The German Language: Interesting Facts & Resources

Today’s spotlight language is German. We offer some background information and interesting facts about the language, as well as help finding German children’s books.  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 German spoken?

German is the official language of Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein,  as well as being an official language of Luxembourg and Switzerland.

There are around 90 million German speakers around the world, making it the 11th most-spoken language globally.

How Many People Speak German in the US?

According to the most recent 2015 US Census data, there are about 1 million German speakers in the US. There are large German speaking populations along the East Coast, as well as in California and Illinois.

Interesting Facts About German

There are 30 letters in the German alphabet. The umlaut (the dots over the letters ä, ö, ü) changes a word’s pronunciation.

German nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine and gender-neutral.

When meeting someone new, you should use “sie” (the formal “you”) until invited to use the informal “du.”

German Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If you interact with children who speak German, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual children’s books and German audio books.  Many engaging and popular stories with text in both English and the German language are available, including Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel and Pandora’s Box.

Do you speak German, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your language knowledge and experience!

“Germany” by Thomas Depenbusch via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/9Z4Hhc

Multicultural Activities: 5 Great Games Played Around the World

Kids playing with a large ball

If you are looking for fun summer activities to get the kids outside and staying active, try these fun multicultural games played around the world! 

These games are a great way to teach your children about other cultures while still having fun this summer. Some of these games just need a few people, while others can be played with large groups. They are simple to learn and do not require a lot of equipment. Children of all ages can join in and stay active while simultaneously learning something new this summer!

HUNTERS AND RABBITS (Belgium)

You can play this game with as many people as you would like and it should be played in a wide, open place.

  • One player starts with the ball – he/she is the hunter.  This player then has to dribble the ball to get closer to the “rabbits,” which is everyone else in the game.
  • The rabbits are only allowed to hop, they cannot run.
  • Once the hunter gets close enough to a rabbit, he/she must stop and throw the ball at a rabbit’s legs. If the ball touches the rabbit’s leg, then that rabbit becomes a hunter too. If the ball lands anywhere else besides the rabbit’s legs, then the rabbit stays a rabbit.
  • The last rabbit standing is the winner of the game. The tricky part is that no matter how many hunters there are, there can only be one ball to catch the rabbits with.

TRIANGLE GAME (Greece)

Triangle game from Greece

This game is typically played outside where you are able to use chalk with a small group of people.

  • You draw a large triangle on the ground and split it into 3 parts as shown above. The smallest part you label with a 3, the middle a 2 and the bottom a 1.
  • Players take turns throwing rocks from 15 feet away. As they are throwing, the players add up their scores based on the numbered section that the rock landed in.
  • The first person to 50 is the winner.

GOELLKI (Russia)

  • Players stand in pairs, with one pair behind the other.
  • One player stands behind the row of pairs and that person is “it.”
  • The person designated as “it” then yells “Go!” and the last pair in line must then both run to the front of the line. One runs on the left side of the line the other on the right, and they need to reach the front without being tagged by “it.”
  • If “it” is unable to tag anyone then they must be “it” again for the next round. However, if “it” does tag somebody then the person they tag is the new “it” and the previous “it” goes to the front of the line.

RELOJ (Peru)

There can be up to 14 players in this game and the players need a long jump rope. Two of the 14 players will be spinning the jump rope while the other players line up.

  • The first player in line jumps into the rope, jumps once and comes out without being hit by the rope.
  • Then the next player runs in and jumps twice and comes out.
  • This pattern continues up until 12 jumps in a row.
  • Once the players reach 12 jumps, the pattern will start with 1 again.
  • Note: There must be no hesitation to run and jump into the rope; if there is, then that player is out. Also if a player hits the rope at any time with any part of his or her, the player will also be out.
  • The last jumper standing is the winner.

EL GATO Y EL RATON (Puerto Rico)

This game must be played with a group of people, and they must choose a leader. (Typically the leader is an adult.)

  • The leader will select one person to be the cat and one person to be the mouse. The rest of the people will form a circle holding hands.
  • The mouse will start on the inside of the circle and the cat will start on the outside. The objective is for the cat to catch the mouse with the people in the circle trying to help the mouse escape and keep the cat out without ever unlocking arms.
  • If the cat gets into the circle, the mouse must escape it.
  • When the mouse is caught, the leader chooses two new people to be cat and mouse, and the game starts all over again.

What multicultural games do you like to play with your little ones? Comment below and share!

Playing with a Big Ball” by Michael Coghlan via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/oRtyNU

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!

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

 

Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT)

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.

References

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

World Refugee Day – Support Those in Need

refugee children using Language Lizard books
Language Lizard bilingual books used in a refugee camp

World Refugee Day is coming up on June 20. Marked in over 100 countries, its goal is to raise awareness and funds to help provide refugees with shelter, food and safety.

There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world. More than half of them are children.  According to the UN, every minute 24 people become refugees who are fleeing war or persecution.

Refugee children in the US face many challenges when adapting to a new life: culture shock, making friends, and learning a new language are just a few.  There are educational resources out there to help ease the transition for newcomers, as well as for teachers, administrators and other students.

Refugee child reading a Language Lizard multicultural children's book
Refugee child reading a multicultural children’s book

There are a number of organizations that support children living in refugee camps.

We at Language Lizard had the pleasure of working with volunteers at The School Box Project, an organization that provides trauma-informed care to relieve the effects that years of violence and conflict have had on the children emotionally and physically. They run various programs that include fun, physical games, as well as projects that allow children to sit quietly and create beautiful artwork.

In Greece, volunteers used Arabic-English bilingual books in a refugee camp to engage children in creative art and reading sessions with parents and teachers. 

Whether you support a local refugee family, help a newcomer in your school, or donate to a large refugee organization, every act of compassion makes a difference.

Do you have plans to mark World Refugee Day? Comment below and share your experiences.

Children’s Day: Win a Multicultural Stories Book Set!

Children celebrating Children's Day

Every June, Children’s Day is celebrated in more than 50 countries around the world. Generally, it’s a day to celebrate the happiness and growth of our children, and commit to protecting their well-being.  Language Lizard is celebrating this day by promoting children’s literacy with a giveaway of Multicultural Books!

In the US, Children’s Day is the second Sunday of June. While the holiday is not widely celebrated here, there is a movement to bring more attention to the holiday, and increase its popularity.

Children's Day Carp Streamers

Although the customs vary in each country, Children’s Day is usually celebrated with fruit juices, kid-pleasing treats, and fun decorations, like dolls and streamers.

We’ve teamed up on a K-2 Teacher Giveaway of a Children of the World class library! Enter below by June 17, 2017, for a chance to win!

Enter to win a multicultural stories class library

“1.6.17 Sofia on Children’s Day 186” by Donald Judge via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/VbDTRD

“Children’s Day Japan” by Japanexperterna.se via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/sbSaHu

NEW MULTILINGUAL “TALKING” CHARTS: English, Geography, STEM (for use with PENpal Recorder Pen)

New Multilingual "Talking" Charts

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.

English Multilingual Terms Chart

English Multilingual Terms Chart

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.

Geography Multilingual Terms Chart

Multilingual Terms Chart

The Geography Multilingual Terms Chart includes explanations for erosion, estuary, habitat, infrastructure, landscape, latitude, longitude, pollution, settlement and much more.

Math Multilingual Terms Chart

Math Multilingual Terms Chart

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.

Science Multilingual Terms Chart

Science Multilingual Terms Chart

The Science Multilingual Terms Chart includes absorb, amphibian, circulation, condensation, combustion, evaporation, friction, nutrient, organism, particles, respiration, vertebrate and more key terms.

Multilingual Phrases for School Talking Chart

Multilingual Phrases for School Talking Chart

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

You can get more detailed information on these multilingual “talking” charts, and also check out all of our PENpal products and literacy value sets.

“In Plain English?” English Language Learning in the U.S.

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.)

Using Cognates to Support Second Language and Literacy Learning

using cognates to support language learning and literacyby 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.

 

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

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!

“Hello” & “Welcome” in Different Languages: Multicultural Posters Celebrate Cultural Diversity & Welcome Newcomers

Welcome classroom poster in many languages

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!

Multilingual classroom poster that says "Hello"

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.

Multicultural classroom poster that says "Thank You"

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.

Multicultural Books for National Reading Month & Giveaway!

woman in a library

National Reading Month is a great time to try out a new multicultural book with your little ones! Celebrate with fun, diverse children’s books that introduce them to different cultures. And don’t miss out on the Multicultural Stories Giveaway we are co-sponsoring with our friends at I Teach K-2!

What is National Reading Month?

Every March, National Reading Month kicks off with NEA’s Read Across America, which celebrates the birthday of the beloved Dr. Seuss. All month long, organizations across the country hold events that celebrate the love of reading, and encourage kids and adults to enjoy new books or re-visit old favorites.

Our Favorite Multicultural Books for Children

If you’re looking to grow your classroom or personal library by adding great multicultural picture books the kids will love, here are some of our favorites. (Each title is available in English plus your choice of a second language, so kids get to explore a second language, too!)

Grandma’s Saturday Soup

Grandma's Saturday Soup - multicultural children's book

Each day, something new makes Mimi think of her grandma, whom she misses very much. She misses Grandma’s special Saturday Soup, and her stories of life in Jamaica. Derek Brazell’s colorful illustrations brings this story to life, and make us wish we all had a remarkable grandma like this!

Welcome to the World Baby

Welcome to the World Baby - diverse children's books

How are new babies celebrated around the world? Tariq’s classroom gets to meet his new baby brother. During circle time, the students share the different ways their families welcome new babies into the world. Na’ima bint Robert brings us a beautiful, thoughtful exploration of cultural and religious diversity through the eyes of our children.

Yum! Let’s Eat!

Yum! Let's Eat - multicultural books for preschool

This book by Thando Maclaren takes us around the world, to learn about different foods and traditions. Read about exotic dishes like fajitas, sushi, dhal, roti and more! Explore the diversity in children’s lives and develop a worldwide perspective with this book, which is part of the “Our Lives, Our World” series. Other titles in the series include Brrmm! Let’s Go! and Goal! Let’s Play!

The Wibbly Wobbly Tooth

Wibbly Wobbly Tooth - multicultural picture books

Little Li woke up on a Monday morning, only to discover that his tooth is wibbly wobbly! His tooth went wibble wobble all day, until PLOP! it fell right out. Now what will Li do with the tooth?

This humorous story by David Mills, author of Lima’s Red Hot Chilli and Mei Ling’s Hiccups, explores different cultural traditions associated with losing a tooth. It’s a great story to start a class discussion about customs and shared experiences.

Multicultural Stories Giveaway

Language Lizard is co-sponsoring a Multicultural Stories Class Library Giveaway… Enter below by April 1, 2017 for a chance to win!

Giveaway Multicultural Class Library

 

“Woman in Library” by David Niblack via imagebase.net is licensed under CC0 http://imagebase.net/photo/696/Woman-in-Library.html

Supporting Dual Language Learners and Bringing Multiculturism to the Classroom!