dad you care, why not look to another country for some cultural inspiration? You never know where you may find a new tradition for your family!

fathers day

This guest post was provided by Personal Creations.  You may also enjoy last year’s inspirational father’s day post, “The Last Book My Dad Read to Me“.  Note: For Father’s Day 2016, Language Lizard is offering a 10% discount on our popular bilingual book, “My Daddy is a Giant” (through June 2016, using coupon code Daddy-16).

“Family By the Beach” by FHG Photo via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/8odLni

3 Ways to Ease the School-to-Summer Transition (and Back)

transition to summer vacation

Not everyone feels the same about the start of summer break. Yes, there’s excitement over long days to play and a more relaxed pace. But there can also be sadness and anxiety about big changes to the daily routine, not seeing schoolmates, travel and the start of the next school year looming on the horizon. Adults and kids alike can be caught unprepared for this unique mix of emotions. Here, we offer 3 tips to ease your transition into summer break… and back again.

Keep to a Somewhat-Schedule

june sleeping in

It may be impossible to follow a strict schedule during summer break. There are so many fun things to do, fewer responsibilities and hopefully more relaxation.

Several consecutive days of pool parties and barbecues may be exciting, but can still be over-stimulating for sensitive little ones. Try to space out activities, even if that means you have to politely turn down an invitation or two.

While it’s tempting to let the kids sleep in until mid-morning and play until they run out of steam late at night, keeping consistent bedtimes throughout summer will keep kids (and their adults) from becoming over-tired and cranky.

Keep On Learning

hands reading bilingual book

Taking a months-long hiatus from learning might set your kids up for a rough transition back into the classroom come September. We’ve written about the dreaded “summer slide,” when kids lose some of the progress they made the year before, and how to avoid it. For bilingual learners, especially, a long break from consistent language exposure will erode much of their hard work.

Set aside some time in your schedule – it can be every day or a few days a week – for learning activities. Learning resources can come from last year’s teacher, your school, a local library and online. Don’t feel pressured to make headway into next year’s curriculum on your own. It’s ok to maintain the skill set they were working on last year.

Even when your family is on-the-go, there are plenty of fun summer travel activities to keep the learning alive.

Keep in Touch with School Friends

june playdate

For younger kids especially, it’s important to see familiar faces during the summer break. Setting up a regular playdate with school friends helps alleviate boredom, as well as any lingering anxiety from the change in their routine.

Fresh off the last day of school, the summer may seem to stretch out endlessly before you. But before you know it, you’ll be school supply shopping once again, and you’ll be glad you stuck to a somewhat-schedule all summer. 

What are some of your favorite summer learning activities? Comment below and share your ideas!

 

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“Sickies.” by Monica H. via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/e2ugur

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Hindi Language & Hindi Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

hindi children's books and resources

Today’s spotlight language is Hindi. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Hindi children’s books.

Where is it spoken?

Hindi is the official language of India (along with English). Hindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are approximately 425 million speakers worldwide.

How Many People Speak Hindi in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 670,000 Hindi speakers in the US. There are large Hindi speaking populations in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and California.

Interesting Facts About Hindi

Hindi is a relatively easy language to read. It is written left to write, is phonetic, and doesn’t include articles like “a” or “the.”

It’s important to use the correct formal or informal style of speech in context, depending on whom you are addressing.

Nouns are either masculine or feminine, and affect adjective and verb use.

The most common greeting in Hindi is “namaste,” and handshakes are only common in certain situations, not in everyday life.

Hindi Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Hindi storybooks and audio books for kids.  Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Hindi language include: The Wheels on the Bus, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat.  There is also an illustrated Hindi-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Hindi, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“India” by Nick Kenrick via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/ojmzob

Supporting Dual Language Learners and Bringing Multiculturism to the Classroom!