Russian Language & Russian Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

russian language children's books

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

Where is it spoken?

Russian is the national language of Russia, as well as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. It’s also widely used in other European countries like Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia. Russian is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are approximately 260 million speakers worldwide. It’s one of six official languages of the United Nations.

How Many People Speak Russian in the US?

According to the 2011 US Census, there are about 900,000 Russian speakers in the US. There are large Russian speaking populations in New York, New Jersey, California, Washington and Oregon.

Interesting Facts About Russian

In the mid-1700s, there were three recognized styles of written Russian: Low, middle and high. Low style was used in everyday correspondence, middle for prose and poetry, and high for poetry and religion. Ultimately, middle style became the standard Russian of today.

The Russian language also makes use of patronyms, which convey lineage by using the names of male ancestors. A person’s first name is combined with a form of his/her father’s name and -ovich (son of) or -ovna (daughter of) is added onto the end. For example, if Natasha’s father’s name is Ivan, you would address her as Natasha Ivanovna.

Russian Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Russian books for children.   Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Russian language include: Farmer Duck, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, Goose Fables and The Giant Turnip (an adaptation of a humorous Russian folk tale).  There is also an illustrated Russian-English dictionary with audio for children.

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

“Matryoshka dolls, Moscow” by neiljs via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5ZHNPu

Cinco de Mayo – History and Celebrations

In the US, we know that Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for “5th of May,” and is celebrated on that date. But most of us don’t know much else about this holiday. Below, our guest author provides some history and facts about Cinco de Mayo.

Not “Mexican Independence Day”

There is a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. In fact, there’s an entirely different date – September 16th – known as Día de la Independencia, which is the date in 1810 that marked the start of Mexico’s war for independence from Spain.

The History of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, celebrated on May 5th each year, is a celebration of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in the Franco-Mexican War. Spanish, French and English troops invaded after Mexico stopped paying their debt to those countries. Although Spanish and English forces withdrew by April of 1862, French troops continued to fight to conquer Mexico as part of their empire.

On May 5 of that year, a poorly equipped Mexican army was able to defeat French troops at the Battle of Puebla. The French army continued to fight for another 5 years, but the Puebla victory became a Mexican symbol of resistance to foreign rule.

Cinco de Mayo Celebrations in Present Day

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are primarily held in the state of Puebla, with speeches, parades and battle reenactments. Puebla keeps the memory of its historic battle alive with a museum, and battlefield maintained as a park. Because it’s not recognized as a federal holiday, and businesses remain open, Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated as much in other parts of Mexico.

In the US, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate Mexican culture and history. Cinco de Mayo traditions include festivals and parades that feature traditional food and music from Mexico.

The author, Vineet Maheshwari from thepensters.com blog, enjoys learning about diverse holidays and cultures, making language learning much more enriching.  She encourages people to take up the hobby of learning new languages!

Multicultural, Multilingual Libraries for Diverse Communities

multicultural library

April is an important month for our nation’s libraries. Take the time to celebrate the many ways our libraries contribute to our communities. In a previous post, we explored innovative ways for libraries to attract ethnic populations. Here, we take a look at ways libraries can transform a community.

Diverse Communities, Multicultural Library Offerings

Libraries have always been a place to read and learn, and have functioned as important community centers. Librarians assess their communities, its needs, and decide how best to meet those needs. Community outreach is a big part of a library’s purpose. As the US becomes more diverse, it’s imperative that libraries increase their services and programs to meet the needs of non-native-English speakers. These changes establish libraries as true centers of learning for the entire community.

National Library Week

The second full week of April each year is National Library Week. It’s a time to celebrate and promote our nation’s school, public, and academic libraries. This year’s theme is “Libraries transform.” It’s an initiative from the American Library Assocation (ALA) aimed at making more of the public aware of the many services libraries offer, and the value and impact of those services in communities. The main idea behind the initiative is that “[l]ibraries today are less about what they have for people and more about what they do for and with people.”

Dia! Diversity in Action

April 30 of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action, a nationwide initiative from the ALA. Also known as El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), it provides support to libraries wanting to connect their patrons to more bilingual/multicultural services and resources. The initiative is a “daily commitment to linking children and their families to diverse books, languages and cultures.”

Storytime in a Foreign Language & More

The Association for Library Service to Children, the world’s largest organization supporting children’s library services, includes multicultural programs in its list of recommended programs for school-aged children. One is Storytime in a Foreign Language, where members of the community are invited to come in and read books in their native language. Parents are also encouraged to share foreign language books and cultural stories with their children.

PENpal Audio Recorder Pen – A Unique Tool for Libraries

The PENpalTalking Pen” is great for libraries in search of an easy-to-use, multipurpose tool that will attract and meet the needs of their ethnic patrons. In addition to turning existing bilingual children’s books into audio books in over 40 languages, the Mantra Lingua PENpal can bring fully customized recordings to any learning resource. Just some examples:

  • Listen to sound-enable posters, photos or charts
  • Create interactive displays
  • Create verbal treasure hunts for children to follow
  • Provide step-by-step instruction for any Learning Center
  • Make an oral version of forms and booklets to facilitate communication with patrons.

The PENpal Recorder Pen is so versatile, it can be used to support reading, writing, speaking and listening for any person in need of an inclusive resource that develops literacy skills.

Do you have an outstanding multicultural library in your neighborhood?  Tell us about their innovative programs and services by commenting below!

 

“Canada Water Library Shelves” by Barney Moss via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dNwts8

Fun Ways to Learn a New Language

The key to learning a new language is not giving up. But what happens when you become bored or frustrated? The answer: try out a new, fun way of learning. Below are some ideas on how you can learn a new language more effectively, and have fun doing it.

Study in a New Place

When you study in the same location, day after day, it can get boring rather quickly. Instead of doing all your language studying in your home or college dorm, why not go to the coffee shop or library? Changing up the scenery will help boost your enthusiasm towards learning the language, and may even improve the way you retain it. There is a link in how your brain memorizes what you learn based on where you are. By switching up your location, you are actually forcing your brain to make different connections with what you are learning, and this will help you remember what you are learning.

Find a Conversation Buddy

Do a search online to find language learning friends to practice having conversations with. Even if you can’t find someone near you, you can still exchange emails, talk over Skype or even through instant messages. A great free website for connecting with other language exchange friends is Conversation Exchange. This site enables you to have real conversations with foreign language speakers who also want to learn your native language. It’s a win-win for both of you.

Try Podcasts in iTunes or English Radio Stations

You can find foreign language podcasts in a multitude of topics, including politics, entertainment, news and more. You can search for a podcast through Apple iTunes or Google Play. Find what interests you, and listen wherever you are.

Get Out and Practice

Whether you are inexperienced in the language or just timid about practicing, get out there and practice using the language as much as possible. If you’re taking a class, discuss with your teacher ways that you can practice your language skills. While you are traveling, stop someone and ask them for directions in the new language. Pick up the phone and order something, or call a foreign language customer support line.

Switch on the Subtitles

When you are watching a TV program, turn the closed captioning on. This allows you to see the people speaking, hear the words and see the texts all at the same time.

The guest author, Vineet Maheshwari, is from AdvancedWriters.com, an English paper writing service.

Japanese Language & Japanese Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

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

Where is it spoken?

Japanese is the national language of Japan, and there are approximately 125 million speakers worldwide. Its origins are unknown, and it has no known linguistic relatives. There are dozens of dialects spoken in Japan, but the main distinctions are between Tokyo-type and Kyoto-Osaka-type.

How Many People Speak Japanese in the US?

According to the 2011 US Census, there are 436,100 Japanese speakers in the US. There are large Japanese-speaking populations in California, Washington, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Interesting Facts About Japanese

Modern Japanese began around 1600. It has a large number of “loan words” from the Chinese language (words of Chinese origin). In the last 50 years, the number of loan words from the English language has grown considerably, especially words that are technology related. For example, intānetto for “internet.” Loan words can also be shortened, like wāpuro for “word processor.”

The writing system consists primarily of three scripts: kanji, hiragana and katakana. Japanese writings can be in “western style,” which is in horizontal rows starting from the top, or “japanese style,” vertical columns starting from the right.

Japanese Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Japanese books for children.   Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Japanese language include: Mei Ling’s Hiccups, Farmer Duck, Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, Lima’s Red Hot Chilli and My Daddy is  Giant.  There is also an illustrated Japanese English dictionary with audio for children.

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

“Japan” by Moyan Brenn via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/pMe6Pj

Head Start Funding Opportunities

Head Start funding opportunities

In our Funding & Grants series of articles, we provide information for educators looking for special funding to help them purchase multilingual resources to support language learners. In a previous post, we focused on Title III grants. Here, we take a look at Head Start funding.

Head Start Program – Background Info

The Office of Head Start (OHS) is an organization within the US Department of Health and Human Services. It’s government-run, and has its roots in the 1960s. Head Start was designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing low-income families with a comprehensive preschool program – one that meets the emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs of children. Head Starts helps over a million children and their families in the US each year.

Head Start consists of a preschool program for 3 and 4 year olds, and an Early Head Start program, which offers services for pregnant women, infants and toddlers.

“Head Start comprehensive services include:

  • Early Learning
  • Screenings and follow-up for health, development, and behavior
  • Health and safety
  • Social and emotional development
  • Nutrition
  • Family goal-setting
  • Social services
  • Transition services
  • Services for children with disabilities”

Funding Resources

Head Start grants are awarded directly to public or private non-profit organizations. Eligible community organizations can be community-based, faith-based, or for-profit agencies.

OHS offers a comprehensive toolkit to help community organizations apply for Head Start funding. There are multiple steps that must be completed during the registration process, before submitting an application. The toolkit has directions on finding grant opportunities online, and helps you track your application after it’s been submitted.

 

“Head Start” by Fort Carson via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bC9WKG

Bilingual Baby Books – 5 Tips to Get You Started

baby reading bilingual baby book

There are so many reasons to read to your baby, especially when you’re raising a bilingual child. Not only is reading a great way to bond, it’s a chance to link spoken words with visual images on the page. And don’t forget to get older siblings involved in the bilingual reading fun! Here are 5 tips to getting your bilingual baby book collection started.

Choosing the Right Bilingual Baby Books

What is Peace? bilingual children's book

Your first bilingual books for your baby should be made of sturdy material that can withstand strong baby hands and teeth. Board books with thick pages are a great choice, as are cloth and vinyl books that can be washed off.

For babies newborn to 6 months, choose books with large pictures in bright colors. Older babies love books with images of their favorite things, like balls, bottles and other babies.

Make Dedicated Reading Time

Life with a baby means getting a million things done each day (and night). Feeding, changing, nap time… repeat. Find a special reading time that works best for your family: maybe at snack time, after a bath or at bedtime. Soon, reading time will be one of the best parts of your daily routine.

Read with Enthusiasm!

Row Row Row Your Boat bilingual children's book

Whether it’s animals noises, singing or character voices, your baby (and you) will have more fun when story time is full of excitement, emotion and enthusiasm. But remember to keep your expression pleasant, so baby doesn’t get frightened if there are scary parts.

Name Everything as You Read

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See bilingual children's book

Don’t limit yourself to the text on the page. Feel free to point to pictures and objects and name them all in both languages!

Let Your Books Grow with Your Child

Handa's Surprise

As your baby grows, don’t forget to add more challenging stories to your collection. These will have longer sentences, with more complex vocabulary. But it’s ok to keep the old favorites in the rotation! Find multicultural children books that are culturally appropriate. International holidays and common experiences, like making friends or trying new foods, are great topics that your little one will enjoy.

What is your family’s favorite story to read? Comment below and let us know!

“Gordon” by 8/52 – Reader via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9XdiDp

Nepali Language & Nepali Books: Facts, Figures and Resources

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

Where is it spoken?

Nepali is the official language of Nepal, a country in South Asia. It is also spoken in Bhutan, Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar), and India. There are about 17 million Nepali speakers around the world.

map of nepal nepali books bilingual childrens books

How Many People Speak Nepali in the US?

There are relatively large Nepalese communities in New York, California and Texas. According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent estimates in 2014, over 120,000 people in the US identify as Nepalese. Of these, about 25,000 are school-aged children.

Interesting Facts About Nepali

In the past, Nepali was called the Khas language and Gorkhali.

One of the most well known words in Nepali is “namaste,” which means hello. It is usually spoken with a slight bow and palms pressed together. It can be used as a greeting or a goodbye. A more casual greeting is “Tik chha,” which means “How are you?”

Nepali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Nepali books for children.   Here are some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Nepali language as well as a Nepali English dictionary for children.

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

 

“Nepal – Evening lights at Bhaktapur” by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6gHdSS

“Nepal-map-blank” By CIA World fact book (Image:Nepal-CIA_WFB_Map.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANepal-map-blank.png

Promoting Differentiated Instruction & Inclusiveness using Interactive Technology and Bilingual Audio Books

differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in the classroomIf a classroom were a puzzle, the students in it would be its pieces. Each piece would have its own shape, or learning style; its own size, or level of readiness. Teachers are trying to reach every student in an effective way with a finite amount of resources. More educators are looking to differentiated instruction and inclusiveness to help them achieve these goals. New technology, like the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, along with interactive bilingual literacy sets, are helping teachers customize content specifically to their students’ needs.

What is Differentiated Instruction?

The concept of differentiated instruction has its roots in old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouses, where students of all ages were taught in a single classroom. Individualized, guided support and instructions are provided to children with different ability levels.  Differentiated instruction can help teachers:
  • meet rigorous standards
  • focus on essential skills in different content areas
  • incorporate assessment into instruction
  • provide students with multiple avenues to learning
  • respond to individual student needs

What is Inclusion?

Inclusion means that all learners have access to learning, so there are no barriers due to inequality, inferiority or discrimination. It promotes a sense of belonging on the part of each student in the classroom. Inclusion means that everyone is accepted, despite their differences.

Using Technology to Promote Differentiated Instruction and Inclusiveness

Teachers must cover a wide range of subjects in a short amount of time, so they can’t afford to teach content at a slower pace. The use of appropriate technology can simultaneously provide support to students who need scaffolding, and enrichment to students in need of extra challenges. The result: students who are more engaged in the classroom.
Bilingual literacy sets, available in many languages, along with the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, can help teachers develop and assess oral language development, build fluency and improve phonemic awareness, and support parental involvement. Teachers can customize content specifically to their students’ needs with both English and home-language resources. For example, a classroom with Spanish and Russian speaking students could include English-Spanish Audio Books and English-Russian Audio Books that students can use with the PENpal, either in class or at home.

PENpal resources can help teachers achieve differentiated instruction and inclusiveness in their classrooms in many ways:

  • Provide step-­by-­step instructions for Learning Centers.
  • Students record the telling of a story, add sound effects, narrate a character’s thoughts or imagined conversation between characters.
  • Provide narration in different languages and record support for homework.
  • Record messages or questions for parents, who can record their responses in English or their home language.
  • Use the PENpal as a multi­-sensory spelling tool by having students record the word they are spelling, and the phonemes or graphemes that make up the word.
  • Use as an assessment tool by keeping all recordings as evidence of a student’s progress.
  • Narrate storyboards in preparation for storytelling/story writing/drama exercises.  Record dialogue between characters and document additional information, such as length of scene, props, or characters.
  • Create interactive wall displays.
  • Audio­-enhance flashcards.

Don’t forget to check out our comprehensive and informative collection of videos for even more ideas on how the PENpal can foster English language learner (ELL) language development in the classroom and at home.

 

 “Niños de Tilcara saliendo del cole” by (M) via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/2SqBe3

Educational Resources for Student Immigrants, Refugees

bilingual resources for student immigrants, refugeesThe number of immigrant and refugee children has increased over the past decade, and is now the fastest-growing segment in the US youth population. These students face many challenges when adapting to a new life in the US: culture shock, making friends, and learning a new language, just to name a few.  All too often, schools lack the resources to research the best ways to help these students, and miss out on methods developed by other districts that have faced similar issues. Below are some online resources that can help educators trying to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population.

Refugee or Immigrant?

An immigrant is “someone who chooses to resettle to another country.” For example, a foreign national who is issued a visa to live and work permanently in the US via a legal process to attain citizenship.

A refugee is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her home country.” Refugees apply for asylum in the US, and must prove that they will be injured if they return to their home country due to their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion.

How to Prepare Your Classroom

New York’s Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance offers a straightforward guide with tips to prepare your classroom for new immigrant and refugee students. The tips include discussing the advantages of having students from around the world in the classroom, showing on a map where the students are from, and how far they have traveled, and the importance of watching out for signals that newcomers are being bullied, since many refugee students won’t voluntary speak up about these issues.

The US Department of Education has a website dedicated to “Educational Resources for Immigrants, Refugees, Asylees and other New Americans.” There, you can find the latest news and guides that focus on the importance of integrating newcomers into the classroom community. You can also find resources like a toolkit for school districts serving English language learners, and services for unaccompanied children.

Welcome & Orient Newcomers

To help smooth the transition for newcomers arriving at a new school, create a welcome process for teachers, administrators and students. Include a school ambassador program, where newcomers are paired with a “buddy” who is a trained peer, and try to integrate information about the new student’s culture and country into your classroom routines. Or, find appropriate activities to keep the new student engaged in learning while their English skills are still developing.

Reach out to Parents

The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools offers a detailed guide that focuses on the importance of successfully engaging the parents of immigrant and refugee students. It gives many ways to partner with those families, and reminds us that “refugee parents resettled here for their children. They are fully invested in their children’s future.” Some tips include having regular meetings with families that include bilingual support, food and childcare.

All children go through a transition period when first entering school. Immigrant and refugee children, in particular, need clear and dedicated support from their schools. By doing this right from the beginning, the year is sure to progress more smoothly and comfortably for everyone in the classroom.

 

“I <3 2 read” by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/dRpekF

This blog post is linked with the monthly iTeachBilinguals linkup. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!

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